Thursday, 9 August 2012

KAGE BAKER Celebrating The Company

Though Kage was only professionally active as an author for thirteen years she produced one of the most original series of science fiction I have read in a long time.

The ten volume sequence began with The Garden of Iden in 1997, ended with the Sons of Heaven ten years later, and tells the story of the very human cyborgs who work for Dr Zeus Incorporated.  The central conceit is that by the year 2355 time travel has been discovered, but only augmented humans can travel back-and no one can travel forward. Dr Zeus Incorporated sets about doing what we would all do in their position-stealing priceless art works and artefacts and selling them in their world. Kage peoples the Company with some very believable humans, in fact CO2’s Mendoza was named in homage of the central character.

The Garden of Iden is to my mind, the weakest of the sequence, it is the only story to wear its research heavily.  I think that Kage was at her best writing short stories, many of the novels in the sequence wee adapted from shorter fiction. That said the second book Sky Coyote is a fully realised novel, and its poetic ending haunted me for some time.  Her writing is lyrical, poetic and there is a wry humour throughout all her work.

The conclusion of the sequence was stunning, I shall not give the game away but I shall say that the way she subverted the tropes of science fiction, setting the reader up to expect one type of ending and leaving us with something that celebrated the human spirit. As I say there is more than a touch of the poet about her writing.

I only ever spoke to her once, indeed I did not know she had died until nearly six months afterwards. She was extremely polite in the email I received from her after I had written over brimming with enthusiasm and praise for the sequence.  I got the impression of an old world politeness that is missing these days.

I had enquired if she had ever been to England, (the Somerset town of Crewkerne features in the sequence) she informed she had not and referred me to some recent archaeology in the area.

If you have never read any of her books I would urge you to persevere past The Garden of Iden and let yourself be drawn into a truly memorable world, you won’t regret it.

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