The first novel of Kage Baker’s critically acclaimed, much-loved series, the Company, introduces us to a world where the future of commerce is the past.
In the 24th century, the Company preserves works of art and extinct forms of life (for profit of course). It recruits orphans from the past, renders them all but immortal, and trains them to serve the Company, Dr. Zeus, Inc. One of these is Mendoza, the botanist. She is sent to Elizabethan England to collect samples from the garden of Sir Walter Iden. But while there, she meets Nicholas Harpole, with whom she falls in love. And that love sounds great bells of change which will echo down the centuries, and through the succeeding novels of the Company.
Breathtakingly detailed and written with great aplomb, In the Garden of Iden is a contemporary classic of the science-fiction genre.
©1997 Kage Baker (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Fasten your seat belt—you’re in for a wild ride.” (Gardner Dozois, editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction)
“Easily on a level with Le Guin’s or Resnick’s first novels.” (New York Review of Science Fiction)
“Clever…[with] a generous dollop of antic wit.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
Audible listener since the late 1990s. I mostly listen to science fiction, fantasy, history, and science.
So, this was interesting.
I was expecting the usual time-travel sort of science fiction - the protagonists visit the great events of the day to save Shakespeare from an assassin, the wisdom of future is used to comment on the past, etc. The Garden of Iden is not that kind of book. It is instead mostly a strange slice-of-life in an English manor during the great events of reformation and counter-reformation. And the characters, far from being wise beings from the future due to the interesting way that the late Ms. Barker uses time travel, are instead deeply flawed and fascinating people on not-very-important missions to do things like collect rare plants . At times the book seems to be a romance, at times an adventure story, at times a coming of age story, but it isn't really any of these. It is interesting, though, and incredibly well researched, and, despite meandering a bit, ultimately compelling.
And the reading! What an interesting approach to reading a first person narration - this piece is almost acted, somewhat petulantly. It was a highlight of the book, and one of the most interesting performances yet.
If you are tired of standard SF/Time Travel/Urban Fantasy tropes, this is a refreshing change, if an odd book. I can't say it was always a propulsive read, but it was very worthwhile and emotionally satisfying one.
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.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
This book had been on my wishlist for a very long time. But that was because I had thought it was a science fiction book about time travellers. It is not.
The back story (i.e. how the characters got to the 16th century) is science-fictiony, but the story itself is an attempt at a literary romance (with religious underpinnings) set in the 16th century. The only humor is in the anachronisms the author intentionally added to the story (i.e. the main character accidently shows a 16th century maid a magazine from the 23rd century... haha)
I read somewhere that it is similar to Connie Willis' books (To Say Nothing of the Dog, for example), and that is actually a very accurate comparison. I don't like historical fiction, and don't find this kind of humor funny, and don't really care about romance in the 16th century, or the religious underpinnings of that era... hence my great disappointment in this story.
If you like Willis' work, you will probably like this story. If you're looking for a science fiction take on time travel, you won't find it here.
Don't get me wrong - it's well written and somewhat engaging, it's just not a science fiction novel as I had expected. If you like historical fiction this is probably a pretty good one. (And I will re-iterate that I really don't enjoy historical fiction so the fact I even finished this book says something as to how well it was written.)
The narration is well-done. There is no gore or foul language and no descriptions of sex (people have it, it's just not described).
The concept was good, and I am interested in getting a hold of books after this one, Some of the descriptions of the company seem like they will be better after the audience has had time to get their brains around the concepts of the company.
Good character voice recognition, but It dragged a bit at times...
I was playing this in the car, and a friend of mine was with me randomly in the middle of the book. They were comfortably listening to something that could have been a historic story, then the immortals are by themselves, and anachronistic abounds. The sputtering, and shock of my passenger as they start talking about robotic parts, and listing off animals and plants that would be extinct by X date.
Huntress of Dirty Socks
Imaginative, entertaining, fresh
Joseph, the facilitator. At first glance, a company man who does what he needs to do to get the job done. Later you see there's a lot more to this guy: common sense up the wazoo but a softie at the core. He has heart.I'm glad he gets explored in more depth in Baker's later novels.
This is my first time with Ms. Raouf. Like one of the other commenters mentioned, her voice didn't at first fit my idea of the "world-weary Mendoza", but then it made sense. She's only 19, she's just a kid, and it all fits.
I am so looking forward to the rest of "The Company Novels" as well as Kage Baker's collections of short stories. She is one of those incredible, yet under-appreciated authors who never fails to deliver a good tale. God bless Kage Baker, she left this earth too soon.
Join me on GoodReads too!
I like Time Travel stories and have not been this excited about one since reading ‘Blackout’ & ‘All Clear’ by Connie Willis in 2010, and in fact I can tell you that I enjoyed ‘In the Garden of Iden’ much more than those because (bear with me) it seemed more believable. Connie Willis’ future seemed too mechanical to me – not “techy” enough to be realistic… and YES I realize how ludicrous that all sounds.
This book hooked me right form the start with its captivating premise that Time Travel was invented out of necessity to test if the invention of immortality was successful! So intriguing! I did not realize when I started reading that this was book one in a series of (I think about) 10 books; I’m keyed up that there is more to look forward to. In this book, our heroine goes back to Elizabethan England and falls in love with a “local mortal”. I won’t tell you more because I don’t want to give away any spoilers.
While I don’t care for romances and that element in this story kind of slowed things down for me, I can still easily rate it as a favourite because the idea held my interest throughout the whole book, plus there is the promise of so many more interesting things to come over the course of the entire series – I am crazy curious!
Having said that, I won’t rush off and read Book Two (Sky Coyote) right away, I want to spread it out a little more and take my time with the series. I don’t want to gobble them all up and once and get sick of them.
The narration was fantastic so I am really disappointed that the rest of the series is not available on Audible. Maybe one day… let's hope!
I prefer intelligent, complex stories with deeply developed characters. I'm not a fan of most popular novels; my taste is more eccentric.
I was worried from reading some of the reviews that this would be a long, boring novel about boring things. It turned out to be thoroughly engaging from the very start. Cyborgs living in medieval England! How intriguing! The narration is witty, casual, and pleasant to the ears. The story revolves around the love affair of a mortal martyr and an immortal "operative", but it never feels like a romance novel. The fantasy aspect never feels far fetched either. I believed this story from beginning to end. I think the best books are the ones that make you forget you are reading/listening because they just smoothly carry you away. I was carried away by this one and I'm so glad I've finally discovered the Company series.
I nearly abandoned this series after book one in print but was richly rewarded by the subsequent volumes.
The backstory is barely limned. The characters begin their development. And then it stops.
It gets considerably better. Where are the rest of them in audio format?
Small amount of cute time travel asides, but mostly the story of an adolescent girls first love. Not a bad book, just not that interesting as first love stories go.
The story was fast paced, the characters are well drawn.
There are quite a few.
Janan Raouf was able to convey the various characters as well as the various speaking voices the characters had (accented, spoken loud, or just transmitted between each other).
Not quite, but I was always looking forward to my daily commute.
Recommended! This is a smart chick lit with SF and historical elements.
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