12 April 2010

Kage Baker - Gods and Pawns

  • Author: Kage Baker
  • Title: God and Pawns: Stories of the Company
  • Publisher: Tor 2007
  • ISBN: 9780765315533
Gods and Pawns collects stories of the Company from 2003/2004 with two previously unpublished stories.  As with all other Kage Baker books that I have read, I loved this so much I have reread it about five times.

At the risk of sounding like a pathetic fanboy (which I probably am...), Baker always manages to make me feel giddy with childlike glee whenever she writes about the immortal agents of the Company.  I really enjoy the way she ties real life into the stories, and maintains a level of plausibility that never breaks into my ability to just read the stories.  There is nothing worse that a glaring inconsistancy or stupid idea to ruin science fiction.

Please be warned:  There are some spoilers after the jump, although I try my best to not give away too much of the suprise and never ever the ending.

  • To The Land Beyond Sunset:  The first of the new stories in this volume sees Lewis and Mendoza taking a holiday together after Lewis wins a raffle at New World One, the Companies South American base, in 1650ish AD.  After various typically unfortunate mishaps, our heros think they may just have discovered a link to the mythical city of Atlantis.  How can the Company not know about this lost tribe of people?  It's important to remember that causality can not be violated, and that poop is the secret ingredient to paradise.  (*Heehee, that is a cryptic joke that you'll only get if you read the story!!*)
  • The Catch:  Security Technician Porfirio stories are some of my favourites.  He strikes me an an Elmore Leonardian character, that guy who is calm, focused and strong, but full of loneliness and emotional pain inside.  I picture him as a mix between George Clooney and Lou Diamond Phillips, dressed as a hardboiled detective, but with absolutely no happiness on his face, ever.  This story is about the attempt to capture an escaped immortal named Bobby Ross, who is one of the early attempts at making an immortal cyborg. A cyborg that they totally fucked up.  So he might live forever, but his immune system wants to kill him, his genes are twisted and broken, and he is a psychological mess. Once the Company figures out that the immortality process needed a few extra refinements, they pretty much write Bobby off as a loss.  Since he has not much else to do, Bobby learns all there is to know about the mathematics and physics of time travel.  One day, while giving a lecture on Advance Temporal Paradox theory, Bobby smiled at his audience, put down this chalk and stepped out of the auditorium - through the wall.  So how do you catch an immortal who can walk through walls and time travel at will?  Obviously, it's not easy.  Porfirio relates his earlier attempt to Clete, the agent that he is on stakeout with, while they wait for Bobby to (hopefully) show up.  This story has such a funny ending, I laugh every time I think of Clete.  Now, we know from previous stories that you can only travel through time that you have existed in, or earlier.  We also know that you can only travel to a particular time once, because of something called the Variable Permiability of the Temporal Fabric (which I don't understand in the least), but Bobby discovers that you CAN travel to the same time more than once if you travel to a different PLACE.  The problem is, if you keep doing it, eventually...KaBLOOEY.  Did you know that the Tunguska meteorite was actually the wheel of a toy car, sent a few hundred million times to exactly the same time?  And that Bobby's baseball was the K-T boundary event that wiped out the dinosaurs? I always knew that game was dangerous...
  • The Angel In The Darkness: Another Porfirio story that not only gives us vital clues about the building struggle between the Plague Cult and The Company for control of the world in the lead up to the The Silence.  It also tells the story of Porfirios birth, recruitment and hints at aspects of his career.  Porfirio is perhaps the only agent in the company with links to his natural family throughout history, and this story sees him trying to protect his mortal family from a psychotic immortal while maintaining the beleif that he died years ago.  "Is there a God?  Do we have souls?  Is there any fucking point to this life?"  "How would I know all that mi hija?  I don't know.  Nobody I've talked to in four hundred years has told me, either." "Then what the hell do you know?"  "That this is all we have, mi hija.  And it doesn't last, so you have to take good care of it."
  • Standing In His Light:  I particulary enjoy the stories that take a person from history and twist them into the plot of a scifi epic.  In this story, Executive Facilitator Van Drouten guides young artist Jan Vermeer in creating his works using a photographic process.  The reason there are so few Vermeers in the world today?  The Company has them all in storage of course.
  • A Night on the Barbary Coast:  This Joseph and Mendoza story is a fast rampaging chase through San Francisco in 1850.  It's an interesting take on the pioneer/goldrush town while the agents attempt to track down the source of a particular seam of quartz with an interesting lichen growing in the cracks.  Largely, the story serves to show just how coldly calculating the Company is with regard to obtaining items of value.  They have absolutely no morality when it comes to these things.  Oh, and if you are going to try to fuck a bear, best you check the chains.
  • Welcome to Olympus, Mr Hearst: That's right, WR Hurst, the father of modern media.  I am not even going to attempt to summarise this story, since it would just ruin it for you.  This is definately my favourite of the stories in this book.  Guest appearances by Rudolph Valentino, Marion Davies, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable and Connie Talamadge.  Joeseph and Lewis spend the weekend at Hearst Castle, La Cuesta Encantanda.  Lewis and Greta Garbo, oh my.
  • Hellfire at Twilight:  Lewis is on a mission to discover if rumoured scroll detailing an ancient sex cults rituals firstly exists, and secondly if it is authentic.  Debauchery, drunkenness and 3 day coma ensues.  A short piece about culture and literature in the Georgian era.