So far, hands down this is the best book so far in “The Company” series. It’s the first one I read, *gasp* OUT OF ORDER! But what a killer title, how could I resist? I was young and naive. 2018 me would never do such a thing!
The book starts off with Mendoza in a private hearing in 1863, and right away, she confesses to the two auditors (Company men) that she’s killed seven mortal men. We see that she’s eating Theobromos, the chocolate that intoxicates the operatives. She proceeds to spill the beans.
The story begins in 1862 California, far back before the old Hollywoodland sign was a glimmer in Thomas Fisk Goff’s eye. Mendoza is stationed here to retrieve various extinct California flora. Her fellow cyborgs each have their idiosyncrasies, and we spend the better part of this section interacting with this little ‘family’. We have a security tech who managed to keep in touch with his mortal family over the centuries, a zoologist who is an early cinema buff and Hollywood historian. Add in two anthropologists who pose as a salesman and a prostitute, and then top it off with a teenage ornithologist who collects and thinks of his specimens as pets – it’s quite the collection of personnel. Station the whole gang at a stagecoach stop with constant visitors, and they interact with a wide range of characters, including a couple of men who are involved in an international conspiracy.
The Hollywood buff takes Mendoza to scout for her plants, and it’s interesting how Baker describes the city’s history. Often the first bit of some of the stories are set in the real US past, but then Baker adds on that something happened in a future year that adds to the je ne sais quoi of the area.
On a trip through a canyon, we find out more about Mendoza – turns out she is a Crome generator – those nightmares of her lost love from the first book aren’t just in her head. She’s generating blue flashes of Crome energy with every dream, and the area they’re going to, Laurel Canyon, itself is an energy sink. Predictably the two operatives eventually take off their protective gear, and they see and hear things from the past and the future. They wind up traveling through time to modern LA, horses and all, and go to The Company’s safe house, set in a mundane 1996 cul-de-sac.
They report in and are told to get ready to go back to 1862. Just as Mendoza and Hollywood buff – and the horses – are on the verge of traveling back in time, Mendoza’s friend Lewis runs in and sees her in the machine. He desperately warns her “Mendoza, for God’s sake! Don’t go with him!” but it’s too late and they’re jolted back to the past. Mendoza doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and neither do we . All of this history of California and The Company doesn’t really prepare you for what’s to come, namely the man Mendoza meets, Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax, who is (highlight for spoiler) a Doppelgänger of Nicholas Harpole, Mendoza’s doomed love from In the Garden of Iden. And do we think that will go well? Of course not!
The international conspiracy takes up the last part, and Mendoza’s actions are what has gotten her to the point of the hearing that opens the book. For one reason or another, all of the characters from the stagecoach inn are out of the picture, so it’s Mendoza all alone with Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax. That can’t be good – Mendoza on her own is a recipe for disaster. The novel is a little disjointed in that we spend so much time with her ‘family,’ and then she’s sent off on a separate adventure. We also don’t get many answers to our previous questions about The Company, but we do get a lot of background. Getting back inside Mendoza’s head was a lot of fun, even if she doesn’t exactly know what’s going on either. The characters and the setting hold this novel together, and it’s an excellent installment in The Company series.
Next up, The Graveyard Game.