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Not Less than Gods (The Company Series #9)

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  • Posted May 7, 2013

    Not Less Than Gods By: Kage Baker This book is a great book

    Not Less Than Gods

    By: Kage Baker This book is a great book to read. There is so much that is going on that it will have you wondering what is lurking around the corner.Edward is recently returning from war. He is taken under the wing of the Gentlemen’s Speculative Society. In the beginning Edward is adopted and tolerated by his adoptive parents and mostly ignored. His adoptive parents took him in to erase their debt and fix a heartbreak. Edward feels that the military will offer him purpose and escape. Edward learns that a secret world is beneath the society of London when he joins the Gentlemen’s Speculative Society.
    I would read it because it is filled with action and danger at every corner. It is a book that has spies in it and a lot of kids wanted to become a spy when they were younger. Now you get the chance to become a spy in this book.

    I liked the ending, but lets just say their are going to be more books like it. The length of the book is 319 pages, so it is not that long. The plot is to kill people who are enemies of the Gentlemen’s Speculative Society and trying to have power.

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  • Posted March 26, 2011

    Steampunk with soul

    I have come late to Kage Baker's work. The good part of that is how many wonderful books I have yet to discover; the sad part, that I cannot tell her how much I enjoy them. So I must confess that NOT LESS THAN GODS is the first book of "The Company" I have read. For those familiar with this world, a story of "how it all started" furnishes background to characters and situations already known. The litmus test of such a tale, however, is whether it stands on its own without any referents. In short, this one does, and more, just what I would expect from Kage Baker.

    On the surface, NOT LESS THAN GODS is a sort of steam punk, secret society, coming of age story, as agents of the British branch of a clandestine organization attempt to direct the course of history in the mid-19th Century. Readers will recognize some actual events, like the Crimean War. The settings range from stolid to exotic as our characters travel eastward across Europe to Russia.

    Woven through the various missions is the story of one particular character, conceived and raised under mysterious circumstances. Clearly, Edward Bell-Fairfax has been shaped as the perfect assassin; he's almost superhumanly strong, tall, intelligent, with mesmeric persuasive talents. However, he also has a conscience, ideals, the capacity for compassion. If he brings to mind Frankenstein's monster (and there is a single brief reference to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley on the first page), or the golem to which he is compared later in the book, he differs from both in being his own creation. For me, the most moving parts of the story involved his dawning understanding of the moral consequences of the uses and misuses of the tremendous powers with which he has been endowed. Certainly, he can seduce a woman in such a way that she desires the encounter, but what at what cost to her--and to himself? Likewise, the assassinations he is called to execute force him to examine relative and absolute values. What is one life against many? When does a target stop being a cardboard figure and resolve into a human being? What is the cost of taking a life, regardless of the justification? This depth of examination, coupled with an unwavering moral center, imbue the pages with a complexity, unity, and emotional meaning far beyond any simple adventure.

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  • Posted April 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Better for newbies than fans of the series.

    This is an odd book, a standalone Company novel that I think would actually work better for someone who does not know the series than for those of us who know and love it (which might explain the very lackluster reviews I've seen of it online).

    Not Less Than Gods is written in a third-person omniscient near-objective mode, meaning the narrator knows everything about everyone in the story but rarely delves into their thoughts and feelings, staying detached. Despite what the jacket would lead you to believe, it never enters Edward's head -- he is a cipher to those around him and to the reader. I resented this mode at first -- it seemed to leave a great gaping hole in every scene -- but the introduction of Rabbi Canetti reveals that this was a very deliberate choice on Baker's part and one, in fact, that I believe would make the book for those who have not read the Company novels (and have the eyes to see it).

    To one who has not encountered the Company before, this novel has a central theme -- the danger of creating a monster and then giving it a soul. It is a Frankenstein tale, plain and simple, with Dr. Nennys as Dr. Frankenstein and Edward as his monster -- a subtler monster than Shelley's, but just as horrifying to the average bystander and just as innocent. We the reader cannot see Edward's perspective for this to work, however, because he does not know that he is a golem; the objective tone Baker uses reinforces her message.

    The novel still is not entirely effective; I think it would have been stronger had Baker dipped more into the ancillary characters' heads, and it is rather slow starting and episodic throughout. It is also more steampunk than I expected, paying far more attention to the workings of all the wondrous machines than were really warranted by the story. But I think that if I did not know the Company novels already, I would have been quite moved by the climax as Ludbridge watches Edward realize what exactly he is.

    However, I do know the Company novels, and I have met Edward before. I know his history already. Most importantly, I know how much more of a complete person (as opposed to a golem with a soul) he is than this book gives him credit for, so I am resistent to giving him the pass that this book provides him on all those shady ethical issues. With all that extra knowledge, I was left almost entirely cold by the novel. I wanted, instead, the novel that the book jacket led me to believe this was -- a real dip into Edward's psyche before Mendoza ran into him in California, something more realistic psychoanalysis than allegory. Or, at least, something with a bit more humor and action, some of the dashing zest for life it seemed Edward had (in amongst his raging egomania).

    So all in all I'm frustrated by this novel, but I nonetheless hope it does well, and it would be very nice if it finds an audience outside of Baker's core Company fans.

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