Sunday, December 2, 2012
Mendoza In Hollywood - Kage Baker
2000; 334 pages. New Author? : No. Book #3 of the “Company” series. Books 1 and 2 are reviewed here and here. Genre : Science Fiction; Time Travel. Overall Rating : 7½*/10.
The title is only half-correct. Mendoza is where Hollywood will be, but it’s 1862, the greater Los Angeles area is little more than a dusty collection of shacks and saloons, and the movie industry is non-existent. The Company has sent Mendoza there to collect a number of plants that will shortly become extinct.
But the climate is changing, the plants are dying out faster than Mendoza can collect them, there is jealousy among Mendoza’s colleagues, and worst of all are the troubling nightmares she’s having about her lost love from the 1600’s. There are even hints that the Company may not be as beneficent as they claim.
What’s To Like...
For those who are not reading this series in order, Kage Baker gives the backstory in a handy 3-page prologue. There are new Company agents to get to know – Einar the zoologist; Oscar the anthropologist, Porfirio the Company overseer, and Juan Bautista, a young ornithologist who gets way too attached to some of his work. Joseph is absent, but Imarte is back to spice things up.
The setting – 1860’s California is superbly done. There isn’t much of a plot for the first 2/3 of the book, but it’s fun to be immersed in the lives of Mendoza and company – taking field trips for specimens, ducking from the occasional gunshot, and eating crappy food. Einar is a film enthusiast, and he smuggles some early movies in for entertainment. Those are a joy to “watch”.
There is some humor – Juan Bautista’s pet birds are – well – a hoot. Imarte’s role is that of a saloon girl, and she collects several love-struck “clients”, who tend to not appreciate others vying for her attentions. Oscar’s efforts to sell a “Criterion Patented Brassbound Pie Safe” are subtly hilarious.
The Alt-History and Time Travel aspects are well done. And Romance wheels its way back into Mendoza’s life, something she’s been missing for a couple centuries. As always, Kage Baker’s writing is excellent.
Kewlest New Word...
Shigella (n.) : A bacterium that is an intestinal pathogen of humans and other primates, some kinds of which cause dysentery.
If I had only stayed...
“You couldn’t have, man,” Einar said. “You know that. You belong to the Company. First time Dr. Zeus had a job for you somewhere else, you’d have had to go. And even if you stuck around, do you think you could have kept on micromanaging their lives forever? We may be immortals, but we can’t control mortal destinies. We can help them when they want help, but that’s it. When they want to destroy themselves, not even God can stop them. (pg.194 )
“There are those, sir, who might construe your detestable negligence as the next thing to treason, which, let me remind you, is a hanging offense.” Ingraham brandished his cane.
The driver explained where he was minded to put that cane if Mr. Calliman shook it at him one more time, and added that Mr. Calliman was going to find it uncomfortable to sing or, for that matter, dance in any shows with the cane in that particular location. (pg. 212)
“We are the actors on a stage where the curtain hasn’t risen!” (pg. 13)
I’ve made my peace with this series – more than anything else, it is Science Fiction. There is some Action-Adventure in Mendoza in Hollywood, but it’s towards the end, and is there mostly to advance the “big picture” plot of the Company’s manipulation of the cyborg protagonists. This isn’t Xena, Warrior Princess; this is Mendoza, Immortal Botanist.
I’ve been reading this series in order, and MIH does advance the overlying storyline. We discover that snafus can occur in the Company agenda, and that there may be dire consequences for Immortals who the Company no longer wants around. Still, this is beginning to feel like Robert Jordan’s WoT series – there are a lot more questions being raised than being answered. 7½ Stars. I’ll probably read at least one more book In the series, but I don’t feel compelled to read all 9 books.