the Little Red Reviewer

Who is writing this story, anyway?

Posted on: March 31, 2020

I’ve been re-reading Kage Baker’s Company series.  I’m not writing formal reviews,  just chatting about the books every few days, making small connections, making big connections.    Some spoilers are unavoidable.


If you don’t care about this series, but are interested in my poor brain exploding due to realizing my beloved characters never had any free will,  scroll way down to a paragraph that starts with “I used to think . . ”.



Previous posts in this series:

post 1 – talking about In the Garden of Iden (book #1)

post 2 – talking about Sky Coyote (book #2) and Mendoza in Hollywood (book #3) and also the movie Rocketman and the tv show Star Trek: Discovery

and now we’re up to talking about The Graveyard Game (book #4) and The Life of the World to Come (#5).    This is where I realized my beloved characters don’t have any free will,  that everyone is trapped. Here we go!



About ten minutes after I finished The Graveyard Game,  I pulled The Life of the World to Come off the bookshelf. Boy these books have some truly awful cover art.


The Graveyard Game is a hella fun read, and it’s a fast read!  We’re back to Lewis and Joseph, and I adore Joseph, even if he’s a jerk sometimes.  Please, is there an internet archive of Joseph fan-fic? Pretty please? Anyway, Joseph is trying to find out what happened to Budu,  and Lewis gets a little obsessed with trying to figure out who the hell Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax was. They are both sort of trying to figure out what happened to Mendoza.  The problem is, when you’re a cyborg who is enslaved to The Company, every word you say, every photo you take with your cybernetic eyes, every web-search you do, is recorded and added to the temporal concordance. Everything you do becomes recorded history, so you have to be super sneaky, and make sure nothing you do is recorded.    Because recorded history can not be changed.


Joseph finds some secret bunkers, and reminisces about his early years with the Company and Budu’s heroic acts.   Lewis is haunted by his past, when he saw something he shouldn’t have.


Joseph has a hard time coming to terms with the idea that as you age, the world changes.  You feel like you don’t fit in with the younger generations anymore, the things you care about aren’t the things they care about.  What happens when an immortal has a mid-life crisis, and realizes that trends in Company brainwashing and programming have drastically changed over the course of known history?   The Graveyard Game might be my favorite Company book! (well, tied with Sky Coyote, because that book is just so damn funny) I guess I just love any excuse to hang out with Joseph!


And then we get to The Life of the World to Come,  which is the most annoying book in the history of EVER, while at the same time being the most confusing book of the series and the most important book of the series.

If you stopped reading the series at this one, and swore off Baker, I totally get it! To try to not spoil stuff too much, most of book centers around A.C., who is the most freakin’ annoying character, I basically can’t stand him,  and I couldn’t wait to finally get to anyone else’s story. I got like 20 pages of Mendoza, a handful of entertaining chapters with some folks I’ll just refer to as The Three Idiots, and the rest of the novel is A.C. Yes, yes, I get that he is important, and what The Three Idiots get up to is literally what this entire series is about, and that A.C.’s friend The Captain might be the only character in this entire series who has any free will at all . .  . .


The Life of The World To Come is the most important book in the series, it is one massive reveal after another after another,  even bigger reveals than were in The Graveyard Game. it’s just so fucking annoying to read. It’s not a fast read, at all. I am happy I’m done with it and can get to the next book.   A.C. got interesting at the end, but it was such  a slog to get there!


The other day, I did an “ask me anything”, to celebrate my blog’s ten year anniversary. I got some cool questions!  How has blogging changed, what was my experience getting gigs elsewhere, how did I learn how to do interviews, etc.


As annoying as The Life of the World to Come was,  re-reading this book showed me how much I have changed as a reader in the last ten years.


I used to think the characters told the story.  Sure, sure, authors outline things and give their characters likes and dislikes and affectations and well, characteristics. But the characters tell the story and control what happens, right?   Mendoza is choosing what to do, she has free will, right? I always thought characters had free will, I always thought it was characters from myth – Loki, Orpheus, Chang’e – I always thought it was those people who were trapped forever in their stories.


Lol, omg, NO.  All of my beloved characters are trapped in their stories.  Mendoza, Griz, Geralt, Locke, Paul Atreides, Kvothe, Nuawa, Fitz, they are all trapped in the stories their authors have designed for them.    That is the art of being an author – to trick the reader into thinking the character is the person who is telling the story, that the character has free will.   It’s a great trick, isn’t it? The more talented the writer, the more the reader believes that the character is in control of the story.


Or hey, maybe it’s just me?    Maybe everyone else figured this out when they were twelve years old?


I like that layer of magic being there.  I like not looking behind the curtain and seeing the author pulling all the strings. I choose to  believe the characters have control over their lives. That’s what escapism is, isn’t it?


All that, so I can tell you how much I gasped out loud when A.C., in all his annoyingness, steals Mendoza’s diary,  to find that the first words of her diary in book five, are the opening words of book one.


Can you imagine being a fly on the wall when Kage Bager told her editor (or her agent, or whoever)  what books 1 and 2 were leading up to? Can you imagine being there, when she outlined this sucker, that she knew from the start what Mendoza’s fate was to  be?  Her editor must have known, her agent must have known, her sister probably knew.  Did they know the power of that secret?


Is this what every author who is playing the long game goes through? they tell the ending to a few people, and everyone has to keep the secret for years and years? Imagine being the editor who knew how Harry Potter ended. Who knew how Mark Lawrence’s first trilogy ended.


I suddenly feel like an asshole,  that I am getting so much reading pleasure out of Mendoza being trapped in a lie.  She thought she had free will, she thought she had a choice. Nope. Which of course leads to the question of – it sure was convenient that Joseph happened to run into toddler Mendoza.  Boy is he gonna be pissed off, when he finds out how much he’s been played.



5 Responses to "Who is writing this story, anyway?"

I am so so so looking forward to reading the Company books now! Every time you add another post about these and you mention something that has me excited to get to them all over again.


I’m worried about my next posts, because I think it’s going to be a combination of #allthefeels and #HowDare, and redacting things so that I don’t give too big of spoilers.

I’d forgotten how sexy these books are! Every time Mendoza is with the guy of her dreams, damn, it is HOT!

Liked by 1 person

I’ve read this series twice and I wish I owned them instead of having gotten them from the library. Because the library has maybe gotten rid of them by now and I will want to re-read them again. There is so dang much to this series, I love it so, and I always forget a lot.

Liked by 1 person

it’s a lot of books to buy new, you can probably get them used, for a good price, or even as e-books. I’d gotten the first two from the library originally, imagine my surprise years later when I had every book except #1, #2, and #8! had to buy them!

and YES, omgosh, there is SO MUCH to this series! I love that every character has tons more going on, things they reference, but we never get to see. i love it so much!

Liked by 1 person

Exactly. And yep, I’m thinking ebooks or abebooks…


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FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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