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The Company #1

In the Garden of Iden

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This is the first novel in what has become one of the most popular series in contemporary SF, now back in print from Tor. In the 24th century, the Company preserves works of art and extinct forms of life (for profit of course). It recruits orphans from the past, renders them all but immortal, and trains them to serve the Company, Dr. Zeus. One of these is Mendoza the botanist. She is sent to Elizabethan England to collect samples from the garden of Sir Walter Iden.
But while there, she meets Nicholas Harpole, with whom she falls in love. And that love sounds great bells of change that will echo down the centuries, and through the succeeding novels of The Company.

336 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1997

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About the author

Kage Baker

150 books340 followers
Born June 10, 1952, in Hollywood, California, and grew up there and in Pismo Beach, present home. Spent 12 years in assorted navy blue uniforms obtaining a good parochial school education and numerous emotional scars. Rapier wit developed as defense mechanism to deflect rage of larger and more powerful children who took offense at abrasive, condescending and arrogant personality in a sickly eight-year-old. Family: 2 parents, 6 siblings, 4 nieces, 2 nephews. Husbands: 0. Children: 0.

Prior occupations: graphic artist and mural painter, several lower clerical positions which could in no way be construed as a career, and (over a period of years for the Living History Centre) playwright, bit player, director, teacher of Elizabethan English for the stage, stage manager and educational program assistant coordinator. Presently reengaged in the above-listed capacities for the LHC's triumphant reincarnation, AS YOU LIKE IT PRODUCTIONS.

20 years of total immersion research in Elizabethan as well as other historical periods has paid off handsomely in a working knowledge of period speech and details.

In spare time (ha) reads: any old sea stories by Marryat, the Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brien, the Hornblower books, ANYTHING by Robert Louis Stevenson, Raymond Chandler, Thorne Smith, Herman Melville (except Pierre, or the Ambiguities, which stinks) Somerset Maugham, George MacDonald Frasier.

Now happily settled in beautiful Pismo Beach, Clam Capital of the World, in charming seaside flat which is unfortunately not haunted by ghost of dashing sea captain. Avid gardener, birdwatcher, spinster aunt and Jethro Tull fan.


http://www.sfwa.org/2010/01/rip-kage-...

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 567 reviews
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,619 reviews4,956 followers
May 12, 2019
hello there, little romance. i see you! you are trying to hide, aren't you? well you picked some good camouflage, i must say. you've concealed yourself within a fairly operatic setting: the tale of an immortal teenage cyborg employed by a secretive and futuristic Company, sent on missions in our far-flung past to save extinct plants, waiting for the day that your future finally catches up with your employer's apparently golden present. it is quite a setting, i almost didn't see you there! you are surrounded by perfectly accomplished elizabethan period detail, some deep themes about religion vs. free will, some sophisticated ideas about predestination and predetermination. you are written in a clear, careful, unsentimental way. but there you are, little romance, romantic as can be, perhaps thinking that you will be overlooked simply because of the grandeur of your surroundings.

but now that i've found you, never fear - lay your insecurities to rest! you are a fine little romance, touching and subtle and carefully wrought. your lovers are wonderful creations and their love feels true. there are many good things to be said about a perfectly accomplished romance, so you have nothing to be ashamed of! your camouflage, the ongoing story that i am eager to follow - it is an absorbing place in which you've hidden. but you are worthy for what you are, little romance. stand proud!
Profile Image for David Sven.
288 reviews441 followers
March 22, 2014
As far as Scifi goes, this made for a good Historical Romance/Period Drama. Sure it uses words like "cyborg" and "nanotech" and even "symbiote" and has the big scifi staple, "time travel" - it just didn't have any actual science.

An organisation from the future AKA "Dr Zeus" or "The Company" sends back operatives in time and injects poor unfortunates with stuff that turns them into cyborgs and makes them immortal. And it's really really good stuff that gives them superhuman speed and other powers and other sciencey stuff of science that science people understand. And so enhanced, recruited operatives are assigned to save rare works of art and extinct biological specimens and anything else that doesn't exist in the future so that the Company can unearth these rarities later on for the betterment of humanity - and get very rich doing it.

But...but...isn't that going to mean changing history? Won't we risk dire butterfly effects on the very future we are trying to improve? No problem - Baker has thought of a solution - apparently it's possible to change anything in the past...except for "recorded history." Aha!


Anyway, the book doesn't bother pretending to be hard scif or even soft scifi. All that is really just timey wimey hand waving to get us to Sixteenth Century England when Queen Bloody Mary is trying to import the Spanish Inquisition. Our main protagonist is Mendoza, a Company Operative who was turned cyborg after being rescued from a Spanish Dungeon. Her job - save some rare plants that have medicinal properties that could save billions of lives in the future. In the process she falls in love with a mortal Protestant man and yada yada yada we have our Historical Romance. What a waste of cyborg.

The writing isn't that bad. If you are into Period Drama then you may like this. If you are into scifi - maybe not so much. Not my cup of tea or slice of cake.


2 stars.
Profile Image for Michael.
1,203 reviews111 followers
May 4, 2011
Here's a book where I love the concept of the book a lot more than than execution.

The concept of using time travel to go back, create a new race of immortal human beings who will then preserve certain aspects and artifacts from history is an intriguing one. The opening segments of "In the Garden of Iden" that set up this concept and idea are intriguing, fascinating and had me hoping something brilliant would happen in the novel.

Unfortunately, that never really materializes--at least not in this installment. Instead, we meet Mendoza, a botanist who is sent back in time to the titular garden to observe it and to collect some samples that were lost to the ravages of time. Instead she meets and falls in love with Nicholas Harpole, a man who isn't immortal but shares Mendoza believes could and should be.

I have a feeling a lot of what plays out in this story is a set-up for future installments. And that's all fine, but it still leaves "Iden" feeling like a bit of a disappointment in spots--especially after the solid and intriguing beginning.

I may read another novel or two in the series to see if things pick up a bit.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,807 reviews348 followers
April 1, 2020
Part of my 2020 Social Distancing Read-a-thon

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

An enjoyable time travel romp with a twist, namely the shaping of the present through a clever plan—immortal servants created in the past by the time travelling folk. Baker combines time travel and immortality in an interesting way, obviously having given the possibilities inherent in time travel some serious thought.

I was intrigued by the immortals and their feeling that they aren't human any more. Rather like vampires in other fantasy fiction. Mendoza certainly learns about remaining neutral in this first book. I'll be happy to read her further adventures in the next Company book.

Book number 359 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,734 reviews1,200 followers
March 25, 2009
This is the first book in "The Company” series and it has a wonderful premise. I love the ingenious use of time travel in the plot. The writer is an engaging storyteller and there are so many funny parts. The characters are very interesting. I love the way some real history is made part of what is largely a speculative fiction book. I appreciated the originality of Mendoza’s voice. I felt extremely fond of the goat, a very minor character; there was a lot of humor and pathos around the goat’s situation. There were some fun surprises about the characters. I enjoyed the botany. It’s a thought-provoking book about such subjects as the ramifications of immortality, the powerful and powerless, and various aspects of human nature. I’m not in any huge hurry to read the rest of the series immediately because I have so many other books I want to read first, but I would like to continue reading this series at some point.
Profile Image for Lee.
351 reviews189 followers
March 27, 2014
Well now that was something different. A starter of SciFi, with a main course of historical fiction, followed by a dessert of botany. A bit of all three but none dominating.
There is certainly a great story line there. A company going back in time to collect items to save and invest in things to make them massively wealthy, messing around with immortality, save the whales or in this case a Roman Holly bush, but you need to build the story around the idea and not just have it as a couple of lines 'in' the story. I felt like I was constantly wanting more information as to what the company, who they were, what what what.....

My other issue with this book was that it was a bit of everything but mastered none. It shouldn't have a scifi tag to be honest, adding a rocket ship to a story doesn't make it scifi. Whilst this has more than a rocket ship it doesn't add science fiction believably. Historical Fiction aspect, could have been great, I would have loved to have learnt more about Bloody Mary and there was a great opportunity to delve into that fascinating short period where the roman church came back, but instead we get one burning at the stake and many pages on a Christmas feast.

My last beef is with the character interaction by the cyborgs. In the beginning they are so anti human, we are monkeys to them and we disgust them. Yet they are absolutely no different to us in their mannerisms, the way they bitch and moan with each other. At first I thought this was training, taught how to behave when in the company of mortals. But when they are alone together....i would expect immortals to interact slightly different. Getting all squealy because someone delivers a Chocolate mint slice didn't cut with me.

Overall, i found the writing style ok, it was easy to read but also easy to put down. The story has potential, but I doubt i'll try book two. I like the idea of the story, but it needs to be done in a better way.

2 stars.
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,582 reviews395 followers
April 21, 2011
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Rescued from the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, feisty little Mendoza is enrolled in a special school and becomes a cyborg agent of The Company, a group of immortal merchants and scientists who travel backwards in time in order to make money for The Company and to benefit mankind in various ways.

Mendoza is educated and trained as a botanist and, for her first mission, she’s sent back to 16th century Europe to document and study samples from the famous Garden of Iden in England. She’s hoping to discover some extinct or rare species that she can analyze for medical use by future scientists.

Undercover as a Spaniard, at first Mendoza is afraid of the people she meets and despises them for their ignorance, brutishness, and lack of hygiene. But soon she discovers that some of them are not so bad, and then she even makes the mistake of falling in love with a mortal — an English Protestant mortal.

Set both in the 24th and 16th centuries, In the Garden of Iden (the first of Kage Baker’s The Company novels) is a unique historical science fiction romance. The metaphysics of time-travel and how The Company operates in time are clearly laid out (e.g., agents can’t bring anything into the future, but they can hide things in the past and recover them later), making the time-travel aspect of the story believable. Bloody Mary’s England makes a great backdrop for a historical novel — the Protestant Reformation is fascinating history and allows the exploration of racial, political, and religious conflict. It also makes a romance between a Spanish woman and an English man interesting — not to mention a romance between a human and a cyborg — although I thought Mendoza’s relationship developed too fast to be completely believable and satisfying. The climactic scene in which the English Protestant defends his faith in the face of persecution, and Mendoza starts to wonder if immortality is really such a blessing, is truly beautiful and moving.

What I liked best about In the Garden of Iden was the premise of The Company, which is run by the mysterious Dr. Zeus. Nobody seems to know who he is. Does he even exist? What are The Company’s plans and goals? Do they know what they’re doing or how their interference might change the future? I can’t wait to find out more.

I listened to Blackstone Audio’s production of In the Garden of Iden, which was narrated by Janan Raouf. It was a lovely performance, though sometimes I could not be certain whether the cyborg characters were speaking to each other out loud or on their special “channel” that only cyborgs can hear (this is indicated in italics in the book). It would have been nice to have some indication of that (perhaps a bit of static in the background?), but I was able to figure it out. I do hope that Blackstone Audio will be producing more of Kage Baker’s The Company novels.
Profile Image for Phoenixfalls.
147 reviews80 followers
November 19, 2010
My first encounter with Kage Baker was a short story in the anthology Wizards: Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy. Her contribution was the highlight of that collection for me, a brightly polished gem of a story small in scope and warmly, wonderfully knowing. On the strength of that story alone I decided I would love the author.

This was my first novel by Baker and her first novel as well, and if it was not quite as brightly polished as the short story (which was, after all, written a decade later) it still maintained all the wit, warmth and wisdom.

The premise has rightfully drawn comparisons to Connie Willis' Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog. The first chapter, which works as a sort of prologue, introducing The Company and its operatives, is a delight. I especially like the idea that time travel was invented as a byproduct of their invention of immortality, to test whether or not the process worked. But regular SF readers be warned: the first chapter is the only major SF world-building that occurs in this novel. I suspect there is more in later books in the series, but the focus of this novel is much smaller: it is a romance and a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of Queen Mary's marriage to Prince Philip of Spain and the subsequent Marian Persecutions in England.

There is very little to like about the young Company agent Mendoza. She is spunky, clearly, but also despises humanity and is supremely self-centered. She is, in short, a teenager. Smartly, the Mendoza that narrates the story is much older and wiser, and even if her wry, sardonic tone isn't groundbreaking, it is still very effective. Needless to say, the story Mendoza relates is the story of how she lost that self-centeredness and fell in love with one of the despised humans.

All of those elements, would fit nicely in a Connie Willis novel, and the story moves with ease between the lighthearted tone of To Say Nothing of the Dog and the darker, richer tone of The Doomsday Book. The love interest, Nicholas Harpole, however, would have absolutely no place in a Connie Willis novel -- he is cast from a mold that reminded me very strongly of Father Ignatius in Louisa May Alcott's A Long Fatal Love Chase. Harpole is a martyr, a soldier of god, and he aches to save his beloved's immortal soul -- little knowing her immortal body has already been bought and paid for by The Company. While I share Joseph's evaluation of Harpole far more than Mendoza's, the couple's plight delivers excellent narrative tension, matched nicely by the increasingly grim news reports the Company agents listen to on their subvocal radio. I spent the entire second half of the novel waiting for the guillotine to fall, and when it did I read breathlessly through to the end.

Ultimately, while In the Garden of Iden was not as good as either Connie Willis novel I mentioned, it showed great promise as the start of a series. I'll admit that I cheated and looked at the descriptions of the other books, so I know a bit of where the series is going -- it looks like there will be quite a bit more world-building in later novels, for instance -- but I think even if I did not know that, and if I hadn't loved that short story so much, on the strength of this novel Kage Baker would still have made my "buy immediately" list. Absolutely recommended.
Profile Image for Tom Mathews.
643 reviews
January 18, 2016
I enjoyed this first book in the time travel series featuring The Company but it didn't knock my socks off. It features Mendoza, a Spanish girl rescued as a child from almost certain death in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition (didn't expect that, did you?), who had surgery performed on her to make her immortal and then trained as a botanist to travel through time rescuing extinct species of plants to bring back to the future.

As her first assignment, Mendoza, now a teenager, is sent to England during the reign of Queen Mary, the Catholic queen now known more for lending her nickname to a cure for hangovers. There, while living at the manor house of Sir Robert Iden and scavenging through his garden, she learns to her heart's great dismay, that not all mortals are the filthy smelly insane apes she believed them to be. In short, the story is part history, part romance, part farcical commentary on English manor life with the time-travelers observing it all in a manner reminiscent of what happens in Disneyland behind the Employee Only doors.

Bottom line: I'll probably read the second volume, mainly because I already have it and, as I said, it is somewhat entertaining. It does lack the great paradoxical dilemmas that it takes to make time travel stories so intriguing.

FYI: On a 5-point scale I assign stars based on my assessment of what the book needs in the way of improvements:
*5 Stars – Nothing at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
*4 Stars – It could stand for a few tweaks here and there but it’s pretty good as it is.
*3 Stars – A solid C grade. Some serious rewriting would be needed in order for this book to be considered great or memorable.
*2 Stars – This book needs a lot of work. A good start would be to change the plot, the character development, the writing style and the ending.
*1 Star - The only thing that would improve this book is a good bonfire.

Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews520 followers
June 17, 2011
There’s a lot of stuff going on here I won’t summarize since the book infodumps it way better than I can. Let’s shorthand to girl rescued from dungeons of Inquisition and made immortal time agent of twenty-fourth century corporation, except all the action occurs on an isolated British country estate in 1557.

Lots of little things I like – historical scifi, a dryly hilarious narration, a goat – that somehow didn’t add up into one big thing I like. Dunno. There’s a lot of stuff going on here about mortality and free will. Some of it is familiar from Michael Flynn’s Eifleheim -- you have your dogmatic historical people moving to the tune of their invisible God, and your dryly observant future people moving to the tune of their invisible corporation. Baker gets a clearer shot at it through Mendoza’s weary recollection of herself as a young woman than Flynn did, I think, and it’s all a little sad and grim. But it didn’t really get me.

I do have one reading suggestion. A lot of reviews complain in some confusion about the romance here which is, I should point out, a large chunk of the book. And my suggestion is don’t read it as a romance. Well, okay, don’t read it as romantic. It’s not about being touched, it’s about the older and isolated Mendoza looking back on a time of intense naiveté, and how she was set on the road from the girl she tells us about to the complicated woman telling us the story. It’s not a romance, it’s a threshing machine.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,406 reviews535 followers
July 8, 2008
A really incredible book, possibly the best book in the Company series. Mendoza is saved from the dungeons of the Inquisition to become an immortal cyborg working for Dr.Zeus, a company that has harnassed both immortality and timetravel. For her first trip to "the field", she travels to Tudor England to rescue rare plants from extinction. Unfortunately for her, she falls utterly in love with a remarkable mortal man--who is devoutly Protestant when Queen Mary takes the throne. Mendoza observes the mortal world with both a teenager's verve and naivete and a genius immortal's knowledge.
Profile Image for Candace.
268 reviews36 followers
March 24, 2014
I was so excited to read this book: girl turned into a cyborg begins to work for "The Company" who sends her on missions (sounds so spy-like!) where she ends up in the time of the Spanish Inquisition and Bloody Mary and finally she falls in love with a mortal. What fun!

What went wrong? I didn't like her writing style. She wrote very casual . I felt like she was writing for a child. Sometimes she described things as if they were being seen for the first time by the main character who was on her first mission on Earth, the descriptions came off sounding condescending rather than the humorous metaphors they should have been.

I could never connect with any of the characters. It's hard to connect with a main character who believes all humans are monkeys and has a boyfriend who speaks to her with his penis - and she calls him"My heart! my heart!" all the time. Wow! Everybody should be happy with the two stars I've given! Lol

Did someone say SciFi? Oh yes, I forgot some of the characters were cyborgs, silly me - calling it an historical soap opera! (New genre, you heard it here first)

If you are interested in time travel and historical fiction, give Connie Willis a try instead.

Profile Image for Jamie Collins.
1,418 reviews261 followers
June 8, 2010
I very much enjoyed this little time travel story, which is set mostly in England during the bloody reign of Mary Tudor. It's quite funny in places, but it's narrated as a melancholy flashback and never disguises the fact that it's heading towards an inevitably sad ending.

This is a neat twist on the usual time travel story: our protagonists aren't exactly time travelers themselves. Rather, they were rescued from certain death as children and given enhanced, immortal bodies. They spend eternity at a human pace, living all of our years with full prescience of the immutable path of history. They carry out various assignments for the mysterious Company of the future, who are apparently too lazy to do the time traveling themselves.

The narrator Mendoza, who was rescued from the Spanish Inquisition, is likable, but her mentor Joseph is hilarious and really makes the story. I think fans of Connie Willis would enjoy this.
Profile Image for Acacia.
28 reviews
February 4, 2010
another EDIT: Re-reading this again. Great authors never truly die but it is still pretty shitty when they leave their earthly bodies.
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EDIT: Adding a star. Re-reading this, and discussing it with my sister, I realize that it is truly one of my favorite books. Especially for the opening chapters, when Mendoza narrates her introduction to The Company; they are like the written equivalent of a one-hour rally in volleyball. Just tight, whip-smart prose, and a delightfully precocious, feisty young character.
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If I had known science fiction could be like this, I'd have started reading it sooner! Who knew cyborgs could illuminate so much about the human condition? Baker's knowledge and attention to period detail (in this case, 16th century England) is commendable, as is her wit.
Profile Image for Badseedgirl.
1,227 reviews57 followers
April 7, 2017
After reading just so many heavy, "big picture" novels, all I need is a light fun read that I'm going to enjoy and is not going to tax my brain that much. Based on the first book in this series, "The Company" is going to fit the bill nicely.

That right people, sometimes all I want is a story about an immortal, teenage, time-traveling, cyborg working for a possibly evil shadow company. Yes the main character, Mendoza is a tad petulant at times, but show me a teenager who isn't petulant at time and I will prove they are in fact an immortal, teenage, time-traveling, cyborg working for a possibly evil shadow company!!
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,517 reviews10.8k followers
February 12, 2010
2.5 stars. The premise of this book (and the whole series) is really original and clever and I thought the introduction of the main character was very well done. That said, the story after that dragged on and we didn't get to learn enough about "the Company." I will certainly read the next book and have high hopes that the inner workings of the Company will play a much bigger role.

Nominee: Locus Award for Best First Novel (1999)
Profile Image for Ubik.
71 reviews51 followers
May 5, 2009
Started out great, but fell flat in the middle. I was really hoping for more exploration into the time travel element and the "scavenger-hunting" that I was originally interested in reading for in the first place. It just turns into a doomed love story from about a third of the way through and never does anything else. Every other aspect takes a back seat to the romance.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 109 books694 followers
April 4, 2009
My mother has been telling me to read this book for years, and of course she was right. It's a good concept, made better by the character the author chose to tell the story. A nice balance of time-travel SF and historical fiction, vividly described.
Profile Image for Margaret.
1,027 reviews328 followers
December 31, 2009
I'm of two minds about this book. On one hand, the premise is interesting: physically enhanced, immortal operatives travelling through time in order to collect animals and plants otherwise bound for extinction, employed by the Company which has used time travel to take control of everything. I'm not tremendously convinced by the book's time travel theory, which is that history cannot be changed, but that that rule only applies to recorded history; that doesn't make a lot of sense to me (what's so sacred about recorded history?), but since this is the first of a series, I'm willing to trust that Baker perhaps explains further in future novels. The beginning of the book, in which we meet our heroine, Mendoza, rescued from the Spanish Inquisition to be turned into an operative of the company, is certainly intriguing and had me reading with a great deal of interest.

However, once Mendoza travels back to Tudor England, the book bogs down into an uninteresting story of the doomed romance between Mendoza and an Englishman who turns out to be a rabid Protestant, not a good thing during the reign of the very Catholic Queen Mary. Given that Mendoza up until that point has had nothing but contempt for the mortals she comes into contact with, it's awfully hard to believe in her almost instantaneous passion for Nicholas. Plus, although the period detail is well-done, I thought at one point that the novel had plunged into alternate history when it was stated as a fact that Mary had Edward VI (her predecessor on the throne) poisoned and had attempted to do the same to Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I); not a theory I've ever encountered before, and a highly unlikely one, which really bounced me out of the narrative.

It seems from reading reviews that the later books in the series improve in these areas, so at some point, I might try the next one. But then again, I might not. (ETA: And nearly five years later, I still haven't. But I really like her fantasy (see The Anvil of the World), so that's something.)
Profile Image for Amy.
642 reviews127 followers
March 8, 2016
This book has been on my radar for ages, and I'm glad to have finally read it. It's set up as a time travel novel, but it adds another facet to it in that the time travelers are immortals. These immortal time travelers are all recruited by The Company during their childhood and are surgically altered to become immortal. They go forward in time the normal way (living year by year), but they are able to travel back in time in a time travel ship of some sort. It seems that the main point of The Company is to observe history and preserve those things we've lost from history such as plant and animal species and art.

I really wanted this to be a 5-star book. And I think that what kept it from being was that the author seems to have written it with a view to create a series from it. As such, it's obvious that the book has a series arc more than a book arc. Yes, there is a tense ending, but it's almost surreal because the mortals our main character are going to meet are all going die and pass on whether by natural causes or tragedy. The book seems more to meander through Mendoza's first love with a mortal and the idea of immortality rather than to be a book compelling the reader toward a specific goal or hard ending.

I like the idea of exploring history with an immortal. This book is set in Tudor England with Bloody Mary on the throne. I think I perhaps appreciated it more having recently read The Lady Elizabeth. I have a hard time, however, imagining immortals living an eternity of pretending to be something they're not. Of course, a large portion of England is pretending to be Catholic during Mary's reign lest they meet with death, so at least they've got plenty of company with their pretending.

I don't feel an urgency to read the next book like with some series. There isn't a cliffhanger luring me to it. However, it does sound interesting as it's set in the New World with the Mayans. I could see myself reading it just for the pleasure of reading rather than a need to find out what happens next.
Profile Image for Mike Finn.
1,130 reviews29 followers
May 9, 2021





Science Fiction is my most preferred genre. I've been reading it for more than fifty years. So, I'm surprised and delighted to find an extraordinarily good Science Fiction series that's been around since the Nineties and which I completely missed. I'll be reading the entire twelve book series.





It's a series of time travel novels called 'The Company' and it's written by Kage Baker. There are quite a few time travel series out there and, different as they are, most of them have some sense that history is important and time travel should help to spread knowledge and solve problems. Kage Baker starts from a very different place. The purpose of time travel is to make Dr Zeus, the person who invented it, fabulously rich and extremely powerful.





Dr Zeus thinks big. His first invention was a process that bestows immortality on people by installing various pieces of technology in them when they are still children. It's a great invention but one for which there was no viable market because those who could afford it were too old for it to work and the benefits were too far in future to generate a decent return.





So Dr Zeus invests two more things: a means of travelling back to the past and The Company. The Company is an organisation that spans centuries. It exist to turn kids who won't be missed into immortals who work for Dr Zeus for centuries so that, by the time they reach the twenties-fourth century, Dr Zeus' now, The Company will have acquired huge amounts of wealth and influence and will be staffed by formidable and loyal immortals.





The first book in the series, 'In The Garden Of Iden' was published in 1997, well before Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk got into their stride and yet it perfectly captures the entitled rapacity of an organisation that knows how to use technology to secure wealth and get its own way. 'The Company' that Kage Baker has conjured up is a kind covert East India Company that is colonising the past for profit.





Kage Baker is my kind of author: very bright, a wicked wit, deeply knowledgable about history, especially Elizabethan England and she approaches politics, religion and commerce from an orthogonal perspective to the mainstream. Her view of history is nostalgia-free. She is unflinching in her understanding of just how nasty to one another we have proven ourselves to be able to be in century after century.





I found all of this stimulating but what pushed 'In The Garden Of Iden' from 'What a great idea' into 'What an extraordinary book' was Kage Baker's ability to keep the story on a human scale and focus on the people rather than the organisation or the technology.





‘In The Garden Of Iden’ tells the story of Mendoza who, at six years old, was extracted by The Company from the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition, was operated on to be made into an immortal cyborg and trained to be a botanist who will gather specimens of soon-to-be-extinct plants that The Company can 'rediscover' in the future and make money from. Most of the book is about Mendoza's first assignment and her first love.





It takes places in 1554 when the nineteen-year-old Mendoza is sent from Spain to England as part in the influx of Spaniards following Philip II of Spain when he marries Queen Mary of England. Mendoza's mission is to collect rare samples from an English country estate called 'The Garden Of Iden'.





Mendoza is not a normal nineteen-year-old. She has been given a twenty-fourth century education. She knows how the Queen Mary's reign will turn out. She has extraordinary physical capabilities, she can speak several languages, she can communicate subvocally with her teammates and she has access to an equivalent of Google (although Google was still just a program called BackRub being played around with in Stanford when this book was published).





Kage Baker's descriptions brought mid-sixteenth century England alive and let us see them through the fresh eyes of a nineteen-year-old woman experiencing her first freedom and her first love and coming to understand the consequences of being immortal.





The Mendoza telling the story is much older (we don't learn how old) and is looking back on her time in the Garden in a 'was I really that young?' way which gives a little emotional distance but which also marks out how important to Mendoza her time in the Garden was.





I liked Mendoza for her wit and for her courage. Here's Mendoza's reaction to encountering snow for the first time in real life.





'Despite the expectations fostered by literature and art, I) snow does not fall in beautiful crystal kaleidoscopic flakes, and 2) it does not fall silently. It sounds like rain, only stealthy.'





And here's one of her 'how young was I then?' reflections on a remark made by one of her teammates who is talking about the release of all the Bogart movies onto their entertainment network, (Yep, The Company has Netflix as well as Google)





But I was young then and had yet to appreciate the wisdom of Bogart, particularly as regards the problems of three little people not amounting to a hill of beans in this or any other crazy world.





Although 'In The Garden Of Iden' contains a love story, it isn't a Love Story. This is a world where terrible things happen not just in the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition but in the squares of English cities, where dissenters are once again being burned alive. There are no guaranteed happy endings here. Kage Baker takes a brutally honest view of humanity and the cruelties it inflicts. At one point, Mendoza's team leader is warning her against expecting humans to change and make a better world. He says:





'Don’t you ever make the mistake of thinking that mortals want to live in a golden age. They hate thinking.'





So, I'm hooked. I want more both of Mendoza and of Kage Baker.


Profile Image for Christine.
6,526 reviews466 followers
June 11, 2011
I've been hearing about the Company novels for years. When this got nominated for the Beyond Reality reading group, I finally got around to reading it.

It's a really good book.

The story centers around member of the Company, people who have been transformed into cyborgs who help gather information and items from the past. This story is about Mendoza, a young woman who joins the Company, trains as a bontanist and travels to England under Mary Tudor.

Mendoza makes the book for she is a totally realstic and breathing character. She acts as a immortal and as a young woman which leads to conflicts. Her companions are well drawn as well, making the interactions of the Company members wonderful reading.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,327 reviews451 followers
February 24, 2015
January 1, 1998

Rescued from the Inquisition, Mendoza is remade into a cyborg, enslaved to The Company who will send her throughout time to pillage. But in her first real mission, she gets to know a most unusual man. I particularly love that she's a botanist.

***

February 12, 2015

After all this time and all these stories about Mendoza, I'd think I had something more interesting to say. But I don't really. I just enjoy how uninterested she is in the mortals, and how indifferent to their issues, only involved in her work, and then how she gets dragged in and discovers that the arguments over religion (for example) can destroy people, even if there's nothing real behind the argument.

Library copy
Profile Image for Alexis Hall.
Author 49 books9,929 followers
Read
June 10, 2015
I am still very sad Kage Baker died.

Brought to you via Reading Project 2015.

(aka why the hell did I ever read so much fantasy).

I think this is generally considered the weakest of the Company series, but people always say that about first books. While I see the flaws here, slowish pacing, some implausibilities of plot, I actually really enjoyed the heck out of this.

The Company itself is a 24th century corporation who have figured out both time travel and immortality, although both come with limitations. History can't be changed and the immortality only works on the very young. Thus the Company recruits vulnerable young people and trains them up to be sort of ... time-travelling operatives, who are tasked with hiding and protecting valuable historical shit that can then be unearthed and sold to collectors in the future.

Our protagonist is a cynical, prickly 17 year old girl recruited from the dungeons of the Inquisition, the sort of background that is unlikely to imbue you with love and trust for all humanity. And she's meant to preserving some species of holly before it goes extinct - the last example of which was found in Sir Walter Iden's garden, in 16th century England.

Needless to say, things go wrong - not least of all, Mendoza falling in love with Sir Walter's secretary. As the name suggests it's ultimately a story about the loss of innocence but the love story is beautifully done, tender and fragile and passionate and doomed, and everything a love story should be when you're a 17 year old time travelling immortal pretending to be a Spaniard.

I should really finish the series...
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,003 followers
October 24, 2013
In the Garden of Iden is more of a romance hidden inside a historical fiction in a spec-fic coating. I'm sure people keep telling me that the rest of the series is different; there's nothing particularly wrong with this, but it wasn't really what I'd hoped for.

Really, I'd hoped for some overarching plot that would really tie it all together, love story and all, but that didn't really happen to my satisfaction, with the result that it felt like set up for all the wonderful things Mendoza (the main character) will do later. Or which other characters in the same world might do later, I don't know.

It's well written, and I love the central concept, but I've had just about enough of just pre-Elizabethan period Britain through the eyes of an immortal adolescent falling in love for the first time...
Profile Image for gremlinkitten.
450 reviews96 followers
September 28, 2011
I cry mercy. Love the concept, and the first third or thereabouts was good, but everything after: the barely there plot, the romance, manor life in the English country, pretty much everything, was all dull, dull, dull. I was disappointed in the lack of sci-fi and the history that was only spoken about and never lived through, so it didn't deliver on either account. Sure, the author can string a sentence together, there were a couple of amusing lines, and the Elizabethan English seemed well-done (although I couldn't be further from an expert), but I have a feeling the other books in the series are better. However, if the next one doesn't spark my interest, I'm done.
Profile Image for Ron.
Author 1 book133 followers
July 23, 2011
Excellent. Despite the huge data dump at the beginning, Baker inserts us into her world smoothly and believably. Good characters and a good use of actual history to build her alternate reality. Even though pre-9-11, captures the malaise of post-9-11.

Hard to believe so much slicing and dicing is involved in longevity enhancements two centuries in the future, not to mention the blinking lights.

Better tome travel machanism than Connie Willis, but not quite so engaging that I'll be tempted to read more of the series.

Thank you, Kage Baker, for concluding the story.
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,366 reviews1,413 followers
December 28, 2014
In the Garden of Iden is an excellent sci-fi novel that reads, for the most part, like historical fiction. There's a definite cross-over appeal here for fans of Tudor-era romance novels. Actually, it reminded me quite strongly of Judith Merkle Riley's books with some time travel/mechanical gadgets thrown in.

An enjoyable read that raises questions about how the past predicts the future, the uncontrollable nature of the heart, and how immortals might behave if they actually existed among the rest of us.
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