Like Wodehouse, Edmund Crispin's novels seem so blissfully effortless that it is only on re-reading that the craft becomes apparent. I was thrilled to find this old friend on Audible and I have thoroughly enjoyed the performance given by the narrator. In Holy Disorders, Crispin uses comedy as the velvet glove to conceal the iron fist of the plot: it is 1939 after all, and everyone is keeping an eye out for enemy agents. But given that the Devon cathedral town is chiefly known for witchburning, perhaps something more eldritch is in play? The comedy is the chief attraction, though, it reaches heights of glorious silliness that only a well-educated mind can concoct. The scene where two amateur detectives are attempting to grill a suspect but keep quoting Poe at each other is a gem, as is Fen's response when asked the name of the knot he has proposed would allow a murderer to ascend a height and then climb back down and take his rope away with him. It is, says Fen, "called the hook, line and sinker, because that's what the reader will have to swallow". This isn't a book for people who demand a patina of Seriousness in their mysteries, but for people who love playful erudition it is a major treat.
I was utterly thrilled when I saw that the late Kage Baker's magnificent Company series had made it to Audible at last and I spent my last credit on this without thinking twice. And now I've listened to the recording I am even more thrilled - this is a wonderful treat. At first I was unsure about the bright tones of the narrator - so utterly unlike how I imagine everyone's favorite world-weary cyborg botanist Mendoza to sound - but after listening for a while I was won over. This book is read with great expressiveness, wit and charm, and the narrator gives the text its due. So many audiobooks seem to be read by automatons who appear to have never read the book prior to recording their narration and I am so glad that Kage Baker's work has been given to a narrator who cares about doing a good job.
And as for the book? If you don't know Kage Baker's Company series already I wish I was you so I could have the fun of reading these books for the first time all over again. In The Garden Of Iden is the beginning of one of the most inventive, intriguing series in SF - I honestly can't think of anything that beats it for breadth of vision. I don't want to give too much away, because figuring out what is going on is a lot of fun, but briefly: the main characters in this series are immortal cyborgs created from human children by a shadowy company that augments them, raises them, educates them, and sends them back in time to live and work though many thousands of years of human history (and prehistory!) collecting valuables for the Company and conducting research to create new valuables. Kage Baker had a true passion for history as well as speculative fiction and it shows. It's a joy to see the development of humanity through the eyes of her much put upon cyborgs. In this first book we meet Mendoza, a young cyborg taken by the Company from the dungeons of the Spanish Inquisition who now finds herself on her first mission, collecting botanical samples in Tudor England.
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