Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Graveyard Game - Kage Baker

   2001; 298 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book 4 (out of 9 or 11, depending what you include) of the “Company”.  Series. Genre : Dystopian Fiction.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Just how would you go about eliminating an immortal?  Is it even possible to do that?  Joseph and Lewis, two cyborgs who have been working as agents for Dr. Zeus Inc. (aka the “Company”) for thousands of years, are pondering those questions.

     Theoretically, it’s impossible.  Chop a cyborg’s head off, and the nanobots within him are programmed to make repairs and put everything back into tiptop working order.  It may take a while to do the job, but thanks to 24th-cetnury technology, it’s proven engineering.

    And yet…

    Lately, a number of Joseph and Lewis’s fellow cyborgs have disappeared.  Heck, the whole squadron of the “Enforcers”, used extensively by the Company back in prehistoric times, are now nowhere to be found.  The official line is that they’ve “retired”, but to where?  It seems funny that none of them has ever been seen again.

    It behooves Lewis and Joseph to find an answer to this enigma.  After all, they might be the next pair of agents that Dr. Zeus Inc. “retires”.  And for Lewis, it’s also a personal matter.  His fellow agent, Mendoza has gone missing and no one has seen her.

    And he’s in love with her.

What’s To Like...
    It’s always a treat to read an author who can write well  in addition to being able to tell a great story, and Kage Baker had a gift for this.  The Graveyard Game transitions the reader from the recent past (1996) through the present, and then several centuries into the future, ending at 2276 AD.  Overall, the series is closing in on its most critical point in time – 2355 AD, after which nothing more is known, even though time-travel technology is available.

    I loved the details of our future world.  Coffee, cream and chocolate are all illegal, although you can still get Toblerones on the black market, and you can get high on Theobroma, a cacao-like substance.  The Beast Liberation Party was a neat twist: they make PETA look like a bunch of wimps, and are pushing for the banning of silk, out of concern for the silkworms.  And the Yorkshire literary tour was a hoot.

    The Graveyard Game is a complex read, with a number of plotlines interweaving throughout the book.  Where’s Mendoza?  Why does her first love (who isn’t Lewis) seem to keep reincarnating?  What happens in 2355 AD?  Why does it seem like the Company is covering a lot of things up?  What’s become of the Enforcers?

Some threads remain unresolved at the end of the book.  The “little people” are a clear and present danger to the immortals, and while they don’t seem to be of the Company’s doing, all the same the agents are given no help in defending against this threat.  A mysterious “Site 317” is whispered about, but no one seems to know anything concrete of it.

    The Graveyard Game is heavy on the intrigue, with enough action to keep it from bogging down.  It is not a standalone novel; you really should read the books in this series in order.

Kewlest New Word...
Jitney (n.) : a bus or other vehicle carrying passengers for a low fare.

    “You actually want to go see a necropolis tomorrow?”  (…)
    “It’s psychological,” Joseph said, pushing away from the coping and rotating slowly in his pool float.  “People are designed by nature to need a last resting place.  The idea of one, anyway.  We immortal guys never get graves.  The programming we’re given in school keeps the urge off for the first few millennia, but after a while you find yourself wondering what it would be like to just – lie down in a tomb and stop moving forever.  So it helps, see, to go and look at the reality.  Bones and dust.  Makes you glad to be alive.”  (pg. 131, and the explanation of the book’s title.)

    Religion isn’t illegal, but is increasingly being regarded with genteel horror by most people, except the Ephesians.  Faith is so … psychologically incorrect.
    Sex isn’t illegal, but there isn’t a lot of it going on these days.  There’s talk about how it’s a distasteful animal urge, how it victimizes women and robs men of their primal power.  It creates codependency.  It presents a terrible risk of catching a communicable disease.  Relationships of any kind, in fact, are probably a bad idea.  (pg. 217)

 “Really, Joseph, there weren’t any druids yet when Stonehenge was finished.  I was one, I should know.”  (pg. 17)
    It should be noted, and this is not really a spoiler, that the star of this series, Mendoza, doesn’t make an appearance in The Graveyard Game at all.  The story really revolves around Joseph and Lewis endeavoring to find out what has happened to her.

    On a larger scale, it felt like Kage Baker was using the book to fill in the non-Mendoza details of events that are leading up to whatever climax is coming in 2355 AD.  Since there are at least five more books to go in the series, I’m left wondering whether the timeline pace is about to slow down.

    It’s been five years since I’ve read the previous book in this series, Mendoza In Hollywood (reviewed here).  So I appreciated the short backstory given at the very beginning of this book, which is further fleshed out in the first couple chapters.  I was bummed  that Mendoza didn’t show up, but it was a pleasure getting to know Joseph and Lewis in greater detail.

    8 Stars.  Revolution is nigh!  I’m sure I’ll be reading the next book in the series, The Life of the World to Come, in the not-to-distant future.  I’m hooked on finding out what and where Site 317 is, and how the simpleminded but highly focused “little people” figure into all this.

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