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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Kage Baker's first novel of the Company, In the Garden of Iden, was a lively debut featuring one of the most whimsical and lavish time-traveling frolics in recent memory. In her follow-up book, Sky Coyote, Baker returns with a colorful and vivid setting for the highly witty, sometimes seditious tale of a group of immortals who still have a lot to learn about the crafty ways of mankind.
The cyborg Facilitator Joseph, last seen at the end of In the Garden of Iden saving his partner Mendoza from the Inquisition, ends his mission as a Jesuit priest and faces a new assignment. Joseph and Mendoza are "employed" by the Company, also known as Dr. Zeus Inc., a 24th-century time-traveling corporation devoted to garnering wealth by manipulating past events. To accomplish this, the Company sends human operatives into the past in order to turn orphans into immortal cyborgs, using drugs and implants. The immortals are then given centuries' worth of missions until they "meet up" with the 24th century, where they are supposed to be rewarded with riches untold. Their objectives in the past are varied, including the saving of species, hiding cultural art treasures, making perfect future investments, or reallocating entire preindustrial villages.
The year is now 1699, and Joseph and Mendoza are relaxing at New World One, an extravagant Company resort hidden within the Mayan civilization. Joseph is soon sent to California to pose as the Chumash deity Sky Coyote in order to save one particular Humashup village from the European horrors of disease, slavery, andwar. Endowed with various cyborg accessories in his Sky Coyote form, Joseph relishes his part as a trickster-god. His own existence parallels that of the trickster, who is neither mortal nor god, hero nor villain. Joseph presents the Chumash with the story that he is to save them from certain doom at the hands of the evil sun god and his fair-skinned minions.
But the Chumash are a wary and intelligent people (the originators of money and labor unions), and they question the wisdom of the proposed upheaval. As Joseph is forced to defend the Chumash from neighboring invaders, he must also deal with his own ignorant and arrogant mortal masters, and he fears that the riches assured him for his millennia of servitude might not materialize. In his brain he carries encrypted data given him by a friend, and in that data the truth about the 24th century may reside, if only Joseph dares to decode it and face the reality of his own existence.
Facilitator Joseph has a refreshing "tell it like it is" attitude that threads through the course of his narrative. He's one of the "old ones" from the dawn of time, a Neanderthal child turned into an immortal. After 40,000 years, having assisted in Egypt, Athens, and Rome, and faithfully serving the church for the last three centuries, Joseph is at once a slave and master of his own fate, and often the fate of humanity. Baker's characterizations are humorous and engaging, with a lyrical depth that makes the protagonist not only an independent being but also a significant part of the greater whole of history. Sky Coyote is a fine addition to an already daring and intriguing world of possibilities in the Company series.
Tom Piccirilli is the author of the critically acclaimed supernatural novel Pentangle, as well as the dark suspense mysteries Shards and The Dead Past. His short fiction has appeared in many anthologies, including The Conspiracy Files.