RogerBW's Blog

The Life of the World to Come, Kage Baker 03 February 2019

2004 science fiction, fifth of The Company series. The Botanist Mendoza has been imprisoned in time, left to fend for herself in 150,000 BC. But a man crashes a stolen time-shuttle on her island… a man she's met before, though he hasn't met her.

This book is mostly the story of Project Adonai and Alec Checkerfield, and explains at length one of the large mysteries from earlier volumes. Perhaps at excessive length; it's much more about filling in missing pieces than it is about continuing and expanding the story of Mendoza, or even the story of Dr. Zeus. Though we do meet some of the people in charge, who are, well, very slightly better than Bugleg whom we met in Sky Coyote, but still typical of their era; they regard walking through the park as a Great Adventure, start their project with only a vague laudatory idea of what a Hero should be like, and have very little feeling for other human beings.

"And, think about it-there will be no tragedy." Chatterji sat down in his favorite chair. "My mother used to cry and leave the room whenever the case was mentioned on holo shows. Couldn't bear the thought of that little helpless child lying dead somewhere. But we know he'll really be alive and all right! No sad ending after all."

"Except for little Elly in her rubber room at the convent," added Ellsworth-Howard.

"Well, that can't be helped."

It's not much fun to read about the twenty-fourth century future, and of course it's not supposed to be. Sometimes it gets a bit heavy-handed. But Alec mostly maintains a sense of enjoyment about what he's doing, and Baker manages the effective trick of getting me to sympathise with a hero who sometimes lacks mental fortitude (he excels in many respects but he's not at all used to failure and defeat). It was a toss-up as to whether I could believe in him as a romantic hero; but then, it's something of a struggle for Mendoza as well.

Things happen out of order, and indeed one key section is told twice from different viewpoints, but this is a story about time travel, and if you're not used to a bit of weird causality by now you're not really trying.

And it seems that Dr Zeus isn't all-knowing after all… or is that just what we're meant to think? Good gripping stuff, and a solid continuation to the series.

"You don't s-suppose, do you, that the entire course of human history has been shaped by cl-clever chaps like us, sitting around in p-parlors and playing with ideas?" Chatterji said. He had another gulp of the liqueur. It seemed to go down easier this time. "All working for D-Dr. Zeus?"

"Why not?" Rutherford said. "We're the only gods there are."

Followed by The Children of the Company.

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Previous in series: Black Projects, White Knights | Series: The Company | Next in series: The Children of the Company

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