Saturday, April 6, 2013

It's like a Tom Petty song...only with cyborgs...

I discussed The Company novels by Kage Baker after reading the second book, and now just finished Mendoza in Hollywood.

Mendoza narrated the first book, The Garden of Iden, where we met our little immortal cyborg as she was recused from the Inquisition in Spain, made an immortal cyborg, then became one of Dr. Zeus Inc.'s botanists. She met a wonderful young man whom she loved in England under the reign of Bloody Mary, Queen of Scots, and had her heart destroyed when the Papists burned her heretical Lutheran lover at the stake.

After the events in Sky Coyote, Mendoza remained in California, preserving plant species in relative isolation beforfe being reassigned by the company to a Stagecoach way station outside of Los Angeles in 1862. (Also American Civil War period. there's a lot of plot and counterplot in the background as Mexico and Britain try to interfere with Union supplies from the coast using Confederate plotters.)

We meet Porfirio, who remembered enough of his family to become a special guardian to them even into his immortal life, which come back to bite him about halfway through the novel; Einar, who's preserving coyotes and longhorns and also is a huge fan of Early Hollywood (which in this time period hasn't started yet); Oscar, the anthropologist who peddles wares to get information from the locals; Juan Batista, the bird guy with evil condor Erich von Stroheim; and Imarte, posing as the stagecoach lady of negotiable virtue.

Given that Mendoza's part in all of this really doesn't get going until the last few chapters, most of the book focuses on Early Statehood residents, as well as Einar's obsessions of what will be  where in several decades. (During the latter part of the book, Mendoza and her beau wind up on a spot marked "Harrison Ford's front porch".) There's also the Immortal Film Festival, easily disguised from mortals due to a drought and the Civil War interrupting stage coach traffic. Which leads to one very long and interesting chapter detailing D. W. Griffith's follow up to Birth of a Nation, Intolerance. (Which I had to Wiki, since I'd never heard of it. I was kind of amused to find that Lillian Gish was in both of the aforementioned movies, since she at one point lived in the house next to where my mother currently resides.) That particular movie sets off Imarte, who was made immortal during the days of Babylon. Watching the Persians at the gate destroying her city again, combined with lots of whiskey, has her chasing off into the valleys of SoCal for a night, reliving her past. It's another glimpse into the hell of being a being who won't die and can't forget anything.

There's also a chapter of what I assume is foreshadowing for a later part of the series, wherein we get more of a glimpse of Mendoza's latent psychic abilities. (As of yet, these are largely undefined. They weren't really mentioned at all in the first book, and Joseph mentions them in passing in the second. In here, a trip to Laurel Canyon winds up interacting with "Chrome radiation" [also not really well defined, but something that some beings generate that also builds up in crystals] and sends Porfirio and Mendoza very briefly to modern era LA, complete with smog, cars, and gang warfare. They get sent back to where they started fairly quickly (since 2 people in 19th century clothes on horseback appearing from nowhere might set off a few alarms), but not before Lewis, another character from earlier in the series, tries to warn her not to go back.

Anyway, in the last part, as pretty much everyone else is gone from the Inn, Mendoza ends up meeting British spy Edward, there to pick up a valise left by a colleague who left it there during an...interlude...with Imarte. Since the valise has plans dealing with the British backing the Confederate privateers trying to cut Union gold supplies (centered on Catalina Island).

Anyway, Mendoza sees her lover Nicolas (last seen burning on a stake) in Edward, and winds up trying to help him in what she already knows to be a failed plot.

Much of the conclusion tells us of what her punishment is for doing so, and meditates on reincarnation and whether or not being immortal is always such a good things. We also get more of the "What is Dr. Zeus Inc really up to?" that Joseph ran in to towards the end of Sky Coyote, as Dr. Zeus Inc. has interests in Catalina, and there are tales of giant white men out there who some presume to be aliens.

Really, this entire series has shown more improvement as I read further in to it. Not that I didn't like Iden, but much of the hints of a greater metaplot weren't really present within, and it got bogged down in comparative theology. Now, though... my curiosity is piqued as to what will happen now as the series continues. (Ms. Baker evidently died, but she did finish the series before that, at least according to wikipedia.)