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So, this was interesting.
I was expecting the usual time-travel sort of science fiction - the protagonists visit the great events of the day to save Shakespeare from an assassin, the wisdom of future is used to comment on the past, etc. The Garden of Iden is not that kind of book. It is instead mostly a strange slice-of-life in an English manor during the great events of reformation and counter-reformation. And the characters, far from being wise beings from the future due to the interesting way that the late Ms. Barker uses time travel, are instead deeply flawed and fascinating people on not-very-important missions to do things like collect rare plants . At times the book seems to be a romance, at times an adventure story, at times a coming of age story, but it isn't really any of these. It is interesting, though, and incredibly well researched, and, despite meandering a bit, ultimately compelling.
And the reading! What an interesting approach to reading a first person narration - this piece is almost acted, somewhat petulantly. It was a highlight of the book, and one of the most interesting performances yet.
If you are tired of standard SF/Time Travel/Urban Fantasy tropes, this is a refreshing change, if an odd book. I can't say it was always a propulsive read, but it was very worthwhile and emotionally satisfying one.
18 of 18 people found this review helpful
I was utterly thrilled when I saw that the late Kage Baker's magnificent Company series had made it to Audible at last and I spent my last credit on this without thinking twice. And now I've listened to the recording I am even more thrilled - this is a wonderful treat. At first I was unsure about the bright tones of the narrator - so utterly unlike how I imagine everyone's favorite world-weary cyborg botanist Mendoza to sound - but after listening for a while I was won over. This book is read with great expressiveness, wit and charm, and the narrator gives the text its due. So many audiobooks seem to be read by automatons who appear to have never read the book prior to recording their narration and I am so glad that Kage Baker's work has been given to a narrator who cares about doing a good job.
And as for the book? If you don't know Kage Baker's Company series already I wish I was you so I could have the fun of reading these books for the first time all over again. In The Garden Of Iden is the beginning of one of the most inventive, intriguing series in SF - I honestly can't think of anything that beats it for breadth of vision. I don't want to give too much away, because figuring out what is going on is a lot of fun, but briefly: the main characters in this series are immortal cyborgs created from human children by a shadowy company that augments them, raises them, educates them, and sends them back in time to live and work though many thousands of years of human history (and prehistory!) collecting valuables for the Company and conducting research to create new valuables. Kage Baker had a true passion for history as well as speculative fiction and it shows. It's a joy to see the development of humanity through the eyes of her much put upon cyborgs. In this first book we meet Mendoza, a young cyborg taken by the Company from the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition who now finds herself on her first mission, collecting botanical samples in Tudor England.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful