Book two of the novels of the Company. Much more going on than in book one, which was in Elizabethan England and paced a bit slow. Left me looking forward to book three.
The second volume in 'The Company' series. This one involves a lot more satire.... the Company has told its agents to 'preserve' an intact village of a Native American tribe called the Chumash - people, artifacts and all. However the agents from the future are incompetent, wussy vegetarians who seem to spend all their time playing videogames and freaking out about germs (& etc). The immortal agents have to wonder what the 24th century is actually like, and what/who they are actually doing their work for...
Mendoza is in this book, but the main character is her mentor, Joseph, whom she still has a very strained relationship with. Physically augmented to resemble the Coyote god of Chumash legend, Joseph has to convince the villagers to be ready to pick up and leave their lives behind...
Quite an enjoyable book...
This second novel of the Company makes all of In the Garden of Iden feel like a prequel, and for those SF readers who don't like much romance I might recommend starting here. It jumps ahead a couple hundred years and switches to Joseph's first-person narrative (I think the series is actually shaping up to switch back and forth between Mendoza and Joseph with every book, but I could be wrong), and it gets much more into the world-building that was so ruthlessly relegated to the background in the first novel. There's still nothing ground-breaking about Baker's set-up, but the glimpses of the world of the future begin to have a more coherent (if deliberately baffling) look.
Joseph is a delightful narrator, much wiser than Mendoza and less self-centered. He also has already done his growing up (way back in prehistory, as he was recruited somewhere around 18000 BC) and thus doesn't subject the reader to all the "oh my god the world is not what I was led to believe!" bit that goes along with any sort of coming-of-age story. Instead, he is the sort of character that is settled in his comfortable rut and keeps his head down when the fur starts to fly. He knows he's playing ostrich, but over the millennia he's gotten glimpses of some nasty things, and he very much doesn't want to be the one turning over all those rocks.
That, of course, makes him very human, no matter what Mendoza thinks of him. And that, of course is the major theme Baker is exploring in this series -- our common humanity, no matter what outer trappings we set up to differentiate ourselves from each other. That theme is very much made manifest in Baker's portrayal of the Chumash, which I also found delightful. The jacket description doesn't do them justice. . . they are not "noble savages," nor do they speak in metaphorical and broken English the way they do in far too many Western novels. . . instead, they are aggressively modern-thinking, and they use an economics vocabulary that I doubt was invented yet (at least not in the New World), but then realism isn't exactly the point.
But though the Chumash serve as the focus of the plot, Sky Coyote is there for many of the same reason In the Garden of Iden was: to introduce a key character and get him into position for the larger events in store. To that end, in this novel we also meet our first humans from the future where Dr. Zeus invented time travel and immortality treatments, that bright future that all the immortals living through history the long way are waiting to see, and their portrayal answers some of my questions and raises quite a few others. I was wondering, the entire time I was reading In the Garden of Iden, why on earth the Company didn't employ any adolescent psychologists who could tell them what the natural course of events would be given the way they raise their little immortal cyborgs (I mean, anyone with a lick of common sense could tell what was going to happen, but I acknowledge that the Company would likely need to hear it from someone with a degree or two before acting on it); now that I've seen some of the people who run the Company I understand why they didn't employ any adolescent psychologists. But now I'm left to wonder how on earth those people even formed Dr. Zeus Inc. -- a question Joseph is left wondering as well, so I assume Baker is going to answer it somewhere down the line.
I will admit, this novel wears its narrative on its sleeve -- I can just hear Baker thinking things like "and I'll insert a flashback here because the plot's getting a bit slow and I need to put this in somewhere" -- but the narrative voice is strong enough that I don't mind. And there is a moment, a single perfect moment, near the end of the novel (p. 285-286 for those who've read it and want to see what I'm talking about; I wouldn't dare try to paraphrase here because I couldn't do it justice) where Joseph is forced to look in the mirror and examine his choices over the last 20,000 years. It involves the Chumash, the Loony Tunes, and Philip Marlowe, and I wouldn't change a word of it. That moment is the same sort of moment I saw in the short story I read by Baker that made me start talking her up as a favorite author; that moment would have made a much weaker book worth the price. And the ending Baker gives Kenemekme is just as good, a wonderful bit of metaphysics and humanism that isn't overplayed like it could have been.
I will definitely be continuing this series, though I'm a little worried I'm going to hate switching back to Mendoza's voice. . . but then, I was a little worried about switching to Joseph's voice, so it'll probably be fine. :)
I found the story a bit less engrossing than "In the Garden of Iden", Baker's first book, but this was enjoyable if perhaps a bit too drawn-out. Joseph, our Facilitator, is tasked with preserving a Chumash Native American village from the coast that will be California one day, by convincing the villagers to move to another place; they just don't quite understand that the new place is many hundred years ahead in time. And to do this, Joseph has to be surgically morphed into a semblance of their god, Sky Coyote, tail and all. Kage Baker puts the various interests of the villagers in quite modern terms, so the deal-maker, the importer, and the crafters-for-export all sound very familiar, and often funny.
Well worth your reading time.