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.)