RogerBW's Blog

In the Garden of Iden, Kage Baker 23 November 2018

1997 science fiction, first of The Company series. In sixteenth-century Spain, Mendoza is plucked from the dungeons of the Inquisition by time-travellers who have need of local labour.

There's a substantial infodump at the start of this book, but it's such a glorious conceit that I forgive the error. In the future, a group of merchants and scientists invents time travel and a limited form of immortality; history is immutable and you can't jump forward from your own time, but there's nothing to prevent you from being sneaky. So Dr. Zeus Incorporated builds up a network of agents to buy property in the past and pass it over to them in the future, as well as looting "lost" books and artworks, "extinct" plants and animals, and such like, storing them in hidden places, and "rediscovering" them in its own time. And upgraded locals make for good agents; they don't complain as much about the lack of toilet paper.

At about this point, the scientist members of the cabal protested that Dr. Zeus's focus seemed to have shifted to ruling the world, and hadn't the Mission Statement mentioned something about improving the lot of humanity too? The merchant members of the cabal smiled pleasantly and pointed out that history, after all, cannot be changed, so there was a limit to how much humanity's lot could be improved without running up against that immutable law.

There's a lot more to the background than that, but this is only the first book, and the big secrets aren't even on the horizon yet. (Though there are some pointers to mysteries; for example, nobody really seems to know where Dr. Zeus is getting its direction from, what with goodies just falling into their laps every day.) Mendoza is made into an immortal cyborg, trained as a botanist, and exposed to a stiff dose of propaganda. (Yes, of course the cyborgs will be a welcome part of society when they live into the future. And of course the historical mortals are horrible dirty monkeys who don't know any better.)

It wasn't all that different from any particularly demanding boarding school, except that of course nobody ever went home for the holidays and we had a lot of brain surgery.

So that's the setup. The story is not, particularly, about time travel; Mendoza is sent to England to take samples of rare plants that will be lost in the future, from the garden of Sir Walter Iden in Kent. It's 1554, and Spaniards are suddenly welcome in England in the wake of Mary's marriage to Philip of Spain, but religious sympathies are dangerous things to hold firmly. And Mendoza may be an immortal cyborg stuffed full of knowledge, but she's also a nineteen-year-old girl with little experience of the world.

This is a romance (though not a Romance that you could label and sell as such) in science-fiction clothing; it's a character study of the young Mendoza (and Nicholas Harpole, the mortal with whom she falls in love), and differences in world-view (the immortality, yes, but also how things can be burningly important to one person and irrelevant to another); and it's setup for the rest of the series (seven more novels plus quite a few short stories). Sometimes the balance doesn't entirely hold, but for me this is a solid book in its own right as well as the beginning of a fine series – which I'm now re-reading.

Followed by Sky Coyote.

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

Series: The Company | Next in series: Sky Coyote

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio 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 2019 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha men with beards museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera perl perl weekly challenge 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