Review of Sky Coyote by Kage Baker

Image of the book cover of Sky Coyote by Kage BakerBaker’s flip, hard-boiled voice offers a pleasant counterpoint to the ageless characters that inhabit The Company novels. In the 24th century, a mysterious entity known as Dr. Zeus, Incorporated (aka The Company) has discovered how to travel back in time. In order to save on the prohibitively expensive cost of time travel, The Company recruits young humans to undergo extensive surgical enhancement that transform them into immortal cyborgs to do their bidding through the ages.

Baker’s books offer both lucid prose and deft storytelling. She achieves the difficult task of delivering self-contained story arcs in each book while also enticing the reader to follow the thread of a longer-form plot, one that stretches from the dawn of humanity to the 24th century. Who are the mysterious forces behind The Company, and what is their eventual endgame?

In this installment, cyborg “Facilitator” Joseph embarks on an assignment in pre-Columbian Alta Calfornia. His job: to convince a Chumash village to abandon their ancestral home before white settlers wipe them out. To give his story credence, he appears to them as Sky Coyote, patron god of the tribe. Baker’s well-researched facts (she’s a native Californian and worked with the Living History Centre) lend verisimilitude to the fantastical story lines that might prove unbelievable in less skillful hands.

Review of Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Image of the book cover of Midwinterblood by Marcus SedgewickMidwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick is a lyrical, haunting book which I devoured in a single night. It was shelved in the science fiction/fantasy section of my local bookstore, but the novel really defies genre. It’s more in keeping with the Gabriel Garcia Marquez tradition of magical realism than the stereotypical pulp fiction often found in the sci-fi aisle.

I love narratives that challenge the linear nature of time and push at the edges of everyday reality, especially when they incorporate beautiful language and recurring motifs. This novel does all that and more.

Set on the same island in seven different time periods, the novel explores the themes of love and sacrifice as it weaves together characters who recur in different iterations and permutations. “I might be lots of people […] Why do I have to be just one? I am lots of people and I love all of the and they love me.”

Sedgewick drew inspiration from a painting in the Swedish National Gallery called Midvinterblot (Wikipedia link here). His vivid description of the painting and the way he brought its narrative to life inspired me to research it further. This passage from the book echoes its real-life reception, which relegated it to the dust-heap of history until almost a century after its creation:

“Sacrifice. That’s a somewhat… outdated… notion, isn’t it? In this modern world?”

“Outdated?” echoed Eric. Suddenly, he felt very old. He felt that he didn’t understand.

“The theme is old, but not outdated,” he explained, feeling bewildered. “And it refers to the island, whose very name is written in blood!”

“Really?” said one of the men.

“Indeed. People think the name of this island means ‘blessed,’ and so it does, but ‘blessed’ does not mean what people think it does. In the old tongue it was blestian and before that blotsian, and before that, just blod. It means sacrifice.”

“Sacrifice.”

“To bless means to sacrifice, and in blood.”

There is a pause. A long pause.

Then, “Good. Well, thank you for your time here today, Mr. Carlsson.”

With that they left.

[ NOTE: This review was originally published at Goodreads on 7/18/2014. ]