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The Children of the Company
Kage Baker
Tor, 300 pages

The Children of the Company
Kage Baker
Kage Baker was born in 1952 in Hollywood, California. She grew up there and in Pismo Beach, where she now resides. She has 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 has left her with a working knowledge of period speech and details evident in her writing.

Kage Baker Website
ISFDB Bibliography
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 Greg L. Johnson

Kage Baker's Company novels, beginning with In the Garden of Iden, are among the best examples in current science fiction of a series of individual works that taken together add up to a larger, more comprehensive whole. The Children of the Company is a look below the shiny surface of the Company and its time-travelling agents seeking lost historical artifacts into the life of one of the immortals, Executive Facilitator General Labienus, and his quest for power.

Labienus is introduced to life in the Company when he is rescued by agents from the destruction of his village and death of his family. Tested and found worthy, he becomes an immortal cyborg and begins his career. That career, and Labenius' observations on it reveal one of the most thoroughly cynical, and ruthlessly successful, characters in all of science fiction.

The Children of the Company is written as a memoir, the story unfolds as a series of flashbacks as Labienus recounts episodes from his past and the characters he has attempted to use and misuse as a result. It gives the novel an unavoidably episodic feeling, but that's a structural problem inherent in time-travel novels, moving characters from one historical setting to another can't help but result in a story line that also jumps from one episode to the next. By packaging this tendency in the form of a personal memoir, Baker deals with the problem by turning it into one of the strengths of the novel, one that helps give some understanding of, if little sympathy for, Labienus.

The reader's sympathies will be more engaged by the secondary characters, those whose lives Labienus has meddled with, generally to their detriment. Although forbidden to change recorded history, the amount of history that has never been recorded or of which record has been lost gives Labienus and his allies plenty of leeway to pursue their own goals from within the structure of the Company. Labienus has competitors and adversaries too, and, as always, exactly what the Company's long range plans are remains a mystery.

Because it is based on the life and history of a thoroughly cynical and abusive character, it is easy to read The Children of the Company as a thoroughly cynical novel. Virtue is not often rewarded here, and villainy is not often punished. But, also like Labienus, The Children of the Company is smart and sharply observant on the foibles of both individuals in particular and humanity in general. It also adds an interesting commentary on the activities and purpose of the Company, showing us the dark side of its operations and setting up a power struggle over its future existence. The novel works both as a stand-alone portrait of a dangerous villain, and as a solid addition to the greater story of just what the Company is and what it is up to.

Copyright © 2006 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson ponders the meaning of unrecorded history from his home in Minneapoks, Minnesota. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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