Baker, Kage: (03) Mendoza in Hollywood

I continue to enjoy Kage Baker’s Company series with the third book, Mendoza in Hollywood, which is the first new to me. I think this book is an improvement over the first two in a couple of respects, though it continues the less-than-ideal trend of leaving most of the plot until pretty late in the book.

One of the improvements is that the foregrounded plot, of life in 1860s California (where Hollywood will be, eventually), turns out to be relevant to the overall plot, of the mystery of the Company. I consider this a good thing because when a book has two plots going at once, I tend to get bored with one unless they are obviously related. In addition, the earlier parts of the book (before the plot kicks into gear) are very much concerned with the ways immortals deal with love, family, home, and loss, which I found more interesting than the equivalent sections in the first two books. I also note that the overall weirdness of Mendoza’s life is beginning to complicate in ways that, presumably, will be relevant to the eventual payoff of the series. And I continue to enjoy her narration a lot; the book is almost entirely in the form of her testimony before a Company disciplinary hearing, as the opening indicates:

You want the truth from me? It’s a subjective thing, truth, you know, and you could just as easily get damning evidence you need from the datafeed transcripts. Oh, but you wouldn’t get my motive, would you? I see the point.

Will it help if I freely confess? I killed six—no, seven—mortal men, though I must say it was under provocation. I acted in direct violation of all the laws that govern us, of the principles instilled in me when I was at school. I betrayed those principles by becoming involved in a mortal quarrel, supporting a cause I knew must fail in the end. Worst of all, I stole Company property—myself, when I deserted the post to which I had been assigned. I don’t expect mercy, señors.

But it might help you to know that what I did, I did for love.

I had an unfortunate experience when I was a young operative, you see; I was baptized in the blood of a martyr. No, really. Did you know those things work, baptisms? I didn’t. . . .

I was blindsided, as I’m sure you would have been, by the discovery that the experience had actually left some kind of psychic mark on me. . . . For a long time I thought I had shaken off his spell. I was almost happy there in the mountains all alone. But you wouldn’t let well enough alone. You sent me back into mortal places, and he found me again, tracked me by the mark he’d put on me for that purpose.

He will never let me rest.

I speculate that the book may be the end of an opening trilogy for the series: it comes back to the very opening of the first, and the next book appears not to have a historical setting. I’m really looking forward to additional movement on the overall plot, and it’s only the vague feeling that I ought to write up one book before starting the next that’s kept me from plunging ahead (well, and lack of time, but what else is new?).

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  1. This was my favorite of the series. The rest of the novels are set in the future, and the flaws in the premise become more and more obvious. (There will be more short stories set in the past, but I was never convinced the short stories were completely consistent with the novels.) I’m tempted to advise you to stop here, but on second thought you should read the next book to see if the new plot threads are worth reading.

  2. Konrad: thanks for the thought, but it would take a lot, at this point, to keep me from wanting to find out what happens with the future plot, because I am like that.
    (ObDisclaimer to new people: spoil me and die.)

  3. I preferred the first few books and was increasingly uninterested in the overarching plot, but the last book tied it all up well enough that I was glad I had stuck with it.

  4. Well, I’ll just supply a dissenting voice to the “earlier books were better”…actually, I’m not sure, since it’s been awhile since I read the earlier ones, and I haven’t done a re-read. But I think the later books each have some gems, in their different ways (and some flaws, as well)…each time I got the feeling Baker might inevitably be going off the rails, she managed to pull it out or right the ship, so to speak. I’m left to conclude that she’s a really talented, entertaining writer.

  5. Cool, thanks, both of you. I’m still having fun reading, is all I can say for now.

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