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In the Garden of Iden [Paperback]

Kage Baker
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 2 1998
Mendoza is a brilliant botanist. Rescued from certain death at the hands of the Spanish inquisition, she is returned to her own era. Nicholas Harpole is a idealist caught in the exciting, dangerous world of 16th-century England. When they fall in love the results are both romantic and dangerous.

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From Amazon

In 16th-century Spain, everybody expects the Spanish Inquisition, as they have a well-known tendency to cart people off to their dungeons on trumped-up charges. What 5-year-old Mendoza, on the brink of being tortured as a Jew, is totally unprepared for is to be rescued by the Company--the ultimate bureaucracy of the 24th century--and made immortal. In return, all she has to do is travel through time on a series of assignments for the Company and collect endangered botanical specimens. The wisecracking, mildly misanthropic Mendoza wants nothing to do with historical humans, but her first assignment is to travel to England in 1553--uncomfortably close to those damn Inquisitors--with Joseph and Nefer, two other Company operatives. Their intent is to gather herb samples from the garden of Sir Walter Iden, a foolish though generous country squire. (Kage Baker knows her Shakespeare: Sir Walter is the descendant of Alexander Iden, loyal subject of Henry IV, who slew the hungry rebel Jack Cade in that very garden in Kent.)

The cyborg trio poses as Doctor Ruy Lopez, his daughter Rosa (the irrepressible Mendoza, now grown), and her duenna, Doña Marguerita; Sir Walter's hospitality and discretion are bought for the promise of restored youth. (There are hilarious moments that call to mind the Coneheads, who claimed to be from France when caught doing anything peculiar.) Sir Walter's secretary, Nicholas Harpole, is immediately suspicious of and hostile towards the strange "Spanish" visitors, which prompts Mendoza to fall in love with him. Nicholas has his own badly kept secret: he's proudly Protestant at a time when Queen Mary and Philip of Spain are on a Catholicizing rampage. Mendoza knows Nicholas is probably doomed, and that as a Company operative she cannot meddle with his fate, but love makes people do desperate things. Baker surpasses even Connie Willis in humor and precision of period detail in this fresh, ingenious first novel.--Barrie Trinkle --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Baker's witty debut novel is a pip. Full of exquisite descriptions of 16th-century England and the Spanish Inquisition (Baker was an actor and director at the Living History Centre and has taught Elizabethan English as a second language), this is a bittersweet tale of a young woman's first love. The initial assignment for 18-year-old Mendoza, transformed into an immortal cyborg by the 24th-century Company, is to retrieve from Renaissance England an endangered plant that cures cancer. Posing as a Spanish lady accompanying her doctor father, she falls in love with the mortal Nicholas Harpole, secretary to the owner of Iden Hall and its exotic gardens. Amidst the raging Catholic/Protestant powerplays revolving around the English throne and the fervent religious bloodlust of common folk, Mendoza is torn between her task and her love. Baker's story comments powerfully on religious hypocrisy and xenophobia. Highly recommended for most collections.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written, but not her best. May 27 2004
By V. Phin
I first discovered Kage Baker's books at Joseph-Beth in Cincinnati. A story about Elizabethan England by a teacher of the nuances of Elizabethan England? Swell, I thought. Let's just buy everything of hers on the shelf and sit down with a quiche and espresso to devour.
And devour I did. You see, the first thing you need to know about Baker is that she writes smooth, fast-paced prose. The conversations are believable, paragraphs are precise, and even the moments of Elizabethan English are quite readable. There are still lovely descriptive points in which she shows herself to be an author of colourful vocabulary, describing a scene in less time than it would take most authors, simply because she knows better words.
Garden of Iden is the first book in Baker's "Company" or "Dr. Zeus" series, and apparently her first book published, ever. For those who like history, you'll be visiting Spain and England primarily, during the Age of Exploration. For those who know a great deal about either, you'll be pleased to note that much of the historical details are correct; although to be honest, I can't speak as much about Spain as I can England. More on that later. For those who like science-fiction, there's the company called Dr. Zeus, which discovered time travel and immortality through scientific means and seeks to use their immortals to salvage things from the past. Although this isn't hard sci-fi with technical specifications (Baker strikes me as extremely right-brained), there's enough to get the wheels turning, even if it's a bit far-fetched.
For those who have made a study of the "Little Tudors", as I did, the overt praise of Queen Elizabeth is a bit much. She very much makes Queen Mary-- known to the Protestant future as "Bloody Mary"-- the villain.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but slow paced March 4 2004
Format:Library Binding
I picked this book up after standing in the bookstore and reading the first few pages. The introduction about immortality and time travel caught my eye, so I bought it and brought it home.
Baker does a decent job of covering the information you need to dive into the story. She gives us background about The Company, she details how Mendoza goes through surgeries to become an operative, and she even sets up Mendoza's rescue from the hands of the Spanish Inquisition as a small child. There are some things she doesn't cover very well, like Theobromos and why the operatives are trained using mostly movies.
The novel isn't a fast paced book, but you don't really expect it to me. It takes place in a small garden in Kent, where the most exciting things are the changes in Iden himself, and the romance between Mendoza and Nicholas. I was laughing out loud when Joseph misjudged a time release drug that caused Iden to act like a man possessed.
The characters of the book are reasonably well rounded, I would say Joseph is the least fleshed out of the main characters. We know all about Mendoza, and through her relationship with Nicholas we learn much about him and his problems. I can only guess that Joseph doesn't get much billing because the second of this series is about him, and Baker wanted to establish Mendoza and her hang-ups before moving on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Blood Mary and the romantic problems she causes Sept. 29 2003
Format:Library Binding
In the Garden of Iden is Kage Baker's debut novel of "The Company." It's a science fiction novel set in the 1550s, during the reign in Britain of Queen Mary. Baker's fluid style is a joy to read and her transformation from "modern" English to Renaissance and back to modern is wonderful. This is a marvelous debut and I can't wait to read more in the series.
I've loved Kage Baker's work ever since I read her stories in the various Year's Best Fantasy books, and I was eager to dive into a novel written by her. It was definitely worth the wait. Her prose style is wonderful and she seamlessly changes dialogue depending on who's talking, thus giving us the dialect of the time alongside the modern phrasings of a group of cyborgs honed by time travelers. I'm not expert enough to tell whether or not she gets the Renaissance dialogue right, but she certainly makes it feel right. It really makes you feel like you are there listening.
Another thing Baker avoids, for the most part, is making the romance cloying. While there were a few times where Mendoza and Nicholas became annoyingly written, most of the time this was turned on its head by a choice comment from Joseph (the leader of the expedition and Mendoza's recruiter) or something else happening. She doesn't overwrite the romance scenes and she deftly "fades to black" when the sex scenes are about to start. Thus, while the novel definitely has some adult themes, there are no actual scenes that should keep kids away from the book. Instead, she writes two adults who love each other deeply but know that there are some serious potential problems that might get in the way of that love.
The concept of the Company is very interesting.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good read with a clever premise May 4 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Baker has come up with a variation on the "future do-gooders go back in time and meddle with history" theme, in which, in order to avoid paradox, the work is all done by people from the past. Children or teens who are about to die are recruited, modified physically so that they will live forever, and given assignments to preserve "lost" treasures from the past, which will later be "discovered" in the future by the Company. In this first episode, a girl known only as Mendoza is saved from the Spanish Inquisition and sent to England under Bloody Mary to preserve plants from a private gentleman's garden, the "Garden of Iden" of the title. She falls in love with a mortal, with disastrous and heartbreaking results.
The book is well-written in a direct, if not particularly artful, style. The characters and motivations are complex enough to avoid most of the usual cliches. In particular, Baker uses her scholarly knowledge of the Elizabethan era to depict the clashes between Catholic and Protestant forces in England with considerable depth and sympathy.
I haven't read any of the sequels, but if they measure up to this book, this series should be a source of considerable entertainment.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction, Immortality and Time Travel
Little Mendoza may be the only one in 16th century Spain who doesn't expect the Spanish Inquisition to be all that bad. Read more
Published 19 months ago by John M. Ford
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this book
I had seen these books in the library and finally decided to try one out. I have mostly been in the mood lately for humorous and well written novels. This one fit the bill. Read more
Published on April 9 2004 by C. L. Munson
3.0 out of 5 stars Original? Yes. Sci-Fi? No.
In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker certainly is original but this is not a Sci-Fi. This is a historic romance in a sci-fi disguise. Read more
Published on April 27 2003 by T-Rex
5.0 out of 5 stars Wildly entertaining
I read a lot of science fiction and am continually amazed at the criticism of this genre for "not being scientifically accurate" It it's science you're after, try Scientific... Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2003 by Avid Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! A Great Debut - looking forward to more by this author
Truly original novel with a great mix of history and future. I cared about the characters and there are several places where it was almost too painful for me. Read more
Published on Jan. 22 2003 by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars loved it!
I couldn't put it down...I plan to read the entire series.
Published on Oct. 12 2002 by J. Gabrielson
2.0 out of 5 stars In search of an original idea..
I really do appreciate how original this book is. Most fantasy novels are very cliche and have a similar storyline and characters in them. This book was truly original. Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2002 by Jen Frampton
1.0 out of 5 stars i'd give this book no stars if that were an option
i was recommended this book because i bought "to say nothing of the dog" by connie willis. Read more
Published on July 22 2002 by mouse trap
4.0 out of 5 stars Who's Afraid of a Big, Bad Bodice
"The Garden of Iden" is not a bodice ripper, as it was so unfairly described by some readers. Read more
Published on June 28 2002
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