NOTE ABOUT SPOILERS
reaction will contain spoilers for THE GARDEN OF IDEN, the first
novel in Kage Bakerís Company series.
As a policy,
Iím trying to keep the spoilers in these reactions to a bare
minimum and limited to the first fifty pages of the book. If the
spoilers exceed those guidelines, Iíll make a point to include
a note up front. Spoilers for the two books discussed here are
kept to the usual absolute minimum.
END NOTE ABOUT SPOILERS
I found a lot to
really enjoy in Baker's THE GARDEN OF IDEN, as I described in my
THE GARDEN OF
IDEN walked a fine line between a light adventure story and a
character drama, and succeeded admirably at delivering a
powerful dose of the latter wrapped in the appealing package of
SKY COYOTE, the
second novel in the series, walks the same line, but ends up
coming down firmly on the other side of it: This is a fun,
rip-roaring, no-holds-barred adventure story nicely spiced with
moments of character drama which ring true and strike deep
chords. The result is very effective: Because the same thematic
elements are used and explored in both THE GARDEN OF IDEN and
SKY COYOTE, the book clearly resonates as a sequel. But because
the ratios are shifted, SKY COYOTE exists as a stylistically
GARDEN OF IDEN, SKY COYOTE does begin to show clear signs of a
series-in-progress: Moments of conspiracy and mystery lurk
throughout the novel, but their resolution is distinctly left
for another day (and a different book). Intriguingly, however,
the result is not that of a half-finished product: The very lack
of resolution for the moments of conspiracy in terms of plot is,
in fact, the resolution of the major character drama of the
novel. In a similar fashion, Kage Baker brings Mendoza, the main
character of the first novel, in as a supporting cast member in
SKY COYOTE. Mendozaís role in the novel is absolutely
essential, justified, and completeÖ but it also serves, at the
same time, as a foundation for MENDOZA IN HOLLYWOOD.
remarkable craft at work there. And a surprising depth in what
appears, at first glance, to be a light read. And, in fact, the
novel can be read as a light adventure story completely
independent of the series as a whole.
HOLLYWOOD, by contrast, is the story of post-traumatic stress
syndrome finally catching up with Mendoza. But its also a
conspiracy story, and the twin threads wrap around each other in
a delightful way as the books comes to a close.
here, as it was in THE GARDEN OF IDEN, is the depth with which
Kage Baker draws the character of Mendoza. The emotional journey
Mendoza endures through the novel is a gut-wrenching,
heartbreakingly true experience.
doesnít quite measure up to the first two, however, because it
doesnít find a plot for a long time. When it does, the
whirlwind is intriguing and exciting, but ultimately
short-lived. (And there are some suspension of disbelief issues
with the deus ex machina which jump starts the plot once it
arrives.) Two comments on this:
creates a problem with the cover blurb. The blurb writer,
clearly seeking exciting plot to write about, sums up the entire
plot of the novel. Well, okay, he doesnít describe the last 50
pages. But, nonetheless, if you read the cover blurb on this one
your reading experience will drastically suffer. DO NOT
READ THE COVER BLURB. Iím not kidding.
suspect that I would enjoy this novel on an entirely different
level the second time through. Simply put, once the plot becomes
clear near the end of the book, a plethora of small details Ė
worked seamlessly into the character drama endured by Mendoza
through the early part of the book Ė suddenly coalesce.
situation where, if you knew the plot of the book ahead of time,
the thrust and direction of the story would be clear to you. I
donít think its coincidental that this is the same knowledge
an author would have sitting down to write the book.
mean that MENDOZA IN HOLLYWOOD is a waste of time the first time
through. The character drama is intense. The development of the
seriesí meta-plot is intriguing. And the reading experience,
for me, was very enjoyable.
Itís a good
novel cursed by the fact that it followed two great novels, and
it suffers somewhat in the comparison. But that doesnít change
the fact that itís good.
At the moment, I
am very much looking forward to reading the next book in this
series. Unfortunately, THE GRAVEYARD GAME appears to be entirely
unavailable to me at the moment. Fortunately, it is going to be
re-released in paperback sometime next year by Tor, shortly
before they publish the fifth book in the series. So Iíll be
looking forward to that.
IN HOLLYWOOD: B