Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Review: In the Garden of Iden

I will admit to not being the world's biggest fan of Kage Baker's Company stories --- time travel is a pretty worn sub-genre of science fiction, and her rules make time travel so robust that I have a hard time getting excited by her plots or characters.

When Tor released In the Garden of Iden (Dead Tree Edition) for free, however, I started reading as a look see, and got sucked in, finish the novel over a couple of days. The story revolves around a Spanish operative in the 16th century. After being rescued from the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition by a Company operative, Rosa is inducted into the group of immortals, working for the mysterious entity known as Dr. Zeus. She is trained as a botanist, assigned to return to England in the 16th century (yes, during the time of Henry the 8th) and asked to collect plant samples that have since become extinct.

The backstory is completed in a matter of pages, granting Baker time to provide you with a sense of identity through Rosa's eyes. You gain an affinity for the character and learn to identify with her. The plot is pretty simple: a new operative on her first assignment falls in love with a mortal, and considers eloping with him. (I won't spoil the ending for you)

You can tell that this is an early book in a series, since there are hints dropped about mental instability and glitches in the system of the operatives, but these are just alluded to, and don't play a central role in the story (which annoys me to no end). Nevertheless, the characters are drawn out well, the narrative moves smoothly, and the results of immortal intervention in the name of the company (as it plays out its role in the unchanging history) works itself in and ties up loose ends rather neatly.

Not a complete waste of time, and yes, that's damning with faint praise. You could be stuck with far worse novels on a plane, and of course, at the Kindle price, it's worth the money.
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