Review: Sky Coyote and Mendoza in Hollywood, Kage Baker

I was going to review Kelly Corrigan’s memoir The Middle Place, but then I realized that there is no particular value in reviewing things in the order you read them, especially when you are devouring a series like a wascally wabbit devours carrots, and each review you write that is not dedicated to the series in question is going to put you further and further behind on reviews.  So here we are.  My contention that Kelly Corrigan is mistaken in her book’s central claim will have to wait.

Speaking of sound effects, Kage Baker’s books are now giving me the mental sound effect of Cookie Monster eating cookies.  Ommmm narm narm narm narm narm narm narm narm.

Sky Coyote mostly ditches Mendoza in order to follow Joseph, the cyborg who rescued her from the Inquisition.  A century and a half on from the events of In the Garden of Iden (the characters haven’t aged, of course, being cyborgs), Joseph has been charged with impersonating a Chumash deity so that the Company can preserve one Chumash village and their culture entire, before white settlers come to wipe them out.  Joseph, a company man with wobbly morals from way back, is a perfect choice to impersonate the Chumash trickster god Sky Coyote.

Set to rest are my fears that the second book by Kage Baker would disappoint me, though now my fears are taking a longer view and worrying that the series will not be satisfactorily resolved in the end.  I was reluctant to begin Sky Coyote because I thought I might not enjoy all Joseph all the time, cynical manipulative trickster that he is.  Fortunately, as we learn more about his past, and particularly about his past with Mendoza, he proves to be a far more sympathetic character than I perhaps gave him credit for last time out.

Some intriguing things come to light in this book.  We learn more about the differetn brands of cyborg, and we hear about the fact that cyborgs are not given any history past the year 2355.  Why, we don’t know.  We also meet some twenty-fourth century humans, who have set up a fancy base in order to supervise the cyborgs’ handling of the Chumash project.  They are stupid, childish, and squeamishly averse to all forms of violence and vice, including smoking, drinking, and even eating the cyborg drug Theobromos (which is chocolate).  Joseph and the other cyborgs are mystified: Are all humans like this?  And if so, how did they ever manage to create the cyborgs?

Narm narm narm narm narm.

Mendoza in Hollywood jumps 150 years ahead again.  After spending the time since Sky Coyote in relative solitude, Mendoza is summoned to Los Angeles for a mission to save various species of plant from the drought that will occur.  She is based at a stagecoach inn with four other operatives of various disciplines, and she is haunted by nightmares of her past.  Time is acting strangely, and Mendoza is producing Crome’s radiation in her sleep, a kind of energy that gives psychic powers to humans and is not meant to be present, ever, in children chosen to be converted to cyborgs.  A lot of very bewildering stuff happens, stuff that according to all the laws the cyborgs know should not be able to happen.

However, this excitement does not last forever.  Mendoza runs out of plants to save, and just as she thinks she will die of boredom (highlight the white text for spoilers, which will spoil the entire ending of this book as well as the ending of In the Garden of Iden) a British man identical to her martyred lover Nicholas Harpole shows up pursuing a British conspiracy to take over California while the Americans are busy fighting the Civil War.  HIJINKS ENSUE but not for very long as Nicholas Harpole Mark 2 (he’s called Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax now) soon gets shot dead, sending poor lovelorn Mendoza into a killing rage.  The Company are not fans of killing rages in their cyborgs.

These books have been for the Time Travel Reading Challenge, and my list for that challenge has really been shot all to hell by now, but really, I could not have anticipated this sort of a bookish windfall when I made the list, could I?

As of this writing I am halfway through the fourth book, The Graveyard Game, and the plot, my doves, it is thickening.  It is thickening so much in fact that it is beginning to resemble the Candy Land Molasses Swamp.  By the time I post this review I expect I shall be ensconced most thrillingly in The Life of the World to Come, and I am expecting some serious payoffs for all this build-up.

When I asked y’all to recommend me fantasy books, this reading experience is exactly what I was looking for: tumbling headlong through a long, thrilling series with ever more mysterious mysteries about the world the characters live in.  HOORAY.  IT WORKED.

Other reviews of Sky Coyote:

Regular Ruminations
bookshelves of doom

Other reviews of Mendoza in Hollywood:

Adventures in Reading

Did I miss yours?

Edit to add: Clare has reminded me that “narm” means something else.  I don’t want to edit and change it and make her comment look crazy, and thus I will just say here that yes, nom nom nom nom is a better description of the sound effect anyway.

  • lol – I’m loving the sound effects 😀

    • I live in a very sound-effect-y world. It’s because my brain is a (sometimes unpleasantly) restless brain. 😛

  • Narm is what we nerds call moments in film that are so awful that they’re actually charming, which makes your nom nom nom hilarious to me. 🙂

    This series sounds magnificent! I’ve already added the first to my list, but it looks like I ought to clear out some time on my calendar if it grabs me.

    • I knew that! I totally knew that, and I still said narm narm narm instead of nom nom nom. For the record, narm is not an accurate description of Kage Baker! Or Cookie Monster, now that I think about it.

      It’s really good, this series. I’m thinking of taking a break and reading some Angela Carter between the fourth and fifth books though, just because I’m afraid of getting burnt out on this world by reading too many at a time. Plus I’m trying to decide if I want to read the short story collections in the order the author wrote them, or leave them until later.

  • How fun to find a series like this that you just can’t stop reading!

    • I know! It is wonderful! I wish there were more of it!

      Well, no, I guess I don’t really. I guess the more books in a series, the more likely the series is to jump the shark, and that’s always depressing.

  • I had to go look up narm and got to the National Association of Recording Marketers. HUH? otherwise, despite not having any half clue what you are talking about, I could say there are moments of awesomeness.

    • Sorry, I added a link to explain it at the end of the post, but not until later on in the evening yesterday. “Narm” is this word that’s used to describe something in a book or film that’s supposed to be really serious, but it’s not done well so it just comes off cheesy and ridiculous. I’m kind of surprised Wikipedia doesn’t define it!

      • oh, I followed the *right* link – great word! Just had to toy with you a bit. but truly, my first search yielded the Recording Marketers.
        🙂
        narm is a cool word.

  • I haven’t heard of any of these books, but I’m glad you’re having so much fun! It’s always great to discover books with new worlds to get lost in.

    • I know! Each book stretches the boundaries of the world a little more, which is great and so much fun to read.

  • Eva

    What?! Chocolate swamp?! That just doesn’t make any sense…who would be sad to be stuck in chocolate?

    • I know! It’s so stupid! If I got stuck in a chocolate swamp, I’d say screw the Candy Land king man, I’m staying here forever. Oh, but apparently they also have it to where you don’t get stuck. They got rid of those black dots that meant you were stuck until you pulled a card of that color. Now you just lose a turn. Kids today have it so easy.

  • anna

    I always mentally equated queen frostine with the white witch, and was a little worried about her. She was clearly untrustworthy.

    • Do you think downgrading her to Princess makes her less threatening? And why do you think you have problems with powerful women?

      • anna

        well, it does make her less like the White Witch, who was claiming to be Queen of Narnia, was one of the three reasons I equated her with the white witch:

        1. She’s Frostine, thereby being like Winter
        2. She’s Queen which the White Witch Claimed to be
        3. She’s wearing white.

        I think with the princess negating number 2, I would feel a lot more comfortable with her, cause the princess thing would explain number 3, wearing white fluffy dresses as a princess makes much more sense than as a queen.

        As for my issues with powerful women, I think they arise of internalized societal stigmas, which being in lawschool with men, and which being forced to learn in an adversarial socratic method has reinforced by making me feel that I can never compete with them on even terms. It’s sad. If only I could have gone to a women only lawschool taught in a cooperative method, I might have been able to overcome these issues. Alas.

  • This series is now officially on my list of Books I Want To Read In New Zealand. It sounds awesome.

    • It is extremely awesome. I hope this series is Books You Can Find in New Zealand – none of the bookshops around here have them!

  • This review really piqued my interest, so I googled Kage Baker and was so saddened to see that she passed away a few months ago. I’ve never even read any of her works, but after your glowing review, I feel as if I love them already too.

    • I hope you find them and enjoy them as much as I am! I was really sad to find out that she had died recently too – I’d have loved to have seen what she would do next.

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