the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘The Company

Friends, I have the best possible #firstworldproblem.

 

I got to read TWO Kage Baker collections, at the same time!    In the Company of Thieves, is all (you guessed it) Company stories,  and The Best of Kage Baker is a mish mash of all sorts of wonderfulness.  In fact, I am still working my way through The Best of Kage Baker,  savoring it bit by bit.  The Best of, so far seems to be about half Company stories, and half other stuff.

And eeeee!!!  The Best of Kage Baker has illustrations!!!

 

Here’s some thoughts on what I’ve read so far:

 

The Carpet Beds of Sutro Park – I have such a soft spot for this story.  It’s a very quiet story, it’s a slow burn.  Ezra doesn’t have lofty goals, and neither do it.  His reason, tho, is pretty tragic.  He does right by Kristy Ann, and it’s probably a good thing that he never tells anyone,  as I don’t think they’d understand his loving intentions.

 

Hollywood Ikons – Religious paintings that can fry your brain because they were painted using secret mathematical formulas possessed by Imhotep? And Joseph was Imhotep?  If Tim Powers wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark and made it a buddy comedy involving manuscript preservation, cro-magnons, and Hollywood landmarks, you might get something close to Hollywood Ikons.  This story pushed all my buttons in the best possible way!   Also, note to self: if doing a google search on what the heck Joseph is talking about, search “Byzantine ikonography”, instead of “ikon”.  “Ikon” brings up pages upon pages of a K-pop boy band.

 

The Women of Nell Gwynne’s –  I know I’m supposed to like stories like this.  Steampunk!  Gadgets!  Women who have fallen on hard times and now make the best of things by becoming paramours who are also spies and potential blackmailers!  Flouncy dresses!  And I know this story won about a million awards for being steampunk! Gadgets! Company! Funny sexy stuff!   But the funny sexy scenes didn’t do much for me,  and tbh I have always struggled with steampunk.  If it’s your thing, you will love this story.  But I’m sorry, I’m meh on Nell Gwynne’s.  Can’t a woman be of service to the Gentlemen’s Speculative Society without, well, servicing the gentlemen? We can provide people with miniature cameras, buttons that dissolve into sleeping pills, and internal combustion engines, but we can’t devise a way for a “fallen woman” to make a living without selling her body?  I’ll shut up now.

 

Noble Mold –  Joseph pretending he’s a priest and Mendoza doing a bad job pretending that she doesn’t want to kill him? Of course I loved this story!!  Joseph has this long game point of view that I appreciate. (ugh, i guess that’s called wisdom? or something?)  Mendoza is on the hunt for a particular plant, and the family who owns the property is very, very reluctant to let her dig it up.  There’s a 60 year old secret here.   Joseph has to protect his own secret,  the family’s secret, and yet somehow still get that plant dug up!  Luckily,  he’s really good at creating miracles.  After all, he’s the guy who played Imhotep!  Noble Mold is freakin’ fantastic.

 

Old Flat Top – wait, is this Budu, who I love?  Nope, but it is someone who worked with Budu!  And his job to sit at the top of the mountain, and keep the early humans who live in the valley below from killing each other.  He’ll pretent he’s a god, if that’s what it takes to make sure these idiots don’t kill each other.  And every so often, a brave youth climbs the mountain, in search of the god of the mountain.  Man, I could read a million stories of the Enforcers.  These guys!  Life is pretty simple for them, their values are very black and white, their job is to protect and make sure early humans survive.  I like how the Enforcers make everyone else think more about everything.  Especially since the Enforcers don’t really care about making people think,  which makes watching their interactions even more fascinating for me!

 

Hanuman – I was laughing my head off reading this story.  Why, you ask?   Because this guy, Hanuman, is hitting on Mendoza, and he thinks he has a chance with her!  She gives him the time of day, because she’s recovering from an injury and she doesn’t have anything else to do, and she’s polite and he’s inoffensive.  Could it be?  Could Mendoza be making a new friend?  I was so happy that she was having a nice time, and maybe making a new friend!!! Is she going to let someone in?   And then.  Well, that sure made me stop laughing, and I feel a bit of an ass for laughing at the beginning and wondering if this was the start of a beautiful friendship between Hanuman and Mendoza.   After all that, if I was Mendoza I’d stomp off into the forest and not talk to anyone for another 200 years.  And people wonder why she has trust issues!

 

Maelstrom – another one where I laughed and laughed and laughed! And finally, a funny story that actually has a happy ending!  On Mars, Mr. Morton has built the Edgar Allan Poe Center for the Performing Arts.  What follows is a laugh out loud, raucous, joyous,  Muppet Show-esque comedy of errors, complete with nervous directors,  terrible actors, even worse understudies, and Martians with hearts of gold.  I adore Alf so much!  And I love Baker’s Mars – a family of misfits, eccentrics, dreamers, and adventurers.  Maelstrom was exactly what I needed. I hope as I get further into The Best of Kage Baker,  that I get to hangout some more with these characters.

 

Stay tuned, for more Kage Baker!

 

or whatever book I pick up next!

Remember I said I wanted all my favorite characters, all in the same place,  but I didn’t think this could ever happen because I was afraid we’d never see Lewis again?

 

Also, I probably wouldn’t be able to handle the emotions of having everyone together, because OMG these characters!  And dude. Have you met me? I might be all tough and crusty on the outside, but I’m a squishy ball of squishy cry-y emotions on the inside.

 

In The Sons of Heaven, the year 2355 has arrived, and everyone is here for it.  Everyone needs to know what happens, and everyone believes their side will win.

 

The Sons of Heaven is my Avengers:Endgame.

 

I was not ready.

 

With minimal spoilers,  here are my thoughts as I progressed through the book.

 

  1.  This title seems kind of arrogant?
  2. LEWIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
  3. Awww,  Latif, you sure had a glow up!
  4. What exactly has happened to Nicholas and Alec?
  5. Edward is kind of a dick.
  6. Wait, WHO is having a baby???  How is this going to work, actually?
  7. I need a novel that is all Budu all the time.  He’s being a good dad to Joseph.
  8. Uhh. .  should we tell Bugleg who he’s genetically related to?  Can you imagine if 23andMe existed in this world?
  9. Parenthood really does change you.
  10. LEWIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  11. Edward being even more of a Victorian dick.  Why are you being such an asshole?
  12. For the first time in a long time, Joseph knows exactly what he’s doing and why.
  13. Bwahaha,  tweens and their hormones!
  14. HELLO NICHOLAS.  So, how’s this gonna work?  Actually, who cares! I’m good with it!
  15. Victor,  what are you planning?
  16. Hearst? To be honest I’m pretty meh about him.
  17. I’m sorry Ancilla, but David never really loved you.
  18. Does the Captain have another ace up his sleeve? Kinda thought he might?
  19. Victor!!!!
  20. The title.  It makes sense. It’s still arrogant AF, but it makes sense now.
  21. July 9th, 2355.  The silence has fallen.
  22. If it hadn’t been for the power of story, Tiara wouldn’t have known who the tall man was. It’s a good thing someone told her all those stories. It’s a good thing someone wrote all those stories!
  23. This ending is not what I expected but I love everything about it, I’m going to go cry now.
  24. There is a Doctor Who quote I want to say, but it is a HUGE spoiler so I’ll keep it to myself.
  25. I love this series, I love Mendoza, I love Nicholas, I love Joseph, I love Lewis.

 

That’s it,  that’s the not-review  of The Sons of Heaven.

 

I’ve been avoiding reading this book for ten years, because I thought if i knew how the series ended, that I wouldn’t have any reason to revisit it. I worried that knowing the ending would wreck the journey for me.  (you guys KNOW how I struggle with endings!!!)

 

But? I’m good.  I’m way more OK than I expected.   Might have to read the end of The Sons of Heaven again, because it was that damn good.  And I’ve still got The Empress of Mars, Not Less than Gods, and two short story collections to read.  So yeah, I know how the main plot line ends (or oh shit, is there more??), but I’ve got more journey and more story to read.  I get to explore more nooks and crannies of the world.

 

Oh yeah, and I tried to make butter.

 

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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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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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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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.