After thoroughly enjoying her The Anvil of the World, I decided to read Kage Baker’s In the Garden of Iden , the first of the Company books for which she’s best known. It turned out to be not what I expected, at all.

For some reason, I’d had it in my head that the Company was a performing troupe — a circus or stage ensemble, or some such — and that the Company books chronicled the Company’s travels through outer space, and the various planets on which they performed. This turns out to be, um, totally and absolutely wrong, in every respect. In actuality, the Company is a mysterious business entity that makes loads of money off time travel, using immortals that it creates as its agents in the past. Iden is the story (or rather the start of the story: I gather that at least some of the subsequent books have the same protagonist) of one of these immortals, created in 16th century Spain.

The story itself is mostly set in 16th century Europe, too, which makes it feel similar to Rosemary Kirstein’s novels, as a medieval-tech world with smatterings of high tech. (Though here, the protagonists are in on the high-tech, obviously.) Both the SF and the historical elements are done well, causing me to want both a) more stories set in this time period, and b) more stories focusing on the workings of the Company. From what I understand of the sequels, my desire for the latter will be gratified, and my desire for the former frustrated. Ah, well.

Overall, this is very well-done time travel historical SF, like Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book, but better.


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