RogerBW's Blog

Mendoza in Hollywood, Kage Baker 25 December 2018

2000 science fiction, third of The Company series. In 1862, Mendoza is collecting plant samples from what will one day be Los Angeles, working out of a stagecoach stop in the Cahuenga Pass run by fellow immortal cyborg agents of the Company; she's still trying to cope with her post-traumatic stress. That won't go well for her.

As with Sky Coyote, one could be forgiven for saying that not much is happening in this book, at least for the first three quarters of it. But as Mendoza interacts with the other immortals at the stop, and more who pass through, what we see is the various ways they have accommodated to their lives, or indeed the things they use to distract them from thinking about their lives.

"We may be immortals, but we can't control mortal destinies. We can help them when they want help, but that's it. When they want to destroy themselves, not even God can stop them."

"That is so true," I said, with all my weary heart. "It's that lousy rotten free will of theirs. All we do is run around cleaning up after it."

"We're the everlasting janitors in the Big Bathroom," Einar agreed. "Our only consolation is knowing how much worse things would be if we weren't part of the equation."

It's still a slow and leisurely section, as they go about their jobs and punctuate the weary months with festivals of the films that will, one day, be made here. (Which, yes, means that there's a long discussion of Griffith's Intolerance… but this isn't just Baker showing off her knowledge of film history, it's a light by which to see the people who are watching it.)

and lo, we beheld the Imgur Bel Gate of Babylon! Intricate, massive, worked by twin capstans carven with lions rampant, manned by dozens of slaves. Elephants plodding through the streets, looking small as cows before the vast walls. Enormous winged bulls with the heads of bearded kings. Now this was imagery. We cheered and applauded.

"Shot right here, folks, on Griffith's lot off Hollywood Boulevard," said Einar.

"Actually it didn't look at all like that," Imarte said.

"Well, it ought to have," Porfirio said.

And then everything changes, as Mendoza meets someone profoundly unexpected and abandons her mission to do something else. (It would be great if his identity were a surprise, but all the blurbs mention it; try to avoid them.) There's contemplation on the nature of faith and fanaticism, and how either can be useful. And, like most of the other immortals we've met, Mendoza goes a little mad, in her own way.

The number of characters is increasing, and if you don't have a crib sheet by this point it may be worth writing one. There are various hints of big schemes, but this is a more isolated posting than the ones in Sky Coyote and we don't learn a great deal about the larger plot of the series.

But this is a gorgeous, rich book; don't expect immediate action and you won't be disappointed, but Baker has a great deal to say and says it remarkably subtly. If you want to read this, start with the first book. Followed by The Graveyard Game.

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