RogerBW's Blog

The Graveyard Game, Kage Baker 10 January 2019

2001 science fiction, fourth of The Company series. Mendoza has been disappeared by the Company, the same organisation that made her an immortal cyborg slave in the first place. Her recruiter Joseph, and former co-worker Lewis, try to find out what happened to her.

And, at least in this book, they don't, though they get a reasonably good idea. But there's an awful lot of other stuff going on here, not least a history of Earth from the 1990s until nearly 2355, the date after which nobody knows what's going to happen. Joseph and Lewis work slowly – they're immortals, after all, and trying not to be noticed – and as they meet after gaps of decades the reader is made privy to Baker's future history.

The nearest wine shop had closed for the day, in accordance with the tighter new laws, but Lewis had a cabinet nicely stocked with Californian white varietals.

And, with the immortal view, we see future humanity gradually becoming simpler, turning into the paltry creatures we saw in Sky Coyote who blanch at the thought of alcohol, coffee, or interpersonal conflict. (Meat is right out.) It's not the most plausible direction for the species, but Baker does an excellent job of showing how it might happen, with a nudge here, a depopulating disaster there. Is the Company behind those nudges? Well, it certainly seems to have been distinctly older than anyone was admitting.

It also becomes clear that the Company is anything but monolithic; the rumours of rebellious cyborgs from previous books are confirmed here, and more, with one group seemingly active in building plagues to try to wipe out humanity. As time goes on and it becomes clear that more and more of the cyborgs are being quietly "reassigned" and never seen again, one can't really be surprised that they want to fight back, but is that the best or indeed only way to do it?

As well as that, there's hunting for the mysterious stranger who turned up in Mendoza in Hollywood; and a hidden branch of humanity (superbly drawn by Baker as being scarily different from the people we know, but different rather than better or worse); and what really happened to Joseph's own recruiter Budu. This is the book that makes it clear what the rest of the series is going to be about, and at least roughly where the lines are drawn. There's a step back from the strictly personal stories of the first three volumes, even though the focus is still very much on the people rather than the events. And there's even room for some humour.

"I can't believe you didn't enjoy that," said Lewis, as Joseph carefully loaded in the six jugs of Bronte liqueur he had purchased at the gift shop.

Followed by Black Projects, White Knights (short stories) and The Life of the World to Come.

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