In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker, for Timeslip Tuesday

I met Kage Baker, so to speak, this fall when I enjoyed her middle grade fantasy, Hotel Under the Sand, and looking around to see what else she wrote, I found one of her adult books, In the Garden of Iden (Harcourt Brace, 1997), courtesy of Leila at Bookshelves of Doom. Time travel, botany in Elizabethan England, romance, saving endangered species through the miracles of science--what was not to want?

Way off in the future, the Company was created when Dr. Zeus discovered the secrets of time travel and immortality. Both came with a catch. For the former, it was that travel past the point of your own present was impossible. The catch for the later was that immortality was a dubious proposition, coming, as it did, with psychological issues of an unpleasant sort. Dr. Zeus' solution was to make chosen people in the past immortal--they could then busily get to work, squirrelling away precious works of art, animals and plants that were doomed to extinction, and priceless treasures and clever investments that could be "found" in the future, and used to fund the whole processes. Agents of the Company, fitted with all sorts of cyborgian modifications, filled the past.

In late Medieval Spain, a little girl was saved from the Spanish Inquisition and became immortal. Now Mendoza, trained as a botanist, finds herself on her first field mission, in England during the reign of Bloody Mary. She and her colleagues have come there to find the Garden of Iden, a fabulous collection of rare plants assembled at a country estate.

The botany part is relatively easy for Mendoza. But she is, despite all her modifications, still a teenaged girl. In the Garden of Iden she meets Nicholas. Young, handsome, preoccupied by religion, he transforms her life...and maybe her eternity.

I would have liked a lot more botany and a lot less of Nicholas and Mendoza's relationship, which fogged over the windows of much of the book, as it were. I almost enjoyed it a lot, but didn't, in the end. Although the premise is as great a premise as has ever graced a science fiction book, and although there were many moments of wonder and humor (I especially liked the snippets of the Company Broadcasts, providing news and entertainment straight Bloody Mary's London), it wasn't quite my cup of tea. For this I blame Nicholas, who never quite convinced me, and who took up far too much of the book (and Mendoza's time) for my liking.

That being said, I've joined Leila in putting in a library request for book number 2--The Sky Coyote. And then we'll see about seven books that come after that...

Note on time travel: this is an oddish one time travel-wise, because the main characters never travel through time, yet, because of their up-bringing in the Company's enclave, they are products of a different era. So Mendoza is both a late Medieval Spanish teenager, and an ultra-futuristic hyper-educated cyborg in one person (which I think is cool). It is also a rather refreshing change to have time travel facilitated by technological conveniences and a large support staff, thereby avoiding the anachronistically awkward moments that plague most young time travelers.


  1. This is appropriate considering the post at Tor regarding Kage and her health.

    Nice review!

  2. Yes, I had just heard too that Kage Baker is very ill with, among other things, brain cancer. I have never read her books. I didn't know she did anything but adult books. I'll have to look for Hotel Under the Sand.

  3. That is sad news about Kage Baker...I hope she somehow makes it through.


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