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The Graveyard Game by Kage Baker

The Graveyard Game by Kage Baker
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Book Name: The Graveyard Game
Author: Kage Baker
Publisher(s): Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (US) Thomson Learning (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Release Date: January 16, 2001

The Company novels have finally become true science fiction. (I say finally, though I will gladly admit that I loved cyborgs in history). After a brief sojourn in a year some readers of this blog may remember – 1996 – we’re off to the future. The twenty-first century (about fifty years in our future), the twenty-second, and then the twenty-third pass by. Bit by bit, we’re drawing closer to the year 2355, when Silence will fall.

(And, no, that’s not a Doctor Who reference, at least not entirely. That’s actually how it’s phrased in the book, and it sends little shivers down my spine.)

When we last left off, Mendoza had just been sent back from Civil War-era Hollywood to prehistory as punishment. Now, starting in 1996, we get to see the repercussions of that. Joseph is back, though rather shaken once he hears about what has happened to the woman who is his daughter in all but blood, and we get to properly meet Lewis, a minor character from a previous book who certainly deserves to be a protagonist in this one. He’s exactly my sort of character: a specialist in literature (read: book nerd) who is not at all cut out for fighting and just wants to help his friend who he’s been crushing on for a couple centuries.

When the book opens, he’s meeting Joseph to tell him that he saw Mendoza. After all, her sudden arrival in the late twentieth century happened half a book ago for us, while the memory of her imprisonment in the past is fresh. For him, it’s the other way around. She was imprisoned over a hundred years before the book starts, but her spontaneous arrival in the present happened just yesterday.

Very quickly, things start to go strangely. Joseph has been working on a VR helmet (being a little too young to have concrete memories of the 1990s, this surprised me a little) which can disrupt the datalink transmitting information constantly to the Company. For twenty-four hours, he and Lewis will be unmonitored and able to speak freely.

As it turns out, this freedom from supervision will prove essential.

Lewis and Joseph come to a decision which may well turn them away from the Company forever: they will find out just what happened to Mendoza. They’ll have to do it in secret, and when they part, they do so knowing it may be years or even decades before they see one another again. Until that time, they’ll have to work separately.

It is, in fact, almost seventy years until they reunite, and then because Lewis, now working in London, has come across a picture of Bell-Fairfax, the Englishman who pulled Mendoza from the Company. He learns what Mendoza and the readers have known for some time: that Bell-Fairfax truly is the spitting image of Nicholas Harpole, the Protestant Mendoza fell in love with years ago. The resemblance is more than just uncanny. They might as well be the same man.

Things get even stranger from there. The Company is far more deeply involved in all of this than anyone could have guessed.

Oh, and it gets stranger still. There are factions in the Company. This threw me more than just about anything else Kage Baker could have written, and it throws the cyborgs, too. We’ve been seeing things through their eyes, after all. What they believe about the Company, we have little choice but to believe as well. I did start getting a little suspicious in Sky Coyote, but the factions are far more than I had expected.

Needless to say, I loved it.

The part I loved most about this book wasn’t the growing uncertainty over the Company’s modus operandi regarding its operatives (who are now “gradually retiring”, an unsettling phrase given how the Enforcers simply vanished), though I’m a big fan of growing uncertainty. It wasn’t the prospect of the Silence falling, though I’m so ready to see what happens in the twenty-fourth century. It wasn’t even Lewis, though if I were using millennial vernacular I might refer to him as my cyborg husband. It was watching the passage of time.

In between Lewis and Joseph’s meetings are sections entitled “Joseph in the Darkness”, where we get a bit of background on what’s happening in and to the world. It’s like a time lapse set down in pages, showing a possible path for our history. I think we’ve already reached the point where it will clearly be an alternate future (and thank goodness) but it’s still a fascinating one to read. As much as I love seeing what the future will be like in a science fiction story, I also want to know how we got there.

This series has rapidly become one of my favorites, and I’m eager to see where it goes next. By the end of The Graveyard Game, we’re in the twenty-third century, only about a hundred years away from when Silence will fall. I think it’s fair to say that I’m totally freaking out.

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