At Cahuenga Pass, in a stagecoach inn on the road to Los Angeles, Mendoza meets her new cyborg colleagues in this third novel of the Company. In the vein of Grand Hotel, we get to know the lives and stories, both sad and funny, of these operatives from the twenty-fourth century. As bullets fly overhead, we learn that Mendoza is being haunted, in her dreams, by the man she loved and lost three centuries ago and whose ghost is unexpectedly reincarnated by the arrival of a very large, very suave, and very handsome British spy, Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax. We watch the immortals’ reactions as they screen, for relaxation, D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance; we root for Oscar, an anthropologist in the guise of a traveling salesman, as he tries repeatedly to sell the Criterion Patented Brassbound Pie Safe.
SPOILERS FOR SERIES AND THIS BOOK
It’s been a while since I read Sky Coyote and I meant to read the third book in this series a hell of a lot sooner than I did. Ah well.
I wasn’t as enamored of this book as I was with the first two. First off, there really isn’t any plot – Mendoza is sent to gather plants in Los Angeles in the midst of the American Civil War when the place is still a lawless wasteland and a conglomeration of Yankees, Mexicans, and Native Americans all living together and also trying to kill each other. Mendoza does her job admirably. And she hangs out with the other agents on assignment, Porfirio, Einar, Oscar, Imarte, and Juan Baptista. And for the majority of the book, that is essentially it. They talk, do their jobs, share their stories, and get into a couple of minor scrapes. Up until Edward Alton Fairfax-Bell arrives, I was super frustrated because it seemed like the only point to the book was historical-world building and set-up. There is literally an entire chapter dedicated to a play-by-play of (that movies by person) and for the life of me, I do not know why it is there or what purpose it serves.
Even once Edward arrives and Mendoza involves herself in his schemes, the only thing that arises out of it is her discovery of what appears to be the Company’s origins. Useful and intriguing stuff, but honestly most of this book was not needed for this discovery at all. It’s not that the history and characters weren’t fascinating or fun to read about. But there was practically no story whatsoever.
Also, what the hell is up with Edward having the same exact body (and potentially soul?) as Nicholas Harpole, Mendoza’s long-dead lover? That’s… strange. And it was super strange that she was so willing and ready to fall in love with this incarnation, even though his personality is entirely different. Sure, he has the intellect and secularist approach to morals that Nicholas did, but Edward is a suave, calculating bastard while Nicholas was an upstanding citizen who believed in doing the right thing and telling the truth no matter what.
Disappointment abounds. Kage Baker’s writing is as good and imaginative as ever and the mystery surrounding the Company is going along nicely, but I did not like this book. It felt like a series of vignettes rather than a whole story and that was not what I wanted.
Disclosure – library