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In the Garden of Iden
Kage Baker
Narrated by Janan Raouf, unabridged
Blackstone Audiobooks, 11.5 hours

In the Garden of Iden
Kage Baker
Kage Baker was born in 1952 in Hollywood, California. She grew up there and in Pismo Beach. She worked as a graphic artist, mural painter and assorted roles in the theatre. Many years of total immersion research in Elizabethan as well as other historical periods left her with a working knowledge of period speech and details evident in her writing. She died in 2011.

Kage Baker Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Hotel Under the Sand
SF Site Review: The Women of Nell Gwynne's
SF Site Review: The Empress of Mars
SF Site Review: Rude Mechanicals
SF Site Review: The Children of the Company
SF Site Review: The Angel in the Darkness
SF Site Review: The Anvil of the World
SF Site Review: Black Projects, White Knights
SF Site Review: The Graveyard Game
SF Site Review: Sky Coyote
SF Site Review: Mendoza in Hollywood
SF Site Review: Sky Coyote
SF Site Review: In the Garden of Iden

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Julie Moncton

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It is the 24th century and technology has continued to advance by leaps and bounds.  In fact, one very innovative organization, Dr. Zeus Incorporated, also known as "The Company," has discovered the secrets to both immortality and time travel.  The mission statement of The Company is to use these inventions to improve the lot of human kind... while making a healthy profit, of course.  As always, time travel comes with restrictions.  You can't travel back in time and change your own past and you can't change recorded history, with the emphasis on recorded.  

So, for example, many history sources have documented the complete destruction of the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Bringing back parchments from that library would violate the time travel rule since the loss of all documents is already a fact.  But, someone from the future could still travel back in time and scan all the documents in the library before it was demolished.   Dr. Zeus cleverly seeks out various artifacts that could be saved for the future to benefit mankind, with a very steep retail price.

Like time travel, immortality also has its limitations.  Only young children can successfully undergo the process to become immortal, limiting the candidates for immortality.  The Company makes it their policy to select children from the past who are on the brink of death, saves their lives and changes them into immortals -- without impacting history.  These children also become permanent employees of The Company. One of these immortal workers is Mendoza, the narrator of the first book in The Company series, In the Garden of Iden.  

Mendoza is a young girl about to be tortured and executed as a suspected heretic during the Spanish Inquisition.  She is 'modified,' transformed into an immortal and goes through intense Company training specializing in botany.   On her first mission, Mendoza, accompanied by three other immortal Company personnel, travels to 16th Century England, as part of an entourage of Prince Philip of Spain.  England is in turmoil as Prince Philip, a Catholic, is about to wed Queen Mary, and together they will change England's official religion to Roman Catholicism.  

The Company immortals are staying at the estate of Sir Walter Iden, a quirky old man whose hobby is to collect rare and unusual plants and animals in his garden.  Sir Walter's property is the perfect laboratory for Mendoza.  She is given the task of studying and cataloging the vast collection of plants on the estate, as well as collect and safely store valuable seeds that can be recovered in the future, for the good of humanity... and the profit of The Company.  

All appears to be going according to plan until Mendoza meets Nicholas Harpole, Sir Walter's secretary.  Nicholas is described as being tall with a 'horse-like face.'  He is a serious and extremely devout Protestant, and the antithesis of Mendoza's bubbly personality.  But, as is true all too often in life as well as science fiction, opposites attract, and Mendoza and Nicholas, are irresistibly drawn to each other.  But, what happens when an immortal falls in love with a human?  As Mendoza wrestles with this dilemma, the plot quickly heats up as the country divides between Catholic and Protestant sides.

In the Garden of Iden is a perfect blend of science fiction and historic fiction.  The descriptions of Elizabethan England are rich and give great insight to every day life and the culture of the time.  The dialogue is snappy, and at times, hilarious.  There are some interesting moral dilemmas with the overall ethics of The Company which are great starting points for a stimulating discussion.  Although the overall tone is light, there are deeper themes surrounding this book and series.

The audio book is beautifully narrated by Janan Raouf, who utilizes a wide variety of accents and dialects that enhance the listening experience.  For fans of historic SF, In the Garden of Iden, is a sure-fire hit.  Now for the bad news --  In the Garden of Iden is the launch of Kage Baker's The Company series of eight books.  At this time, only this first one is available in audio -- the rest of the series is only published in print.  If the audio publisher, Blackstone, is waiting to see how well the public receives the start of this series, then I give my vote -- two thumbs up.  And please, finish up the rest of the series!

Copyright © 2011 Julie Moncton

Julie Moncton is one of the owners of an audio book store in San Jose, California -- a good thing since it keeps her well stocked in books to both read and listen to. You can see what books are on her shelf (or iPod) on her goodreads page.


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