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Marilee J. Layman

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10:15 pm: In the Garden Of Iden by Kage Baker
I suggested Baker for the bookgroup, but we've acquired a rule that we have to read the first one of a series, so maybe I shouldn't have. Everybody but me hated it, and I like it more at least partly because I've read the others.

The Company books are about Dr. Zeus, a company of immortals who can send people back in time to rescue small children and things that are about to disappear in history. Mendoza, a young child who didn't know her own name, ends up with the Spanish Inquisition (yes, yes) and is harvested by Joseph, who has been a cyborg much longer. We skim through most of her cyborg training and botanist education and find that she's being sent to Queen Mary's England, to a country house with plants that can be saved for the future. Unfortunately, this part is amazingly boring. It turns into a bad Marythan romance, with religious overtones. I think the next book, Sky Coyote is better, but my favorite is Mendoza in Hollywood.

If you like mixing cyborgs and historical romances, this is for you.

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From:autopope
Date:November 16th, 2008 10:29 am (UTC)
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Unfortunately, this part is amazingly boring.

I beg to differ; it's fascinating, and rather hillarious, with a dark undercurrent of tragedy once you realize just how unreliable a narrator of her own internal state Mendoza is.
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From:mjlayman
Date:November 16th, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC)
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I liked it better this time than the last, but I still found it boring. And you should multiply that at least 10 times for the other folks in the group.
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From:mjlayman
Date:November 17th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
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Come read again -- one of the members of my bookgroup has posted a detailed answer.
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From:martin_wisse
Date:November 18th, 2008 02:32 pm (UTC)
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It sdmakced too much of "look at what I majored in" to me AND there's a massive cheat in there.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:November 16th, 2008 02:10 pm (UTC)

What Charlie Said

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I may never read it again, because the sense of doom just over the horizon is too unpleasant, but I certainly wasn't bored by that part. (I do prefer Joseph as a narrator, though.)

Mary Anne in Kentucky
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From:mjlayman
Date:November 16th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)

Re: What Charlie Said

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I used to like this kind of thing before the stroke, but now I really like tech and space opera. I like Charlie's Family books, but I think he writes better.
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From:skylarker
Date:November 16th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
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I loved it, and the whole series. The doomed romance, even though I prefer happy ones, worked for me.
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From:mjlayman
Date:November 16th, 2008 09:15 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, romance is not my strong point. One of the male group members had picked up three Harlequins to pass out to anybody who liked the second part!
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From:soon_lee
Date:November 16th, 2008 11:14 pm (UTC)
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I liked it, but I like the later ones more. I actually started with "The Graveyard Game" which IMO is the best middle-of-series book I've read. It had enough in the synopsis that I could keep up, and there were revelations a-plenty by the end. The ending was particularly good.* I found that "In the Garden of Iden", for all its SFnal undercurrents, read more like a historical romance. Maybe that's why it wasn't as well-received by the bookgroup.

*Not in the everything tied-up nicely good (it's a volume that sits in the middle of a series), but in a 'You can't stop now! When's the next book out?' good.
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From:mjlayman
Date:November 16th, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC)
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Yep, I'm pretty sure that's why it didn't do as well. We have this rule about always reading the first book of series because some people are not as good at catching up in the middle, and this wouldn't have been the book at which I wanted them to start.
From:jerrund
Date:November 17th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)

Left me wanting my time back

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As one of the members of the aforementioned bookgroup, I think that Marilee might have actually understated how much the members of the group collectively and individually disliked this book.

To my mind it suffers from a number of issues.

First and foremost, it just isn't very well written - at best, the prose is mediocre, and at times ventures into god-awfulness. I know it was her first novel. The problem is, it reads like one.

Second, the book seems to suffer from an identity crisis. Is it a time-travel sci-fi novel or is it a period historical romance? The overwhelming problem with cross-genre novels is that they tend to be a poor amalgamation of the worst properties of whatever is being crossed. In this case, there really isn't enough science fiction to make it workable in that venue, and the historical romance is pretty laughable.

Third, unlike most of the group, who thought that the first few chapters showed promise before devolving, I didn't really like that part either. The whole idea of using time-travel to test immortality was poorly conceived and inherently circular and paradoxical. Also, the whole idea of being able to do what they want so long as they don't change "recorded history" is also laughable in its ambiguity. What exactly is "recorded history" is the first question that leaps to my mind. And while it didn't happen in the early part of the book, what I like to call the "Bill and Ted" moment, where Nef tells Mendoza that she must have succeeeded in collecting the information about the Ilex because they have the sample in the future made me want to throw the book.

Fourth, even without the pronouncmemt on the front cover that "Iden" is the "First Company Novel", while reading the book, the story always felt incomplete. And even if "Iden" is merely setting the stage for future novels, the story has to be interesting enough to convince the reader that subsequent offerings are worth reading. I left "Old Man's War" contemplating reading the sequals, but not "Iden".

Enough rant. Mendoza was just not an interesting enough character to hold my interest for 300 or so pages. She's a whiny, moody teenage girl, and I think that it is a given that such a character is not going to be a reliable narator of her own internal state. If Baker had done something interesting with that, it might have made for a more interesting story, b ut as it is, well, meh.
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