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The Best of Kage Baker
Kage Baker
Subterranean Press, 496 pages

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: In the Garden of Iden
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 Steven H Silver

The Best of Kage Baker In a more fair universe, Subterranean Press's volume The Best of Kage Baker would include the subtitle "Volume I: 1997-2010." In the universe in which we live, however, we have to settle for this single book that contains twenty of Baker's stories that will leave the reader wishing to be allowed access to that other universe where the book is followed by more installments.

The stories in the book are organized based on which of Baker's collections the stories were reprinted in, rather than in strict chronological or thematic organization, many of the tales relate to Baker's Company series about a time travel organization. The stories which tie in to the Company novels demonstrate the breadth of styles and periods Baker covered, from the Hugo nominated "Son Observe the Time," set during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to the botanical adventures of Mendoza in the nineteenth century's "Noble Mold" or her encounter with an augmented Australopithicus in "Hanuman."

While most of Baker's literary output is tied in to the Company stories, not all of them did. Her story "The Ruby Incomparable" offers a fantasy tale about the two of two wizards which manages to subvert the clichés upon which the story is built. Other stories, such as "I Begyn as I Mean To Go On" use the same type of historical research which is present in the Company stories to create a different world which feels every bit as real as our own.

Even when not dealing with the Company, there are themes and settings which emerge. "Are You Afflicted by Dragons," "Calimari Curls," and "Caverns of Mystery," while all very different in tone and separate from each other, are all set an resorts and inns, almost as if they were written during an extended vacation (although their publication spans a period of 4 years).

The stories in The Best of Kage Baker does exactly what a collection should do. It provides examples of the range of an author's writing, not just in terms of topic, but also in terms of style. Baker shows the ability to write humorously, handle fantasy, science fiction, and other genres, and make the reader care about the characters and the worlds which she is populating.

Barring admission to some alternative universe in which Baker was able to continue to write, after reading these stories, readers can still find pleasure in her works by tracking down her novels and other collections. Baker's career was a published author was short, but prolific, leaving behind a body of works including more than dozen novels, many of which are related to the stories included in The Best of Kage Baker.

Copyright © 2012 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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