This series is a wonderful mash-up of robots, wry historical ruminations, capers and hilarity. The Company series proposes that there is an omni-corporation in the future which figured out how to game history: create human-cyborg immortals, send your technicians back in time to create them and then, those cyborgs being immortal, they just LIVE through history from that point on. Then say, you plant them in various important places, at key dates. And if they happen to conserve the great treasures of the ages to be secured by the Company, so much the better (steal is such an ugly word). Or maybe it was the best cash-cow ever created! The steam-punk series follows a handful of these immortal cyborgs romping about and through time and onward into the future. Some of their insides maybe wiring, but their hearts are all human.
One wonderful character we start following in the first book of the series is Mendoza. She is an impoverished waif, but with a mind and a mouth. This proves to be very dangerous given that she has the bad luck to be living under the oppressive regime of the Inquisition in Spain during the 1500s. She is accused of–of course–witchcraft and is thrown into a jail, at which point she comes to the attention of Joseph. At first he seems to be Fr. Jose, a priest, but is in fact one of our cyborgs. He sees potential for this kid and he whisks her to the relative safety of the Company, where she is re-made as a cyborg. Cut to later where Mendoza is now a teenage (image here is exactly how I picture her). She travels with Joseph to hostile England as part of a Spanish delegation under the tenuous and violent reign of Mary I, aka ‘bloody Mary’. Of course they are on a Company mission to secure select plants from the garden of their English host. However there is one very good looking Englishman who comes to the attention of Mendoza and visa-versa. He wants to convert her away from the evil Roman Catholic church, but to what exactly? She just wants him alone in that Garden of Iden. But humans and cyborgs mixing, as you might imagine, is a BIG Company no-no.
Even if you don’t think you like science-fiction, if you are a fan of history and of funny, do yourself a favor and relent and read this amazing series. It’s humor is wry, the dialog is usually hilarious and always informed with deep historical understanding (which is not always the case in genre fiction). Ruminations about human nature from the perspective of being immortal, but still having a heart and a moral compass, provides a surprising resonance to these books.
Sadly the author Kage Baker is no longer with us, but she left a fantastic trove of work. Most of her books are available via e-book, but harder to find in paper. See here for a complete list of her books with links to Amazon. Important! As noted above, because it is harder to find her books in paper, the prices on them can be very high. Instead I’d recommend finding/purchasing them in e-reader format. If you have a tablet (e.g., iPad, Kindle, etc.) or a laptop, you can access e-books via an app, such as Amazon’s Kindle App or the Kobo app (among many others that are available). http://doctorzeus.co/kages-books/
Note bene: I’m a bit more than half-way through the series so I can’t promise it’s perfect all the way to the end, but Baker’s writing is delightful—I always look forward to reading her work. No need to read the books in order, it isn’t really a problem, you can skip around. And if you aren’t into reading series, just the first book is an absolute delight!
Book 1 (described above):
The Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
Book 2 The 2nd book features Joseph (who hales from the tribe who painted in the paleolithic Lascaux caves) on a dubious project of the Company’s.
Sky Coyote by Kage Baker
Book 3 And if you can’t get enough of Mendoza, the 3rd book again features her prominently. The Hollywood of the title is the famous hills of Los Angeles, but during the dangerous mid-1800s when EVERYONE in L.A. and its hills owned 1 or more guns.
Mendoza in Hollywood by Kage Baker