Monday, February 2, 2015

Whole Lotta Shaking Going On

Returning to a series I haven't been back to in a while, I just finished Kage Baker's The Children of the Company, book 6 in her Company novels.

Although, really, this one isn't so much of a novel as much as it is short stories connected by reflections of one of the newly revealed antagonists of the series, Executive Facilitator Labienus. Much like Facilitator Joseph (narrator of Sky Coyote and The Graveyard Game), Labienus was recruited by Budu back in prehistory. Unlike Joseph, Labienus is working on his own endgame, which may or may not end well for humanity.

We start in early Sumerian culture, with Labienus set up as God and ruler of Nippur, En-Lil. (Interestingly, as someone who's studied Sumerian myths, I was facinated by the idea presented here that the reason the afterlife as presented in Sumerian mythos was a way to prevent suicide. The Gods created human to do all the work for them, and when you die, you go to a dark realm to be bored for eternity.) As Sumer evolves, Labienus winds up going to Egypt, where he encounters Joseph acting as court magician. While he doesn't think Joseph will be an ally, he does get Joseph to set up the mystery cults that will eventually evolve into Dr. Zeus Inc.

We find Labienus is involved in a private war with Aegeus, another Executive Facilitator trying to be the one in charge when the temporal concordance runs out. Aegeus has a protege in Victor, who's eventual fall under the sway of Labienus forms on of the overall stories within. It's Victor who must deal with Literature Preserver Lewis, last seen in the far future being taken captive and presumably killed by strange beings on Catalina Island. One of the big reveals in here concerns Lewis's time at a monastery dictating pagan tales of Ireland to a monk scribe. It seems "fairies" keep trying to take one of the monks to underhill, leading Lewis and his monkly scribe to investigate, discovering Homo sapiens umbratilis, a race of human like beings who allege that they evolved from a race other than Neanderthal or Cro-Magnan. They also seem to have ways on taking out the immortal cyborgs, which is indeed a rarity in this setting. Victor's job is to wipe Lewis's memory of anything involving this new race, which eventually succeeds. (This would also explain Lewis's issues when confronted with them in The Graveyard Game.)

Aegeus does manage to capture 2 members of umbratilis, including a female. The female eventually breeds with a normal human, and one of the few surviving children shows up much later in the plot threads.

About halfway through, we finally find out how Budu came to be in so many pieces during The Graveyard Game. Seems in an attempt to talk to Victor in San Francisco in the early morning of April 18th, 1906, Budu manages to push Victor too far. Mind you, Victor, in one of a few incidents of such, finds out he's being used as a cyborg Typhoid Mary, releasing a nasty virus that shuts Budu down right before the Tongs come in and dismember him.

Time advances, and we find out that one of our Russian cyborgs gets screwed over by Labienus for figuring out the Sattes virus. As his role is to preserve things in shipwrecks, the rescue team fails to save him from his sunken ship.

We end with Labienus preparing to interfere with Mendoza's life again, this time by sending the latest iteration of the Adonai project into her life.

Again, there is a hell of a lot of information in this volume, most of it designed to better flesh out what's been going on behind the scenes of previous volumes. We also see a resurgence of thematic content, with the cyborgs playing a sort of Eliza Doolittle to Humanity's Henry Higgens. This ranges from "Exterminate all the humans" to "Save all the humans" to "Pare down the humans to better manageable population size that they might serve us".

Can't wait to get some more breathing room to get the next volume.