No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Friday, March 24, 2006

#25: The Life of the World to Come -- Kage Baker

Once I'd read The Graveyard Game -- a novel that revolves around Mendoza without her ever appearing -- I had to read this, the latest (so far) in the Company series. It opens with Mendoza: but then there's Drake sailing up the coast of California, and a cabal of researchers at Oxford University (swilling prune-juice in lieu of outlawed sherry) and Alec Checkerfield, Seventh Earl of Finsbury -- a millionaire playboy with an agenda, an imaginary friend who takes the shape of the pirate Henry Morgan, and a very good brain.

The Graveyard Game was dark, full of paranoia and ancient secrets and cynical world-weariness: The Life of the World to Come is, on the whole, a cheerful romp. The world in which Alec grows to adulthood, and finds ways to live the life of adventure that he seems, atavistically, to be programmed to live, is a world in which political correctness has been taken to farcical extremes. Alec doesn't fit, but luckily he's clever enough to cover his tracks: and his AI, the Captain -- once a Pembroke PlayFriend, before it took on Alec's brain and lost -- is the perfect companion for a young man who seems to have been born in the wrong time.

The Oxford University cabal are affectionately mocked. They're geeks. One of them is a huge Doctor Who fan and can name all 315 Doctors. One is determined to take Tolkien and Lewis as his inspiration. And one is a very dangerous man indeed, because it seems that he's behind the programme that created the Company's Enforcers. He has another project on the burner now ...

This is the story of how Alec finds out who he is, and where he came from; the story of one of the Company's most appalling acts; the secret connection between Mendoza's two lost loves; and the tale of what befell the Mars colony. And it ends on one of the most infuriating cliffhangers I've encountered.

Please, Ms. Baker, may I have some more?

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