the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘cyborgs

Gods and Pawns by Kage Baker

published in 2007

where I got it: purchased used

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I’ve been trying (and not always succeeding) to read Kage Baker’s Company books in the order of publication.   Which meant next up was Gods and Pawns, which was  published in 2007.   The series starts with In The Garden of Iden, a novel that completely broke my heart into a billion little pieces. Then came Sky Coyote, in which I fell a little bit in love with Joseph even though he is a complete asshole. Or at least, I thought he was an asshole until I met Porfirio, now that guy is a piece of work.  The Company books get darker and darker the further you read in the series, and yet Baker’s writing style is full of humor and wit, so you’re laughing at the same time.  With all the research that went into these novels and short stories much of her work reads a little bit like Tim Powers, that of course these crazy things didn’t happen . . . but no one can prove that they didn’t….

 

Gods and Pawns is a collection of short stories that take place in the Company world. Similar to her collection In The Company of Thieves, these mostly light-hearted short stories are excellent entry points into Baker’s Company world.

 

What is The Company? In the future, time travel is discovered. However, you can only travel backwards in time, and recorded history can not be changed. The owner(?) of The Company sends operatives back in time, where they take in orphaned children and turn the children into immortal cyborgs who are now employees of The Company.  For the cyborgs, it’s a post-scarcity life – they never need to worry about money, or a job, or a roof over their heads. The job security is great because they are immortal. But what are they working towards? What is the point of finding and then hiding all the valuable paintings and manuscripts and gems in the world for some future you may never see? Is this a good gig? Is it slavery?  What’s the retirement policy like?

 

I have condensed and vastly oversimplified Baker’s amazingly complex world. If you enjoy long running space opera series with fantastic writing, time paraxodes (paradoxii?) horrible secrets, lots of dark humor, all written by an author who is a genius at playing the long game, this is a great series for you.  If you’re not sure if that is something you’d like, the short stories are a great place to start.  For more information, and possibly epic spoilers, checkout the Company reread that Stefan Raets did at Tor.com last year.

 

While I was disappointed that Mendoza doesn’t star in a larger portion of the stories in Gods and Pawns, I was happy to see my favorite side character, Lewis, get the spotlight.

 

Surprising nobody, my favorite short story in Gods and Pawns is the Lewis/Mendoza story, “To The Land Beyond the Sunset”, in which our two immortal operatives act as mortal guests of a family of supposed gods.  Mendoza is excited about the rare plants she finds on their property, and Lewis is trying to figure out how exactly these people are related to each other, and why they seem so ignorant. There’s also the whisperings in the walls of a secret family member who keeps getting moved around the villa so the “visiting mortals” can’t see him. There’s the expected humor in this story, Mendoza and Lewis are immortal, and do have what could be construed as godly power. And this lonesome family appears to be underfed, ill-informed, living in a ramshackle villa, and not godly at all.  Everyone is playing a role, it seems.  Mendoza’s first discovery makes me hope these people die a horrible death for what they are doing. The next discovery makes me feel so terribly sorry for them.

I always imagine Lewis looking like Cyril from Archer.

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In the Company of Thieves, by Kage Baker

Published November 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

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I’ve been a devotee of Baker since reading her The Anvil of the World, a hilarious fantasy adventure novel. Then I read the first company novel, In The Garden of Iden, and I fell in love with her dry humor, her snarky immortals, and the innocence of a new hire who never asked for any of this. Kage Baker is one of those authors who should be on the shelf of any speculative fiction fan.  Once you read her, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

In the Company of Thieves is a collection of six Company stories, many which were previously published, including The Women of Nell Gwynne, Rude Mechanicals, and Mother Aegypt.  Kage Baker was very close with her sister Kathleen, and each story has a very short introduction by Kathleen, giving some background about when or why it was written, sometimes why Kage was drawn to that location or plotline. The Baker sisters grew up in California, so many of the stories take place in some of Kage’s favorite places in California. The final story in the volume, Hollywood Ikons, was finished by Kathleen after Kage’s death.

Not sure what Baker’s “The Company” is?  The best summary I can find for The Company is on the blurb for the book, so I shall borrow it:

“The Company, a powerful corporate entity in the twenty-fourth century, has discovered a nearly foolproof recipe for success: immortal employees and time travel. They specialize in retrieving extraordinary treasures out of the past, gathered by cybernetically enhanced workers who pass as ordinary people. or at least try to pass. . .

There is one rule at Dr. Zeus Incorporated that must not be broken: Recorded history cannot be changed. But avoiding the attention of mortals while stealing from them? It’s definitely not on the company manual”.

Immortal cyborgs stealing stuff? Historical fiction? Madcap adventures and tricking dumb mortals?  Where do I sign up?

Rude Mechanicals – Anytime recurring Company characters Joseph and Lewis show up, you know trouble and hijinks are on the horizon. A Shakespearian comedy of errors, the story takes place in 1930’s Hollywood. Lewis is working as an assistant and translator for the famous German director Max Reinhardt, who is directing and producing an outdoor version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Joseph has been tasked with acquiring Reinhardt’s notes for The Company, so it’s a good thing Lewis is an expert forger. To complicate matters (and by complicate, I mean create hilarious situations for the reader to enjoy!), Reinhardt keeps digging up trees to make his set look better, and his earthworks are getting way to close to a particular buried treasure that needs to stay buried for a little while longer, as per Company request. Comedy of Errors ensues, with a secret diamond getting passed off as costume jewelry, getting actually stolen, and actually gotten back. Lewis makes the perfect “straight man”, a guy who just wants to do his job, not get fired, and get some damn sleep. Joseph on the other hand, thinks this is the most fun he’s had in centuries!

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 Reynolds opens this epic space opera of the destiny of the universe with Daniel Sylveste getting arrested on the planet Resurgam. The son of a wealthy scientist and famous for his archaeological research in his own right, Daniel is used to things going his way, often burning bridges faster than he can build them. He has spent most of his adult life researching an ancient and now extinct race of our galaxy, the Amarantin. Once upon a time, the Amarantin were a burgeoning race of intelligent flightless birds. They had culture, religion, a written language, and were about to discover space flight. and then, almost magically, almost instantaneously, they were gone. Sylveste has made it his life’s work to discover what happened to the Amarantin.

But a government coup is something he can’t buy his way out of. 10 years later, he’s still a political prisoner, but has befriended the man who took over the planet Resurgam, been allowed to continue his research, and is about the marry the lovely Pascale. The government of Resurgam isn’t as stable as it seems, and on the day of the wedding Syveste finds himself behind bars, again. The only person he can trust is a beta level simulation of his late father, Calvin.

While Syveste has wasted away on Resurgam researching his precious Amarantin, people from his past are desperate to find him. Volyova and her cyborg crewmates (known as the triumvirate) aboard the Infinity follow every lead at their disposal to find Daniel Sylveste. They believe he is the only person in the galaxy that can save their captain. Ex-soldier Ana Khouri infiltrates the crew of the Infinity, for it is also her mission to find Sylveste. She is going to kill him. Read the rest of this entry »


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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.