In the Garden of Iden (The Company Series #1)by Kage Baker
Poor Mendoza. She's not thrilled about being sent to Renaissance England. It's a cold, backward, unsafe country. Gray curtains of rain. The food crawling with bacteria. No flush toilets. She won't get to see Shakespeare either. He hasn't been born yet. The English hate the Spanish like smallpox, especially now with bulldog-faced Mary on the throne. But Mendoza is no… See more details below
Poor Mendoza. She's not thrilled about being sent to Renaissance England. It's a cold, backward, unsafe country. Gray curtains of rain. The food crawling with bacteria. No flush toilets. She won't get to see Shakespeare either. He hasn't been born yet. The English hate the Spanish like smallpox, especially now with bulldog-faced Mary on the throne. But Mendoza is no longer a frightened little girl in the dungeons of the Inquisition; she's a Company-trained botanist and has an assignment - to save Ilex tormentosum, a species of holly that will go extinct in a hundred years. She must save it for Dr. Z and the twenty-fourth century. Kage Baker, in her first novel, tells the story of a spunky young cyborg who, though an immortal operative, falls for Master Nicholas Harpole, a mortal with pale blue eyes, good legs, and a smooth, rich tenor that hangs on the air like a violin.
“Baker's characterizations are robust and detailed, as is her development of the historical setting ... [Readers] will recognize in Baker a fantasist of considerable promise.” Publishers Weekly
“So, how do you classify a seriously philosophical time-travel story of a young cyborg's first love amid religious conflict? As a good read.” Locus
“A highly impressive and thoroughly engrossing debut.” Kirkus Reviews on In the Garden of Iden
“The debut of a major talent. Kage Baker is a fresh, audacious, ambitious new voice.” Gardner Dozois on In the Garden of Iden
“The prose is compulsively readable – it has the breezy feel of someone casually telling us a story, a feeling I associate with, say, Heinlein at his best. . . In fact, the whole book is a great deal of fun . . . it's easily on a level with Le Guin's or Resnick's first novels.” New York Review of SF
Read an Excerpt
I am a botanist. I will write down the story of my life as an exercise, to provide the illusion of conversation in this place where I am now alone. It will be a long story, because it was a long road that brought me here, and it led through blazing Spain and green, green England and ever so many centuries of Time. But you'll understand it best if I begin by telling you what I learned in school.
Once, there was a cabal of merchants and scientists whose purpose was to make money and improve the lot of humankind. They invented Time Travel and Immortality. Now, I was taught that they invented Time Travel first and developed Immortals so they could send people safely back through the years.
In reality it was the other way around. The process for Immortality was developed first. In order to test it, they had to invent Time Travel.
It worked like this; they would send a team of doctors into the past, into 1486 for example, and select some lucky native of that time and confer immortality on him. Then they'd go back to their own time and see if their test case was still around. Had he survived the intervening nine hundred years? He had? How wonderful. Were there any unpleasant side effects? There were? Oops. They'd go back to the drawing board and then back to 1486 to try the new, improved process on another native. Then they'd go home again, to see how this one turned out. Still not perfect? They'd try again. After all, they were only expending a few days of their own time. The flawed immortals couldn't sue them, and there was a certain satisfaction in finally discovering what made all those Dutchmen fly and Jews wander.
But theexperiments didn't precisely pan out. Immortality is not for the general public. Oh, it works. God, how it works. But it can have several undesirable side effects, mental instability being one of them, and there are certain restrictions that make it impractical for general sale. For example, it only really works on little children with flexible minds and bodies. It does not work on middle-aged miilionaires, which is a pity, because they are the only consumers who can afford the process.
So this cabal (they called themselves Dr. Zeus, Incorporated) came up with a limited version of the procedure and marketed it as truly superior geriatric medicine. As such it was fabulously profitable, and everyone commended Dr. Zeus.
Everyone, of course, except all those flawed immortals.
But about the Time Travel part.
Somehow, Dr. Zeus invented a time transcendence field. It, too, had its limitations. Time travel is only possible backward, for one thing. You can return to your own present once you've finished your business in the past, but you can't jump forward into your future. So much for finding out who's going to win in the fifth race at Santa Anita on April 1, 2375.
Still, Dr. Zeus played around with the field and discovered what could at first be taken as a comforting fact: History cannot be changed. You can't go back and save Lincoln, but neither can you erase your own present by accidentally killing one of your ancestors. To repeat, history cannot be changed.
However-and listen closely, this is the important partthis law can only be observed to apply to recorded history. See the implications?
You can't toot the future, but you can loot the past.
I'll spell it out for you. If history states that John Jones won a million dollars in the lottery on a certain day in the past, you can't go back there and win the lottery instead. But you can make sure that John Jones is an agent of yours, who will purchase the winning ticket on that day and dutifully invest the proceeds for you. From your vantage point in the future, you tell him which investments are sound and which financial institutions are stable. Result: the longest of long-term dividends for future you.
And suppose you have John Jones purchase property with his lottery winnings, and transfer title to a mysterious holding firm? Suppose you have an army of John Joneses all doing the same thing? If you started early enough, and kept at it long enough, you could pretty much own the world.
Dr. Zeus did.
Overnight they discovered assets they never knew they had, administered by long-lived law firms with ancient instructions to deliver interest accrued, on a certain day in 2335, to a "descendant" of the original investor. And the money was nothing compared to the real estate. As long as they stayed within the frame of recorded history, they had the ability to prearrange things so that every event that ever happened fell out to the Company's advantage.
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.
But remember, Gentle Reader, that that law can only be seen to apply to recorded history. The test case was the famous Library of Alexandria, burned with all its books by a truculent invader. Technically, the library couldn't be saved, because history emphatically states that it was destroyed. However, Dr. Zeus sent a couple of clerks back to the library with a battery-powered copier disguised as a lap desk. Working nights over many years, they transferred every book in the place to film before the arsonist got to it, and took it all back to 2335.
Even though the books turned out to be mostly liberal arts stuff like poetry and philosophy that nobody could...
Meet the Author
KAGE BAKER has been an artist, actor, and director at the Living History Centre and has taught Elizabethan English as a Second Language. Born in 1952 in Hollywood, she lives in Pismo Beach, California, the Clam Capital of the World.
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This isn't scifi its scifantasy. The author has talent but its wasted. The only thing worse than the loss of life from reading this is that I paid for it.
This novel was the starting point Ms Baker used to build a rich and complicated fictional universe filled with corporate ruthlessness and greed masking itself as idealism, time travel, cyborgs, and immortality. She knew a lot about the Elizabethan world into which she drops her vivid characters. Although you can pick up the series in one of the later books and figure out what's going on without much trouble (she always tried to provide enough back story to orient her readers) this is a marvelous tale of futuristic characters journeying through a vanished world. Besides, cyborg girl meets sexy Elizabethan boy? What could be better than that?
My first encounter with Kage Baker was a short story in the anthology Wizards: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy. Her contribution was the highlight of that collection for me, a brightly polished gem of a story small in scope and warmly, wonderfully knowing. On the strength of that story alone I decided I would love the author. This was my first novel by Baker and her first novel as well, and if it was not quite as brightly polished as the short story (which was, after all, written a decade later) it still maintained all the wit, warmth and wisdom. The premise has rightfully drawn comparisons to Connie Willis' Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. The first chapter, which works as a sort of prologue, introducing The Company and its operatives, is a delight. I especially like the idea that time travel was invented as a byproduct of their invention of immortality, to test whether or not the process worked. But regular SF readers be warned: the first chapter is the only major SF world-building that occurs in this novel. I suspect there is more in later books in the series, but the focus of this novel is much smaller: it is a romance and a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of Queen Mary's marriage to Prince Philip of Spain and the subsequent Marian Persecutions in England. There is very little to like about the young Company agent Mendoza. She is spunky, clearly, but also despises humanity and is supremely self-centered. She is, in short, a teenager. Smartly, the Mendoza that narrates the story is much older and wiser, and even if her wry, sardonic tone isn't groundbreaking, it is still very effective. Needless to say, the story Mendoza relates is the story of how she lost that self-centeredness and fell in love with one of the despised humans. All of those elements, would fit nicely in a Connie Willis novel, and the story moves with ease between the lighthearted tone of To Say Nothing of the Dog and the darker, richer tone of The Doomsday Book. The love interest, Nicholas Harpole, however, would have absolutely no place in a Connie Willis novel -- he is cast from a mold that reminded me very strongly of Father Ignatius in Louisa May Alcott's A Long Fatal Love Chase. Harpole is a martyr, a soldier of god, and he aches to save his beloved's immortal soul -- little knowing her immortal body has already been bought and paid for by The Company. While I share Joseph's evaluation of Harpole far more than Mendoza's, the couple's plight delivers excellent narrative tension, matched nicely by the increasingly grim news reports the Company agents listen to on their subvocal radio. I spent the entire second half of the novel waiting for the guillotine to fall, and when it did I read breathlessly through to the end. Ultimately, while In the Garden of Iden was not as good as either Connie Willis novel I mentioned, it showed great promise as the start of a series. I'll admit that I cheated and looked at the descriptions of the other books, so I know a bit of where the series is going -- it looks like there will be quite a bit more world-building in later novels, for instance -- but I think even if I did not know that, and if I hadn't loved that short story so much, on the strength of this novel Kage Baker would still have made my "buy immediately" list. Absolutely recommended.
I picked up this book because of some recommendations from friends on Shelfari. I was greatly disappointed! This book starts out so well, describing the Company, time travel and immortality and then goes to Spain in the 1500's where a little girl (Mendoza) is rescued from the Inquisition and put in a 'special program' with other children. They are trained and receive a number of surgeries that transform them into Cyborgs. The book then goes downhill from there as Mendoza is sent on her task to work in 1500's England during the end of Queen 'Bloody' Mary's reign. From there it is painfully dull and very difficult to finish. What also made this book difficult was that the vast infrastructure that was set up underground in the 1500's is very unbelievable. This book is definately not on my recommended list!
The idea behind the book is that 'the Company' places their operatives back in time to save life and valuable works of art before they are destroyed or become extinct. It's a very interesting idea and has a lot of potential. However, as soon as our main character is sent to her first posting (less than 1/4 the way into the book) it quickly turns into a romance novel. Character development falls by the wayside to make room for the young couple to flirt and run around. A few quick references are all that remains of the science fiction book I though I was going to read. I hope that the other books in the series can stick to good character development and take advantage of the concept behind the story - instead of turning into the dimestore romance novel this book turned out to be.
In the Garden of Iden introduces us to Kage Baker, a uniquely original new talent in science fiction. Baker has crafted an intriguing premise for time travel -- a company, Dr. Zeus, in the 24th century discovers that movement through time is possible, but objects from the past cannot be brought forward. To make time travel profitable the company sends operatives back in time, finds children and performs operations and indoctrination to turn them into immortal cyborgs dedicated to the preservation of materials which will be of value in the future. These valuables are stashed away in caches to be 'rediscovered' in the 24th century, to the financial benefit of the Company. The book tells the story of Mendoza, a child rescued from the 16th century dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, and transformed into an immortal who specializes in botany. Her first posting is in Reformation England during the time of Queen Mary Tudor, a catholic queen who persecuted her Protestant subjects. Baker's command of the history of the time is laudable; she captures the nuances of Tudor society and deftly shows the depth of the religious feeling which was tearing apart a continent. She cleverly juxtaposes 16th century life with the technological sophistication of the operatives of the Company, who perform their collection duties supported by an infrastructure which allows them access to advanced computers, futuristic medical procedures and an eclectic array of radio entertainment. Mendoza's first foray into love serves to propel the action of this thoroughly engrossing novel. Baker shows an especially apt hand at humor, a particular strength of all her writing. I highly recommend this wonderful first novel in a highly imaginative series.