Baker, Kage: (07.5) Gods and Pawns

I read Gods and Pawns, Kage Baker’s second collection of stories about the Company, out of order. Technically it was published between the last two novels of the series, but I thought it would be better to get all the stuff without narrative momentum out of the way, leaving me with—I hope—a straight shot of plot through the end of the series.

As a collection, this was mostly pretty satisfying. It contains seven stories, most of which are about the darker sides of the Company’s history. Not without some humor, though, such as the bits in “To the Land Beyond the Sunset” where Lewis and Mendoza have camping misadventures:

Lewis spent the next few minutes busily gathering fruit. Then a tarantula reached out of a clump of leaves and grabbed back a guava he had just picked, at which point Lewis discovered just how far he could jump from a standing start.

Possibly the lightest story is “A Night on the Barbary Coast,” which doesn’t work as well for me, not because of its lightness but because Joseph’s voice seems off (for all that it’s nice to see him again).

There’s also a longish backstory for the character introduced in the epilogue of The Children of the Company, which continues to puzzle me slightly. If it’s meant as a throwaway explanation for the historical character’s traits, perhaps my history isn’t sufficient to appreciate the resonance. If it’s meant to establish backstory for a character who will be prominent in the last two novels, it seems kind of late for that. But, I guess we’ll see.

Again, not anything I suggest going far out of one’s way for unless one is a completist, but a perfectly fine read.

(Also, why isn’t this trade paperback same size as the other Tor trade paperbacks of the Company books? It’s inelegant, darn it.)

6 Comments

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  1. Are you going to be reading Rude Mechanicals>? I have been contemplating reading the Company series (so I really appreciate these posts), but have been wondering how much of it is critical.

  2. I hadn’t been planning on it–but I see it’s available as a free audiobook, so I’ll throw it on the iPod in case I get back in the mood for audio fiction any time soon.
    (The description makes it sound entirely non-critical to the series as a whole, though.)

  3. Update: Joseph doesn’t sound like that in my head, so no audiobook of “Rude Mechanicals” for me.

  4. That is a real problem with audiobooks — if the reader isn’t good, or merely isn’t consistent with my personal notions of how a major character should sound, I really can’t enjoy the book.
    Sometimes, I’ll grow into it if I persevere. I didn’t much like the Recorded Books reader for Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr books, but after a time I stopped minding so much (even though Bernie doesn’t sound like that in my head). I can’t listen to Lawrence Block read them himself; his voice is perfect for his Keller books, but he reads Bernie the same way, which just doesn’t work.
    I’ve just started an audio version of Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” books (which I have not yet read). So far, the reading is perfectly acceptable; we’ll see how it goes.
    David

  5. I tried the Temeraire books, but while I don’t know what Temeraire sounds like in my head, I know it’s not that. Oh well.
    I think some books may just never sound right to me out loud–Dortmunder would be the other main example.

  6. I know what you mean about what Temeraire sounds like. I find myself mentally translating to a different voice. That may not work when T gets more talkative; I’ll probably switch to reading at that point, if I haven’t just gotten used to it.

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