Book: The Life of the World to Come by Kage Baker

Good but not fabulous "Company" novel

Kage Baker
The Life of the World to Come
Tor, 2004
ISBN: 0-765-31132-1
334 pages

The Life of the World to Come is one of Kage Baker's Company novels. "Company" refers to Dr Zeus, a shadowy corporation in the 24th century that has the technology for immortality and time travel. One of the things they do, far in their past, is to find children who would otherwise have died and create immortal cyborgs out of them. Some of those cyborgs are Preservers. Their job is to find things that would otherwise have been destroyed and hide them in some safe place so that Dr Zeus can "discover" them in the 24th century. At the start of the novel we follow Mendoza, a Preserver whose specialty is botany. In previous books, Dr Zeus has sent her here and there to take samples of plants that are about to go extinct.

We first met Mendoza in Ms Baker's book The Garden of Iden and we see her again in Mendoza in Hollywood. This book follows those two. In The Garden of Iden, Mendoza has a lapse in judgment and falls in love with a mortal man. Worse, the man turns out to be something of an idealist, and that causes certain problems. In Mendoza in Hollywood, she falls in love again, and with a similar sort of man. And at the beginning of The Life of the World to Come, what should happen but a third similar mortal man drops pretty much right out of the sky onto the little island where Mendoza has been exiled in the distant past.

Naturally, it turns out that the three very similar men are connected. The connection is in the 24th century and, unlike other Company novels that I've read, much of The Life of the World to Come takes place there. There are interesting aspects to that, such as the three scholars we meet, but mostly the 24th century is a dreary place. Ms Baker seems to have more fun describing the past than the future. There is one pretty colorful character there. Ms Baker has reworked her story "Smart Alec" (published in Black Projects, White Knights) to be part of the book.

There's a lot of imagination in the book and we learn a fair amount about how Dr Zeus works. But only a few of the characters are compelling and Mendoza is reduced almost to the status of a heroine in a melodrama. And, I confess, there are aspects of the ending that I'm not especially fond of.

There are loads of grandfather paradoxes in the book, but it would be hard to write a time-travel novel without any. If you're prepared to ignore them, The Life of the World to Come is good fun, but not quite as much fun as some of Ms Baker's other novels. If the ending didn't suit me all that well, it leaves room for more novels to follow and I'm sure that I'll read them.

Posted: Fri - February 4, 2005 at 08:05   Main   Category: