the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Kage Baker’ Category

Is it just me, or did 2015 fly by in like two weeks? How did that even happen? It certainly was a crazy year – I started a new job, we moved into a bigger apartment, i learned a whole new definition of the work “workaholic”, I didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted.

Anyway, here is my annual “Best of the year” list, presented in no particular order, with links if you’d like to read my reviews.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson, easily my favorite novel of 2015.

The Bone Swans of Amandale – by C.S.E Cooney, in her short story collection Bone Swans

The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin

Binti, by Nnedo Okorafor

Flex, by Ferrett Steinmetz

The Apex Book of World SF Vol 4 edited by Mahvesh Murad

Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh

Babel-17 by Samuel Delany

The Life of the World to Come, by Kage Baker

 

Honorable mentions for the year go to:

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett. I read it in 2015, but can’t actually talk about how freaking amazing it was until 2016. So I guess it’ll have to make my best of 2016 list.

and this stuff, which is omg, what I always wished ginger ale would taste like. Also? it’s alcoholic.

ginger ale

2015 was a crazy year, and I don’t mind that it’s over.  I’ll see everyone on January 1st for Vintage Science Fiction month!

life of the world to comeThe Life of the World to Come, by Kage Baker (Company #5)

published in 2004

where i got it: purchased used

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As this is the fifth book in Baker’s Company series, spoilers are unavoidable. You’ve been warned, and I am not at all sorry.  If this is the first you’ve heard of Kage Baker, or of her Company series, stop reading right now and type “Kage Baker” into that search box thingy on the upper right.

 

I can never decide if I want to wait in-between Baker books, or binge read the whole thing. Because I want to know what happens . . . but I’m enjoying the anticipation.  And like my Banks books of which I have become so fond, I must ration Baker. Because there will never be any more.

 

In the year 2350, a group of hobbyist re-enactors use their nearly limitless resources to change history. Or at least, sort of.  One of the so-called rules of time travel is that history can not be changed. So how are these naive idiots doing it?  Frankie Chatterjie and Foxen Ellsworth-Howard meet at their friends Rutherford’s home, which also serves as a museum.  Wealthy, bored, (and thus supremely dangerous) and connected with Dr. Zeus, Inc, the three friends use anachronistic slang, sip fake brandy, and fuss about with genetics. You see,  they’ve been tasked with coming up with a better, smarter, more contemporary version of the Company’s Enforcers. An upgrade, of sorts. This perfect person that they are genetically creating will be bright, irresistible, and willing to die for a noble cause. Each iteration of their fellow will tell our genetic dabblers what changes they need to make to build the perfect enforcer.  He will be tall, not exactly handsome, determined, and irresistable. Sound familiar?

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the graveyard gameThe Graveyard Game (Company, #4) by Kage Baker

published in 2001

Where I got it: purchased new

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I really enjoy Kage Baker, but life is full of so many fun books it’s hard for me to monogamously read one series until I finish it.  I’d read Mendoza in Hollywood (Company, book 3) a while back, and was a little underwhelmed by it. It felt like a rehash of the first book, and I thought it was kinda slow. Anyways, thanks to this tweet from fellow blogger Lisa, I decided to dive back into The Company series and pick up the next book in the series, The Graveyard Game.

what is this book doing to me

 

I’m too lazy to type up a summary of the series so far, and what exactly The Company is. Go read my review of In the Garden of Iden for all that (and to get hooked on the series).

 

As this is book four in Baker’s Company series, spoilers are unavoidable. #SorryNotSorry.  It’s kinda funny how things are all coming together now, actually. The first book in the series, In The Garden of Iden, functions perfectly well as a standalone.  the next book, Sky Coyote is most definitely a sequel, but if you read them out of order the universe wouldn’t end.  Book three, Mendoza in Hollywood circles back to some stuff that happened in book one and feels a smidgen apart from the other books in the series. And now, in The Graveyard Game, everything comes crashing together as Baker rips everything wide open for the gist of the rest of the series.  I zipped through this book in just a few days (which if you’ve seen my work schedule, you know is a miracle), it kicked me in the feels and then tore those feels out and kicked them some more.

 

Some things that happen to you when you are an immortal cyborg:

 

  • your broken heart never heals because your memory is so good that you never forget anything
  • a “long standing grudge” has a whole new meaning
  • you can play a really, really really long game.

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mendoza in hollywoodMendoza in Hollywood, by Kage Baker

published in 2000

where i got it: purchased used

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This is the third book in the company series, and it’s my third favorite.   Some quick non-spoilery background on the The Company for those of you that don’t know: 350 years from now, time travel is possible.  But you can only go back in time, you  can’t bring anything back to your “home”  time, and history can’t be changed. Ok, so how to get rich quick if artifacts can’t be brought back? Easy.  Send some crews and technology into the past, have them build safehouses and a staff of employees who will set aside your artifacts, and wait, patiently, nearly forever. Company operatives are cybernetically immortal, given an education about everything that will happen, ever (because this is the past for their instructors and doctors, who are from the future), and programmed to be fanatically loyal to the company.

 

Thus, we get science fiction/historical fiction. Which, if you ask me, is one of the best genre combos EVER.

 

Anyways, in the first the book in the series, we met Mendoza, who is rescued from the Spanish inquisition by a company operative. She’s raised and educated within the Company, and completely bombs her first assignment. The second book follows different characters with Mendoza as a very minor character, and in this third book, we are back with Mendoza.  She’s gotten over the raw, raging anger of what happened all those years, but she’s far from healed.

 

Mendoza has been by herself for a very, very long time, and I get it, she hates people, I’m ok with that (some days I hate people too).  So she’s used to very quiet days, very little interactions, not much going on, just being one with nature. Introvert, indeed. Her new assignment is to a post in the Cahuenga Pass in Southern California in 1862, with the mission of collection valuable plant specimens before the drought (and grazing animals) kills (and eats) everything.  Mostly unaffected by the Civil War, it’s an interesting time to be in Hollywood’s backyard.  Mendoza has no choice but to take the assignment, and besides, maybe some conversation would be good for her.

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Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time. If you’ve been paying attention, nothing on this list will be a surprise to you.  If you happened to stumble by because you like “year end” lists,  these are my top ten speculative fiction books I read this year.  Looking for a good read? go find one of these.

Some of them are old.

Some of them are new.

Some of them were borrowed.

None of them are blue.

😉

I’ve linked the titles to my reviews.  In no particular order:

Sky Coyote by Kage Baker (1999) – the second in The Company series, this novel is told from Joseph’s point of view (and yes, Mendoza is still really, really pissed off at him). Joseph gets to do one of his favorite things – pretend to be a God. But this time, he’s got to get even the skeptics to believe his act.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (2013) – No surprise this one made it to my best of the year list, as this is one of my favorite fantasy series.  It’s true, I ranted a little about a character who really annoyed me, but holy shit, that ending??  holy shit!  Also, I do just happen to have a Cinnamon colored dress/jacket combo and a four cornered grey hat in the making.

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White (2013 )- Secret societies, multiple personalities, sublime prose, metaphysics, unexpected romance, characters that rip each other to shreds.  What more could you possibly want? I got meddled with, my switches got hit, and I never wanted it to end.  Just go read it already. Everything about this book was spot-on perfection for me.

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks (1990) – only the best Culture novel of the best space opera series in existence.  Not the easiest book in the world to read, but the subtlety, and the reveal at the end, and oh god I knew something was so horribly wrong as soon as he said he was going to cut his hair. . .

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Sky Coyote (The Company series,  book 2) by Kage Baker

published in 1999

where I got it: purchased used

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What’s your favorite beer or cocktail?  What’s your favorite drink at Starbucks or coffee shop of your choice?  How many drinks did you have to go through to find the perfect combination of hops and malt, or soy milk or foam or espresso shots? What I’m getting at here is that feeling of when you’ve got something just right, that this coffee has exactly the right amount of cream and is exactly at the right temperature, that feeling of “if only every drink could be this perfect”. That feeling of finally finding out what you like and the perfect combination of ingredients? I found it in a book. A book with perfect combination of sly dialog and sarcasm, great characters, sex jokes, painful introspection, and a feeling of running, running from the truth.  I was the crazy girl whispering to herself over breakfast because I was reading large portions of this book out loud to myself.

And since a book review that consists simply of metaphors that makes sense only to me followed by “this book was incredible, amazing, everything I wanted it to be and more” is useful only to me, I’ll get to the more comprehensible portions of the review, just for you.

Sky Coyote is the second book in Kage Baker’s Company series, and it’s told from the point of view of Joseph, who we met in In the Garden of Iden.  It’s been about a hundred and fifty years since Joseph last saw Mendoza, and she’s still mad at him. When you’re an immortal cyborg you’ve got all the time in the world to stay angry and hold grudges. They’re going to be working together again, and they meet up at the decadent  Mayan Lost City also known as New World One, where Mendoza has been researching New world grains and where Joseph is preparing to become a god.

Well, imitate a god at least.

It’s 1699, and the white man will be making permanent inroads into the New World any day now.  The native tribes of the west coast of the Americas don’t know the disease and horrors that are on their horizon. Usually company operatives are tasked with acquiring objects, technologies, or even plant samples that will be valuable in the future.  This time Joseph has been tasked with acquiring and entire native village. Armed with research of their beliefs and multiple prosthetics, Joseph is about to convince an entire village of Chumash that he’s their trickster god, Sky Coyote.   Joseph has a tough time at first, of course they tell stories about their gods all the time, but they have no idea how to respond with a god shows up on their doorstep.

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New goodies!  Received from the publisher:

The Book of Apex Volume 4 – edited by Lynne Thomas, this features original fiction published in Apex magazine. Ken Liu, Catherynne Valente, Elizabeth Bear. . .  it’s so pretty.  No, really, it is. The photograph doesn’t do it justice. Everything about this book looks absolutely fricken’ gorgeous. i’ve barely had time to crack it open, and I’m already falling into the cover art.

And from Orbit, we have Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach and Malice by John Gwynne.  Looking through the promo material that came with Fortune’s Pawn, I kept wondering why they were also advertising Rachel Aaron’s Eli Monpress series. Ahh,  because they are the same person. She writes under both Rachel Bach and Rachel Aaron.  I don’t know much about Malice except that at first glance it looks to be in the Joe Abercrombie military epic fantasy mold.

Anyone read any of these? what do you think? what looks interesting to you?

Goodies from the publisher isn’t enough for me, cuz I iz greedy.  Had to visit the bookstore too!

We’ve been trying to cull the book collection. It’s either that or buy more bookshelves. As it  is, I’m afraid the floor of our apartment is going to cave in under the weight of all these books, and give our downstairs neighbor one helluva surprise.   I took a grocery bags worth of books to the usedbook store for trade (a few older paperbacks, a few brand new books that weren’t catching my attention, even a glossy photo filled cookbook or two).  turned in a tall stack of books, got a shorter stack of more interesting books in return.

For Vintage Scifi Month:

I have such a weakness for these Doctor Who books.  The new ones haven’t done much for me, but oh, these old ones, I adore them. They are candy to me!    I’m woefully underread when it comes to Zelazny, so found what looked to be a stand alone novel from him.  Hoping the local used bookstore would just happen to have the first Amber book was pushing my luck!

but I did feel mightly lucky when I found these:

there’s no such thing as having enough Kage Baker! The Life of the World to Come is a Company novel, Sky Coyote is I think a stand alone.

Hey Baker and Zelazny experts: help a girl out. Can I read the Company novels out of order, and what’s the recommended reading order for the Amber books?

and not that anyone cares, but the digital camera on my new smart phone is insanely awesome.  compared to the photos my older model digital camera takes, these new photos look practically 3-D!


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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.