Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: In the Garden of Iden

I think if I would have read this in highschool, it would have been one of my favourite series. It seems to have everything I’d like in a story: time travel, enhanced humans and history. However, now as an adult it just feels a bit too on the nose.

For those of you who don’t know, In the Garden of Iden is the first of the ‘Company’ novels by Kage Baker. In the 24th century, humans are sophisticated enough to develop time travel and a whole lot of other stuff. However, they realise humanity is never going to get better so the Company basically rescues children who will be killed in some way and turns them into agents (read enhanced humans, cyborgs, whatever). They can’t change recorded history but they can do everything else, rescue works of art, scan the entire library of Alexandria, find samples of future-extinct plants.

Again, it all seems set up for me to like it…but…it just didn’t work for me. It was just a bit of nothing happening for most of the book.

The plot revolves around Mendoza, rescued from the Spanish Inquisition, she is recruited by the Company and becomes a botanist. Her first assignment is to go to counter-reformation England and get samples of a bunch of plants that will go extinct at some point. However, she inconveniently falls in love with basically a protestant religious zealot.

It doesn’t end well.

But, I didn’t really care. Where I was OMG SAD at the end of The Memory of Water, I was just “oh thank god that’s over” at the end of this book. Maybe the other books are a little more plot driven. However, this one is basically Mendoza and Nicholas talking and clandestinely smooching everywhere. There’s no plot, just endless chat.

There was a bit of a plot at the beginning with Mendoza’s recruitment, but realistically the ENTIRE book is just endless chat and nothing happening. They’re in the same place as well, just one little manor house in Kent.

I think the other thing that bugs me is the smug superiority of the enhanced humans. The like calling normal people monkeys a lot, for example. However, they’re also obsessed with collecting the detritus of civilisation. It feels like a logical inconsistency in that sort of mindset. If you think they’re all monkeys, why do you want to collect what they’re making on their typewriters? Also that head shape has anything to do with being able to become an enhanced human.

Then the whole thing with Mendoza and Nicholas. I don’t think someone who had such an advanced intellect would give a shit about small minded religious zealotry. Or that the Company rules would have done something to curb the wild thoughts of Mendoza when everything starts to go to shit. It simultaneously tries to be freewheeling and incredibly controlling when it needs to be. It just didn’t work for me, it showed holes in the universe that were just too big to ignore.

Dunno. I feel like the conceits that power the universe are just a bit too obvious.

Anyway, it was okay. But I don’t think I’ll pick up any more. Maybe 3/5 stars.

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