RogerBW's Blog

Sky Coyote, Kage Baker 02 December 2018

1999 science fiction, second of The Company series. The immortal cyborg Facilitator Joseph finds himself with the task of talking a Chumash village into coming to work for the Company rather than hanging around to be wiped out when the Spanish arrive in California.

At least that's the core of the story. But not a great deal actually happens in that core: we see the Company's procedures at work, the way they preserve as much information as they can get while scooping up the locals to be menial labourers (though, of course, still rather better fed and healthier than they'd have been at home, not to mention not wiped out by missionaries). And these natives aren't In Tune With Nature, or Spiritual Beings, or anything othering like that; they're people, and some of them are annoyingly clever.

But that's only the surface of what's going on. The first section of the book happens at New World One, the recreation facility in the Americas where the cyborgs go between missions; and, as with any group of people with too little to do, they spend their time playing games of politics and appearances. (And their mortal servants aren't stupid; they can tell that the gods are imperfect beings too.)

"Houbert's supposed to be giving me valuable insights into running a base. This morning's lesson seems to be What to Do If One Runs Out of Marzipan Petits Fours When One Is Expecting an Important Guest for Brunch. I hope you like the damned things."

Once the mission proper begins, we meet humans from the Company's future: disgusted that the cyborgs still eat meat, drink alcohol, and so on. Meanwhile the cyborgs find the humans childish and fear-prone. Some of the cyborgs wonder whether they really ought to be trying to take over, given how little time the humans have for the cyborgs; others wonder whether perhaps this has already happened. (After all, could people like that really have set up the huge project that The Company has become?) And is time really immutable, the way they've always been told it is? It's very convenient for The Company that they believe that.

They're too delicate for this end of time, that's all. We see venison, they see Bambi. We see swordfish steaks, they see Friendly Flippy lying murdered.

It also becomes clear that, although there's time travel going on, nobody ever talks about what happens after 2355. And cyborgs who ask too many questions about that have a way of being reassigned elsewhere and never seen again. And they aren't the only ones; Joseph is one of the few people old enough to remember the Enforcers, who did sterling service back in 20,000BC, but who have gradually disappeared since.

You know why I've survived in this job, year after year, lousy assignment after lousy assignment, with no counseling whatsoever? Because I have a keen appreciation of the ludicrous. Also because I have no choice.

There's an awful lot of build-up here, in other words, and a lot of it isn't paid off until rather later in the series. Such action as there is mostly deals with the Chumash and Joseph's interaction with them (disguised as Sky Coyote). Mendoza is a side character, but she's mostly suffering from post-traumatic stress and doesn't do very much.

As a stand-alone book or an entry point to the series I wouldn't recommend it, but as a continuation of what's gone before and an introduction to some significant characters it works rather better; and Joseph's story is fascinating in itself. Followed by Mendoza in Hollywood.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

Add A Comment

Your Name
Your Email
Your Comment

Your submission will be ignored if any field is left blank, but your email address will not be displayed. Comments will be processed through markdown.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gin gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1