Not Less than Gods (The Company Series #9)

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Recently returned from war, young Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax is grateful to be taken under the wing of the Gentleman’s Speculative Society. At the Society, Edward soon learns that a secret world flourishes beneath the surface of London’s society, a world of wondrous and terrible inventions and devices used to tip the balance of power in a long-running game of high-stakes intrigue. Through his intensive training Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax, unwanted and lonely boy, becomes Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax, Victorian ...

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Not Less than Gods (The Company Series #9)

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Overview

Recently returned from war, young Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax is grateful to be taken under the wing of the Gentleman’s Speculative Society. At the Society, Edward soon learns that a secret world flourishes beneath the surface of London’s society, a world of wondrous and terrible inventions and devices used to tip the balance of power in a long-running game of high-stakes intrigue. Through his intensive training Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax, unwanted and lonely boy, becomes Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax, Victorian super-assassin, fleeing across the Turkish countryside in steam-powered coaches and honing his fighting skills against clockwork opponents.

As Edward travels across Europe with a team of companions, all disguised as gentleman dandies on tour, he learns more about himself and the curious abilities he is gradually developing. He begins to wonder if there isn’t more going on than simple international intrigue, and if he and his companions are maybe part of a political and economic game stretching through the centuries. But, in the end, is it a game he can bring himself to play?

Edward Anton Bell-Fairfax, the idealistic assassin. Perhaps the most dangerous man alive.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Kage Baker:

"Kage Baker is the greatest natural storyteller to enter the field since Poul Anderson."

—Gardner Dozois

“Baker's Company novels are a monumental achievement of imagination and whimsy.”

Starlog

"Anything Kage Baker publishes I will immediately rush out and read! I am never disappointed. The woman is a marvel. She can take on any voice, in any time, and make it sing high and low."

— Ellen Kushner

“Baker is a writer worth following into any fictional territory.”

—The San Francisco Chronicle

“[Baker’s] a fine prose stylist with a skeptical intelligence and a black sense of humor.”

The Los Angeles Times Book Review

“One of the most consistently entertaining series . . . . The novels read like literary pastiches—echoes of Heinlein and Robert Louis Stevenson fill this one—and the narrative pace matches that of most thrillers.”

Amazing Stories on The Life of the World to Come

The Empress of Mars reminds me . . . of Robinson's Antarctica, both describe communities of smart, highly-trained, and occasionally insane people in a hostile environment cut off from the normal world. . . . Sly humor and vivid, memorable characters.”

—i09

“[Written with] with flair and enviable skill. . . . The Company novels have never received the accolades they deserve. Here's hoping that . . . more readers will discover Baker's astonishing saga, assured that their time and effort will be amply rewarded.”

The San Francisco Chronicle on The Sons of Heaven

Publishers Weekly
The ninth Company novel (after 2007's The Sons of Heaven) introduces Edward Bell-Fairfax, a child of mysterious origins who gradually discovers that he's not quite like ordinary people. Born to an unmarried aristocratic mother, raised by distant foster parents, and spirited away to boarding school by the sinister Dr. Nennys, Bell-Fairfax serves an unhappy stint in the military and afterward is inducted into the Company of scientists and spies. Using messages from the future and Charles-Babbage-meets-Maxwell-Smart “technologia,” Bell-Fairfax travels Europe with his mentor, Ludbridge, attempting to swing the Crimean War in England's favor and learning in the process that achieving utopian goals requires a great deal of dirty work. Plenty of cloak-and-poison-dart action gets the reader through the exhausting Victorian nomenclature (the Aetheric Transmitter, the Ascending Chamber) and discourses on the evils of misused technology. (Mar.)
Library Journal
An illegitimate child of British nobility, Edward Fairfax grows up among ice-cold tutors and doting servants, little noticing that he is bigger and smarter than other children his age. After a disastrous stint in the navy, where his idealism conflicts with military orders, he is recruited as a member of a secret society interested in making the world a better place regardless of politics and laws. Fairfax becomes one of the world's most dangerous men—a spy and an assassin with uncanny natural abilities. VERDICT Set in a Victorian England that harbors secret advanced technology, this steampunk spin-off of the author's popular Company series (In the Darden of Iden) features a likable, if deadly, hero and a wealth of proper conversation and improper actions. Baker fans will enjoy this fresh take on a familiar theme.
Kirkus Reviews
The first in a new set of novels, set in the same world as the author's Company series. Baker (The House of the Stag, 2009, etc.) is known for her series about The Company, a shadowy 24th-century group that uses time-travel and immortality-granting technology to obtain precious artifacts from the past. The original series' story arc culminated with The Sons of Heaven (2007), so Baker has embarked on a new series to explore some of its characters more closely. Here the author lays out the back story of Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax, a genetically engineered Company operative who first appeared in Mendoza in Hollywood (2000). The brilliant Edward is born into privilege in 1824 England. In his 20s, he meets the mysterious Dr. Nennys, who says that Edward was created to be part of a secret organization, possessed of amazing technology-and that Edward has important work to do. The novel's adventurous Victorian setting, full of anachronistic technology from automatons to night-vision goggles, is reminiscent of steampunk-and fans of that popular subgenre may find much to enjoy. Still, it's readers already familiar with Baker's previous Company works who will get the most out of this fast-moving novel. A fine addition to Baker's Company mythos.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765318916
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 3/16/2010
  • Series: Company Series , #9
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Kage Baker lives in Pismo Beach, California.

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Read an Excerpt

1824: Daughter of Elysium

Lady Amalthea R. was a trial to her father, and considered something of an adventuress by the rest of polite society. She reveled in the distinction. Having been told to go straight to Hell by her enraged parent after refusing what would have been a respectable and advantageous marriage, Lady Amalthea chose instead to take a small house near Hyde Park. She was .nancially independent, having inherited certain sums from her late mother, and so set herself up in an establishment with her deaf and ancient nurse, Mrs. Denbigh. Attendant also were a handsome butler, a more handsome footman, a gardener so handsome he might have posed for Michelangelo, and a quite plain maid of all work.

By the time Lady Amalthea had reached her mid-twenties, she was well established as a ruined woman. The fact that she was strikingly beautiful, with the looks of a slender valkyrie, guaranteed that she never wanted for company anyway. She dabbled in politics, was given to radicalism of the deepest dye, and her bitterest regret was that she had failed to seduce Lord Byron before he decamped for the Continent. When Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was widowed, Lady Amalthea wrote her reams of consolatory advice and insisted on hosting a dinner party in her honor when that exhausted lady returned to England.

Lady Amalthea belonged as well to several Societies, scienti. c, philosophical and musical especially. It chanced therefore that one smoky eve ning at the end of October 1824 she made her way to the house of a similarly notorious lady to hear an excerpt from Beethoven’s new symphony, his Ninth. The entire work was scheduled for its of. cial London premiere the following March, but an enterprising member of the Philharmonic Society of London had adapted the choral movement for two pianofortes and four singers.

Lady Amalthea arrived as punch was being served out, and circulated for a while chatting with others in her dazzling and disreputable set, as Mrs. Denbigh wandered after her like an amiable little dog. There were young intellectuals, feminists, politicians, musicians, even an actor or two, and one gentleman to whom her eye was particularly drawn. He was lean, saturnine, darkly handsome, reminding her rather of a clean-shaven Mephistopheles, and this alone would have been enough to pique her interest in him. However, the more Lady Amalthea saw of the gentleman, the more she was convinced she’d seen him somewhere before.

When they entered the ballroom, furnished with chairs for the performance, she was pleased to note that he took his seat near hers. He caught her eye, smiled and nodded, with a certain quizzical lift of eyebrow that made her heart race pleasantly. All thought of potential trysts .ed from Lady Amalthea, however, when she glanced down at the lyric translation sheet she had been handed.

Schiller’s sentiments charmed her, appealed to her sense of idealism. That the beggar and the Prince might be brothers! Heroes striving toward noble conquest! A benign and starry universe in which universal liberation waited! And then the music began . . .

Lady Amalthea sat bolt upright, spellbound. Her eyes were bright, her lips moist, her breath came quickly. Even Mrs. Denbigh nodded along in what she perceived to be time. When the glorious music ended, Lady Amalthea sagged backward in her chair, panting, one hand on her bosom, quite overcome. Had the composer been present, he would most certainly have been embraced by Lady Amalthea, and there and then invited back to her boudoir.

Unable to confer such favor, Lady Amalthea settled for milling about afterward, excitedly discussing the symphony with her acquaintances. She made discreet inquiries as to whether the tenor or baritone might be interested in coming home with her for a cup of cocoa, only to discover that Lady Maria P. and Mrs. H. had beaten her to them; but so elevated were her spirits still, in the music’s afterglow, that Lady Amalthea was yet smiling as she took her leave and swept out, Mrs. Denbigh trotting behind her.

Here, however, fate took an odd turn with Lady Amalthea. Her footman appeared, sweating and muddy, to inform her that both rear wheels had unaccountably fallen off her carriage. Even as she was registering this, a gentleman’s suave voice spoke next to her ear, offering her a seat in his own conveyance. Lady Amalthea turned and came face-to-face with the dark gentleman, who bowed and kissed her hand.

He identi.ed himself as Dr. Nennys, reminding her that they had been introduced at a supper party some months previous. Lady Amalthea was happy to accept his generous gesture on her own and Mrs. Denbigh’s behalf. He gave them sips from a small vial of brandy concealed in his walking-stick, against the eve ning’s chill, and chatted with her about Beethoven as they waited for his coach to be brought. In short order both Lady Amalthea and Mrs. Denbigh were comfortably seated in Dr. Nennys’s coach. He bowed, wished them a good night, and shut the coach door. They rolled away into the darkness. Lady Amalthea remembered glimpsing a pair of All Hallows’ Eve bon. res low- .ickering, burning down to coals at the bottom of the drive.

And that was the last thing Lady Amalthea remembered with any clarity.

There was a confused dream, to be sure, dimly recalled afterward: she was in her private chamber with Beethoven, and he was a glorious giant, a hero, of godlike physique, profoundly amorous. Oddly enough, the act of love itself was a little chilly and awkward, even uncomfortable. There was a sense of indignity. But the music welled up and . oated her away to bliss, fully orchestrated, and the soloists had the voices of angels. Lady Amalthea wept for happiness at the spirituality of it all.

Pleasure was given even to the Worm, and the Cherub stands before God . . .

She woke, warm and rosily content, in a bed; but not her own. Lady Amalthea rolled over and stared in some confusion at the Honorable Henry B., with whom she had carried on sporadic amorous relations during the past year, though not as recently as her equally passionate relations with Lord F. or Pratt the gardener. Confusion gave way to horror as Lady Amalthea spotted the Honorable Mrs. B. lying just the other side of her husband; but Lady Amalthea’s consternation was as nothing to the Honorable Henry B.’s, when he opened his eyes and saw his erstwhile mistress lying beside him, fully clothed.

Frantic inquiries and denials were hissed back and forth sotto voce. A discreet exit was somehow contrived, both parties white and shaking, as Mrs. B. slept on untroubled. Lady Amalthea was obliged to take a hackney coach to her own residence, where she found Mrs. Denbigh peacefully unconscious on her bed, though likewise fully clothed. When roused, and made to understand that something was amiss, Mrs. Denbigh was unable to provide any details about anything that had passed the previous evening.

So it was with some alarm, two days thereafter, that Lady Amalthea heard that Dr. Nennys had come to call upon her. She met him with trepidation well concealed, however. He greeted her with the utmost courtesy, apparently much concerned. His coachman had informed him that, upon the night of the concert, Lady Amalthea had ordered him to drive her to Lord F.’s residence and there leave her, with the request that Mrs. Denbigh should be taken on to the house by Hyde Park. Dr. Nennys wished to be assured that nothing improper had taken place. Lady Amalthea assured him that nothing had, and he took his leave.

Yet by Twelfth Night, Lady Amalthea had determined beyond all doubt that something improper had certainly taken place with someone, though whether with Lord F., the Honorable Henry B., or indeed Pratt the gardener was anyone’s guess.

Lady Maria P. was able to provide Lady Amalthea with excellent practical advice, having been in such circumstances herself. Lady Amalthea shortly announced her departure for an extended tour of the Continent, and retired instead, under an assumed name, to a private establishment in the country. On the .rst of August she was delivered of a vigorous boy. Consigning him into the hands of the proprietress of the establishment, Lady Amalthea packed her bags, returned to London, and never troubled herself to think of the matter again.

Excerpted from Not Less than Gods by Kage Baker.

Copyright © 2010 by Kage Baker.

Published in March 2010 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and

reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in

any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • 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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  • Posted February 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    This work of speculative fiction is an intriguing look at the past of one of the more fascinating Company characters

    In London in 1825, unmarried Lady Amalthea R. gives birth to a boy. Neither aristocratic parent wants to raise him so Dr. Nennys leaves the newborn with Mr. and Mrs. Bell who recently gave birth to a stillborn. They reluctantly take the unwanted infant into their home, but mostly ignore him. Eventually Dr. Nennys ships the neglected child, Edward Bell-Fairfax, to boarding school.

    Edward joins the British navy, but his childhood and his unique skills of instant reaction thinking and super strength make him a loner, who fails to fit in with bands of brother warriors. He leaves unwelcome again, but Edward joins the Company of scientists and undercover agents. Dr. Ludbridge tutors Edward who is amazed with the friendly acceptance of him as well as the annual message from the future. The teacher and his prize student travel to the continent where Edward tries to influence the outcome of the Crimean War. He learns from his effort that to achieve his idealistic vision of a better world, good intentions are not enough and dirty deeds are sometimes the only solution.

    This work of speculative fiction is an intriguing look at the past of one of the more fascinating Company characters; before Edward and botanist Mendoza becomes a pair. For die hard fans of the recently completed saga only who will appreciate how far Edward came from being unwanted, abused and neglected with only sinister Dr. Nennys interested in manipulating the child to take advantage of his uncanny skills. Yet through all that he remains an idealist who finds his niche with the Company and his soul with Mendoza.

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