Finishing the series challenge 2013


The final book in the Company science fiction series.

Publication year: 2007
Format: print
Page count: 501
Publisher: TOR

This is the book where the series has been leading. I would recommend starting with the first book “In the Garden of Iden” rather than this one, if you haven’t read Baker before.

The book has multiple points-of-view. The main part is devoted to the Botanist Mendoza and her companions. These passages have a lot of wry humor and observations of domestic life. Unfortunately, I still find their situation more than a little creepy.

During the first half of the book we also follow a small girl who lives under a hill with Quean Barbie and her Uncles, and the stupids who live just to serve the others. The girl, who is initially called just Baby, finds a man who used to be a slave to the big people. But the man turns out to be alive, just hurt very badly. He’s Literature specialist Lewis who disappeared a long time ago.

We also follow Joseph who is busy freeing the old Enforcers and a couple of powerful Section heads, immortals who are poised to take over when the Silence starts. A couple of them want to destroy humans and one wants to protect humans. All of these powers have been building their powerbases and now, we finally see what will happen in 2355.

I felt the ending was somewhat too easy. Then again, we’ve been given so many hints and speculation about the Silence that I don’t know if anything would have been fully satisfying. It was certainly different from most SF (and fantasy) endings and Baker does weave all of the various plot threads together. Perhaps I was somewhat disappointed with just how cowering and ineffectual the human “master minds” are compared to the cyborgs they created. Of course, it was no surprise, because Baker has shown it plenty of times. Also, the more I see Alec, the less I like him and he has really taken over the series by now. But I thoroughly enjoyed the familiar immortals and their melodramatic ways, as usual.

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The seventh book in the series.

Publication year: 2006
Format: print
Page count: 356
Publisher: TOR

“The Machine’s Child” continues from the cliffhanger at the end of the fifth book, “The Life of the World To Come”. At the end of that book something happened, which I didn’t know about and which I don’t want to spoil for any potential reader.

At the end of “The Life of the World To Come” Mendoza, the immortal cyborg botanist who was the main character in the first and the third book, was sent into a hellish place for rogue cyborgs where they are tortured forever. That place is situated in 300 000 BC. But Mendoza’s lover Alec and his companions have a time machine and they are tracking Mendoza to her jail. They manage to save her and the majority of the book is dedicated to Alec and Mendoza trying to heal each other and jaunting through time and Alec arguing with his companions. I really (mostly) liked the dynamic between Alec and his companions and the short vignettes of Alec and Mendoza in different times.

Unfortunately, the book also has a lot of things which I didn’t care for. Mendoza was hurt badly. In fact, so badly that Alec’s Artificial Intelligence (named Captain Morgan) has to rebuild her body. And he rebuild it as a fourteen year old girl. Mendoza has also lost her memory. Alec convinces himself (and his companions) that it’s best that Mendoza doesn’t remember her past. So he lies to her about her near past. But then he starts to lie more and more, about himself and about their shared past. I found this to be pretty icky. I started to hope that Mendoza would get her memory back and Alec would be held accountable for his lies. The longer this situation continued, the more uncomfortable I felt with it.

Also, I started the book liking Alec’s companions quite a lot (more than Alec) but then one of them makes a suggestion which was, well, beyond icky. And also I’m a bit puzzled as to why Alec is so enamored with Mendoza. One of his companions spent quite a lot of time with Mendoza so he could have fallen in love with her, but the other two have spent only a little time with her, so their almost instant adoration is a bit strange. Also, it was established in the fifth book that Alec (and his companions) have an almost magical ability to persuade others to do what he wants. So… is Mendoza’s love nothing more than reaction to that ability? Ick!

We also get to see some other immortals preparing for the year 2355 when the ominous Silence falls. Joseph is repairing his “father” and since he was the one who recruited Mendoza from the clutches of the Spanish inquisition, he thinks of himself as her father. So, Joseph is also trying to find Mendoza. Unfortunately, he blames Alec for ruining Mendoza’s life so he’s also trying to pay back to Alec. Both are trying to bring down the big bad, Dr. Zeus Incorporated.

Overall this felt like a yet another book whose main reason for existing is to prepare for the final conflict which should happen in the next book. And it ends with a cliffhanger!

The sixth book in the series.

Publication year: 2005
Format: print
Page count: 300
Publisher: TOR

The previous book, The Life of the World to come, furthered the series’s overall plot and the book ended in a cliffhanger. Sadly, this book doesn’t continue the story but instead explores a ruthless cyborg who is trying to build his own power base both in the human world and among his fellow immortal cyborgs. This book is a collection of short stories which have a framing story around them to knit them together. This framing story is about cyborg named Labienus who contemplates his works through the times. When I got over my disappointment that the story didn’t continue, I was able to just sit back and enjoy various cyborgs’ adventures through time. It is, after all, what attracted me to the series in the first place.

Executive Facilitator General Labienus is a very old cyborg. Before recorded history began, he set himself up as a god-king of Sumeria. He was called Enna-aru and he treated mortals cruelly. Still, they revered him and allowed him to enjoy a most luxurious life. In fact, Labienus longs to return to such times and resents the fact that after recorded history started, he has had to work from the shadows and among the stinking mortals. He would like nothing more than get back what he thinks is rightfully his. Like all cyborgs, he knows that something monumental will happen in the year 2355, when the Silence begins. The time traveling Dr. Zeus Incorporated doesn’t have any information about anything beyond this date. So, Labienus is planning his own coup to start in 2355 and needs to have everything in place by then.

The book is split between four different time periods by the framing story. In the first two parts, the short stories are actually of different time periods than the framing story. I greatly enjoyed most of the short stories but found the framing story to be a bit clumsy. In the short stories we follow the cyborgs Lewis, Latif, Van Drouten, Victor, and Kalugin when they are caught in Labienus’ web of lies. We also get to see a couple of unfortunate mortals struggling to understand the wider world than just their little monastery or garden.

The framing story is written in present tense while the short stories are written in the past tense and some of them use third person POV and a couple use the first person POV.

The fifth book in the series.

Publication year: 2004
Format: print
Page count: 392 + an excerpt of the Garden of Iden
Publisher: TOR

The book starts with an extract from Mendoza’s journal. She’s an immortal cyborg and the main character of the series. Because of what she did in a previous book, Mendoza in Hollywood, she was sent to Way Back When, also known as 150 000 BC, to grow vegetables to the wealthy tourists from the future. But Dr. Zeus Inc.’s efforts to confine Mendoza doesn’t work. A man in a time shuttle appears. He’s from the future but looks exactly like Mendoza’s lost lover Nicholas, from the year 1555, and like her other lost lover Edward, from the year 1862. Mendoza is now convinced that the three men are actually the same man and that he can’t be human. When the man, Alec Chekersfield , tells her that he’s on a quest to destroy Dr Zeus and he comes from the year 2351, Mendoza realizes that he will succeed. Dr. Zeus Inc is almost omniscient company which owns the secrets of time travel and yet, in 2355 the Company will become silent. Nobody knows what will happen after that year. Mendoza will do everything she can to help Alec. He has stolen the time shuttle and so Mendoza disables the shuttle’s self-destruct device and teaches Alec how to control the shuttle. Alec promises to return and vanishes back into the future.

That’s almost the last we’ll see of Mendoza in this book which focuses on the life and times of Alec Chekersfield, and the three men who created him.

Three idle rich men call themselves the Inklings Nouveau. They all adore history and re-enact it to the extent that they can, considering that most things are banned in the future (such as coffee, cheese, chocolate, alcohol…). They work for Dr. Zeus designing the cyborgs which the company uses. One of their previous designs have become obsolete and they are asked to design a new breed of Enforces. They start to design a new man which they call Adonai, a template, or an image of, King Arthur. They will try out this new man in various times to see how he will act. At the same time, we see quite a bit of this future.

Alec lives with his parents and their servants in a boat and even though his mother is cold towards him and his father is a drunkard, he’s early life is relatively happy. But then he has to move to London and everything changes. His mother gets a divorce and he doesn’t seen again. His father stays for a short while and then leaves. Alec is raised by the servants and his Pembroke Playfriend which is an AI. The AI is supposed to have strong moral rules and teach them to the child, too. However, Alec is able to get into the AI’s systems and turns off the AI’s moral code. Now, the AI’s primary goal is to keep Alec safe and happy.

Alec is a genius but the AI, named Captain, advises him to keep that a secret. With the AI’s help, Alec nurtures his instinctive grasp of computers and becomes a smuggler.

The future in this series is pretty bland, just like in the previous books. Almost everything is banned from touching children to walking barefoot on grass. Public health monitors are watching all the time and if anyone behaves illegally, he or she is sent to a hospital. Yet, when Alec and Mr. Lewin go to a museum, it has a statue of Nelson because he kept England free from Napoleon who wanted everyone to behave the same. Meanwhile England and US are trying to get all other countries to ban cheese and meat as well. There are two Mars colonies but nothing is said if they’re more free or not.

Alec tasted real freedom on the boat where he spend his early years and he has no problem later becoming a rebel and breaking all sorts of laws. By contrast, the Inklings Nouveau are far more timid lot, only hesitantly breaking minor laws, such as set a fire in a fire place or walking barefoot in grass.

I really enjoyed this one. It revealed the secrets around Mendoza’s lovers and continued the major plot.

My newest review: K. A. Stewart: Wolf at the Door.

The third book in the urban fantasy series about modern day samurai, Jesse Dawson. It wasn’t as intense as the previous book but I enjoyed it.

Sadly, Roc has cancelled this series but the writer is apparently aiming to self-publish the rest. I hope she succeeds.

The last book in the series.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Page count: 418
Publisher: Harper

Mira has to confront all of her enemies in this final book of the Dark Days. She has a lot of them including the naturi Queen Aurora, her father, who is an ancient god, and the man who made her a vampire and manipulated her through out her whole life. Happily, she’s also got friends and allies she can depend on. Also, Queen Aurora’s younger sister Cynnia is offering Mira and the rest of the nightwalkers an alliance. If Cynnia’s forces beat Aurora, the naturi will live quietly side by side with humans and vampires. But the catch is that Mira will have to work with her nemesis, Rowe, and she doesn’t know if she can do that.

Most of the book is written from Mira’s first person POV. The book has another point-of-view, too: Nyx, who is Aurora’s and Cynnia’s middle sister. She was born different and most of her people have shunned her. Her father, the king, trained her to be a protector of her people. But Aurora has forced Nyx to hunt her own people and now she’s hated and feared. However, Nyx believes that Aurora has lost her mind and is leading the naturi towards destruction. So, she has sided with Cynnia against the queen she has served all her life. Cynnia has sent Nyx out to recruit other naturi clans to her side. Nyx also needs to recruit Rowe. Most of his life Rowe has been Aurora’s champion and husband until Aurora banished him recently. Nyx thinks that Rowe resents Aurora because of that and will join Cynnia’s cause.

Burn the Night is a good ending to the series. Mira has to face a lot of enemies and the plot lines are concluded. I was surprised when I realized that a new POV character was introduced. Nyx hasn’t had a significant presence in the series so far and she’s somewhat similar to Mira: a formidable fighter who wants to protect the people close to her. Yet, she brings an insider’s POV to the people who have been the major enemy throughout the series; we get to see the division inside the naturi lines and that some of them just want to live in peace. So, I think the new POV was needed.

Overall, I was satisfied with the ending.

The last book in the fantasy series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Eileen Stevens
Running Time: 9 hrs and 19 minutes

The previous book ended in a big cliffhanger when a goblin thief stole the soul sucking magical rock called the Saghred. The goblin king and his insane, powerful sorcerer Sarad Nukpana are going to use the rock to invade the elven lands and kill lots and lots of people. But before that happens, Nukpana has to feed souls to the rock. And because our heroine Raine Benares is bonded to the rock, she is going to feel excruciating pain every time a soul is fed to the Saghred. Eventually she’s going to go insane from the pain. Nukpana, the rock, and the goblin king are in the goblin kingdom capital, Regor, which is several days’ travel from Mid, where Raine is.

Fortunately, Raine has powerful friends who are going to help her. She also has the one magical artifact which is capable of destroying the Saghred. However, destroying the rock is going to release the souls already trapped in the rock which is going to lure in Reapers who guide the dead souls forward. Unfortunately, the Reapers are likely to take Raine’s soul, too. Fortunately, there’s one old mage in Regor who can control Reapers and help Raine. Also, even though Regor is far away from Mid, there’s a way to get there in time to stop the invasion: mirror magic. And the most powerful mirror mage in Mid is Raine’s other arch enemy Carnades Silvanus. Silvanus was caught in the previous book and in exchange for some mercy, he agrees to help Raine. Of course, Silvanus will be waiting for an opportunity to stab Raine in the back.

Raine, the exiled goblin king Chigaru, his spy master Imala Kalis, the leader of the most elite fighting force of Mid Mychael, a (former?) dark mage Tam, Carnades Silvanus, and a couple of other people are going to Mid where they will be the most hunted group of people in the whole kingdom. Oh, and Raine doesn’t have any magic.

This was a great ending to the series and stays true to the light spirit of the previous books. We get to meet Tam’s family and his former teacher and see more of the goblin country. One of my favorite literary troupes is enemies forced to work together so I enjoyed seeing Carnades with the group.

For a last book in the series, we’re introduced to a lot of new characters, including Tam’s brother and parents. My favorite was the crusty old mage who eats stinky cheeses.

I’ve really enjoyed the characters in the series and most of them are brought together here. The villains are villainous and the heroes have to overcome their own fears to save the day.

Some might find the ending a bit too convenient but considering the length of the series, I think that was appropriate.

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