11 April 2010

Kage Baker - Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers

  • Author: Kage Baker
  • Title: Black Projects, White Knights: The Company Dossiers
  • Publisher: Golden Gryphon Press 2002
  • ISBN: 9781930846111
Another collection of short fiction set in the Company universe by Kage Baker, this book features four new stories along with ten previously published stories.  The book collects the first four Alec Checkerfield stories in the one volume, and also features a special introduction by Baker in which the central character attempts to penetrate the Companies secrets, and fails.  Fails to DEATH!!

The great thing about this collection is that it places all of the short works in the one place, easy to access.  When reading the novels, it can be a valuable resource in attempting to link the clues and get some idea of who is doing what, and to whom.  The conspiracy factor in this series is so complicated that at times I feel that I need to make a chart just to keep track of where everyone is, and which side they are on.  Of course, these things are not entirely clear, but Black Projects at least goes some of the way to removing some of the blur.

Yes, there are probably spoilers after the jump.

  • Introduction:  The Hounds of Zeus - A cute two page 2nd person present tense narrative on an attempt to penetrate the secrets of the Company.  As mentioned earlier, fail. 
  • Noble Mould - Joeseph and Mendoza in California.  Mendoza is tasked with recovering a particular grape vine that is harbouring a mould that is responsible for a particularly valuable wine called Black Elysium. 
  • Smart Alec -The first Alec Checkerfield story, which later became part of the novel The Life of the World to Come.
  • Facts Relating to the Arrest of Dr Kalugin -  When Kalugin encounters one of the Companies failed immortality experiments, things rapidly spiral out of control.  Just goes to show that clerical errors can affect anyone, even a time travelling immortal.
  • Old Flat Top -  Enforcer Joshua tells a mortal child the story of the Enforcers, their creation and their role in the birth of civilisation.  This story serves to illustrate just how cynical and angry the enforcers are about their treatment once their 'job' has been completed.  From the novels, we know that almost all of the enforcers have been 'retired' to vaults full of stasis baths, but they might not be very happy if they ever get out.
  • The Dust Enclosed Here - Alec visits the William Shakespear museum, where a digital simulacra of Mr Shakespear is living in abject misery. Alec works a little cybernetic mischief, and makes a friend for life.
  • The Literary Agent - Lewis visits Robert Lewis Stephenson to pump him for an unpublished plot. 
  • Lemuria Will Rise! - Mendoza is living at Pismo Beach, California, collecting specimins, when she encounters a crazy old man who talks about his Gods constantly.  The Gods turn out to be a little more real, and a lot more suprising, than Mendoza expected.
  • The Wreck of The Gladstone - Kalugin, Nan D'Arraignee and Victor struggle against a mortal while trying to recover art from a shipwreck.  Without blowing their cover, or killing anyone. 
  • Monster Story - An Alec story that largely serves to give the reader a peek at society in the 2300's.
  • Hanuman - The story of Michael Hanuman:  prehistoric primate, social drinker, player of billiards and Company psychologist.  Mendoza is told the tale of Hanuman's life while in a base hospital recovering from injuries sustained in an explosion.  This is a character that I would love to read more about.  I am not sure if anything else was written, and now that Kage Baker has died, it probably won't be.
  • Studio Dick Drowns Near Malibu - Joseph has to move on from his role as a Studio Detective in Hollywood.  He fakes his drowning and while collecting his new documents and clothes from the drop box, finds a suicidal girl who mistakes him for the god of death.
  • The Queen in Yellow - Lewis is working on an archological dig in Egypt to recover an item stashed by the Company a few thousand years beforehand.  Facilitator Kui pressures him to hurry up, and in the attempt to do so, Lewis exposes himself as an immortal to archeologist Flinders Petrie. Cross dressing, crocodile wrestling and a firm telling off ensue.
  • The Hotel At Harlans Landing - A mortals tale of the night that two people from her town, Aunty Irina and Uncle Jaques were revealed as immortals by the arrival of Arion, a minion of Labienus in the Plague Cult.  A very sad story about two people who just want to live a normal life, but can't because the Company and the Plague Cult won't leave them alone.  It was nice that they tipped the narrator of on IBM stocks.
As per usual, highly recommended.  Read this book!!