Liz's Reviews > In the Garden of Iden

In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
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Mar 05, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: books-read-in-2010, reviewed, time-travel, scifi, england, historical, romancy-shmancy

The premise of this science fiction novel is that far in the future, someone named Dr. Zeus invents a means for time travel. Though it can't be used to bring items forward through time, or to alter events in recorded history, he discovers that by creating immortal cyborg operatives at various points in history, they can do all the work for him. These operatives live on through the centuries, saving unknown works of art and literature, as well as species of plants and animals that are known to become extinct. Eventually, in the far-flung future, they will meet up with their employer and receive compensation for their life's work, or so they've been told.

One of these operatives is Mendoza. The Company rescues her as a child from the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, makes her immortal, and trains her in the science of botany. Her first mission is to go to England and visit the garden of Sir Walter Iden, to take samples of several rare and eventually doomed plant species that can be found there. She and two other operatives, posing as Spanish nobles, ingratiate themselves with Sir Walter, and gain access to the garden. But 1553 is a bad time to be in England. Bloody Mary is on the throne, and the Spanish are none too popular among the people. One of the first to make an objection to Sir Walter's guests is Nicholas Harpole, his secretary. His objections don't last for long, though, because soon he finds that he cannot avoid falling in love with Mendoza, and she with him (despite the fact that it is frowned upon for operatives to have relationships with mortals).

In addition to the fact that Mendoza is hiding her true nature from Nicholas, he is also a staunch Protestant at a time when Queen Mary is trying to catholocize England. I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that everybody knows the romance is doomed from the start, but Mendoza just can't help herself.

I liked this book pretty much, despite the inevitable tragic ending. The blend of sci-fi and history was well handled, and I found the premise intriguing. It was an interesting look at how an otherwise ordinary human psyche would handle the prospect of being given immortality, and the ethical questions something like that would raise. I also found Mendoza to be very believable as a character. Despite the fact that she has all of these newfound abilities, she is still, at heart, an average nineteen-year-old who lusts after ordinary things like new clothes, new music and chocolate. And she is still very capable of falling in love with someone totally unsuitable.

This is the first in a series, and I hear that the subsequent books are even better. I'm looking forward to reading them, as I am very interested in seeing how Mendoza's storyline plays out. Also, it's clear that The Company has some pretty sinister undertones, so I want to see how all that develops. The only reason I gave this book four stars instead of five is that, while the characters and premise are fascinating, it's clear that this is intended to be the first book in a series, and so it doesn't stand on its own too well. There's a lot of set-up for events to happen later on, and a lot of character development (which you're never going to hear me complain about), but I think because of this the plotting suffered and it was a bit weak.
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