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TOP 100 REVIEWERon February 18, 2013
Little Mendoza may be the only one in 16th century Spain who doesn't expect the Spanish Inquisition to be all that bad. Our fiery-tempered child heroine was innocent, after all, when they swept her up with the pagans who were planning to sacrifice her. Before she can experience their harsher attentions, Mendoza is rescued and given a new life as an immortal who will spend centuries working to preserve the treasures of history.

Mendoza's employers are time travelers from the far future who rescue children in mortal danger. The children are made immortal and prepared for service in the Company. The Company becomes rich in the future by "rediscovering" extinct species and lost treasures tucked away by Mendoza and her colleagues throughout the centuries. In return, the Company provides long life and access to the amenities of the future--such as chocolate and air conditioning.

Mendoza's first assignment is to infiltrate Elizabethan England and obtain rare plant samples from the botanical garden of Sir Walter Iden. Readers get an on-the-ground view of this period in England's history. We also feel the excitement and pain as Mendoza falls in love with a mortal who, no matter how she tries to avoid it, must someday die.

The author's writing skill endows the love-lived characters with a weary wisdom. Responding to Mendoza's sarcastic references to reincarnation, a team leader ten thousand years her senior snaps, "It's realer than you think. There are only so many personality types among mortals. They just use the same ones over and over. Zealots like your Nicholas keep turning up, and every time they do, they make trouble for everybody." What might it mean to have thousands of years of experience with human personality? A writer can only hint at the answer, and Kage Baker does so skillfully.

Kage Bakers first book in the Company series is highly recommended for fans of science fiction's immortality tales, from Robert Heinlein's The Notebooks of Lazarus Long to Poul Anderson's The Boat of A Million Years. The pace is sometimes slow, but allows us to feel the deepening relationship between Mendoza and Nicholas. Readers who savor the sweet pain of time travel romance should read this book, then continue with Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. Those who want to follow Mendoza career in the Company can pick up the next installment, Sky Coyote.
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on March 4, 2004
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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on May 4, 2003
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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on July 21, 2001
"In The Garden Of Iden" (1997) is the debut novel of science fiction author Kage Barker. It is also the first novel in the "Company" series.
The novel introduces Mendoza, an operative of "Dr. Zeus Incorporated", or more commonly: the Company. The Company is an immensely powerful corporation in the 24th century, which preserves works of art and extinct forms of life by recruiting orphans from the past, making them as good as immortal and sending them into the past on specific missions. Mendoza is rescued from the Spanish Inquisition and sent to Elizabethan England to collect botanical samples from the garden of Sir Walter Iden.
"In The Garden Of Iden" combines some of Kage Barker's strongest passions: she is an authority on Tudor-era England, has a strong interest in botany, and a preoccupation with conspiracy theories. The author (on her personal website) mentions that many of the characters in the novel were inspired by the eccentric scholars and street actors she worked with during her career in theater.
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on June 10, 2001
"In the Garden of Iden" is an interesting and intriguing but not quite involving novel. Before I read this, I read and thoroughly enjoyed a number of the company stories, such as last year's "Son, Observe the Time". The idea was great and the historical research absolutely meticulous and accurate. I had high expectations for this novel. I would say that the idea of the company works better in the story form than the novel. However, that's the only criticism. This novel is far above the average. If you love historical novels, it's worth reading for the absolutely accurate recreation of the Inquisition in Spain and Tudor England under Bloody Mary. If you like historical romance, there's a lovely, sad, doomed romance (What happens if an immortal cyborg falls in love with a mortal man?). There's humor, much from the endless contrast and tension of immortals struggling to blend into Tudor society. There are many telling moments. Probably the absolute best for tension and horror are the opening chapters when a small child falls into the hands of the Inquisition. The sick fanaticism and twisted logic of the Inquisitors makes for tense and horrifying reading. Everything that follows is a bit of an anticlimax. The idea works better as short stories, but is still well-worth reading.
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on June 6, 2001
I decided to read this book, based on's suggestions, since I really liked 'To Say Nothing of the Dog' by Connie Willis.
Although 'Iden" is similar in some ways to 'Dog', I found myself feeling disappointed about 100-150 pages into the book. However, I was committing one of the cardinal sins of reading: I was not reading with an open mind. So, I cleared my head of any preconceived notions or expectations, and found that I really did like this book.
The main character is Mendoza, a child who was saved from the Spanish Inquisition by the "Company." The Company saves children destined to die, and makes them immortal, in order to have them save things that become extinct in the future, such as plants and animals.
Mendoza's specialty is plants, and her first assignment is to preserve a plant that can cure liver cancer. She meets a mortal man, and falls in love. Most of the book deals with Mendoza's internal conflict over being immortal versus loving a mortal. I wished that Baker could have woven a better subplot, but because this is a series and not just one novel, the absence of a more intricate storyline is acceptable.
Baker also stays away from annoyingly explaining, in detail, every piece of electronic equipment used or referred to in this book. A lot of times SF authors feel the need to treat the readers like they have no imagination, or intelligence, and therefore have to give you specs, not to mention the instruction manual, on any gadgets or machines. Baker does not do this.
I look forward to reading the other "Company" books. If you like Time-Travel or the idea of Immortals, read this book. Moreover, if you like it, you should really check out 'To Say Nothing of the Dog' by Connie Willis, as well.
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on January 31, 2001
Time travel is nothing new to science fiction. Even the idea of people travelling through time to preserve (or to try to alter) the timeline of the world is not new to science fiction. The idea of hiding in the shadows of history to preserve that which would otherwise be lost, though...
I was really impressed with the premise of "In the Garden of Iden". I thought the idea of a company that could make employees of 'indigenous' people and send them along ('along' mind you, not 'through') history to preserve plants, animals, art works, etc. only as long as they did not change history in the process to be a neat, if not revolutionary idea. Baker pulls off the idea quite well to in this book. She gives us a good feel of history unfolding while the characters of the book go about their mission in a country that's teetering on the verge of a new dark age just before it's greatest era begins.
The science in the book is well-researched. The history in the book is very well researched. Even the romance manages to push the reader into an interesting parallax between love and practicality. Surprisingly enough, the one thing that bothered me about the novel was the stipulation in the premise that people sent back couldn't change "recorded history". I found myself wondering what constitutes 'recorded history'. We as a race have so much difficulty sorting the fact from the lie and the myth in our 'recorded' history - even in the past century - that I wondered how valid an argument this could be. Perhaps it's an idea that she'll pursue in a later "Company" novel. I'd be interested to see what she could do with it...
All in all, I really enjoyed this novel. I blew through it like I haven't blown through a science fiction novel in a long time. While some of the topics it deals with are quite heavy, the overall read is really light. If you're looking for a fun, light book with a genuinely interesting premise, I recommend picking "In the Garden of Iden" up. Personally, I'm looking forward to getting on to the rest of the series...
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on July 10, 2000
I found this book interesting and compelling, with lasting images that left me thinking for weeks after the read. This book is not for hardcore sci-fi fans, or those that do not have at least a tertiary interest in historic novels.
I fell in love with Mendoza as a character, and wanted to see more of her adventures, although sometimes she seemed esoteric and, to put it quite frankly, stupid. The theme of time travel is not foremost in this book, the characters are from and of the time, and no one has been displaced or arrives "from the future" - a thing I found misleading in the marketing of this novel.
If you want to read any of Baker's novels of "the Company", you should certainly start with this one. It provides you with necessary information and background, and is also a delightful and, at times, heartrending story.
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on June 28, 2002
"The Garden of Iden" is not a bodice ripper, as it was so unfairly described by some readers. It is excellent soft science fiction, firmly grounded in historic detail and human character. Creative and very funny much of the time, it is an engrossing exploration of the unchanging nature of humans, from whatever time and under whatever strange circumstances. Poor Mendoza's tragic romance, hilarious though it often is, is completely predictable based on her horrific background, her age, the human need to connect and mankind's all too predictable need to eat that apple in the garden. It's a delightful story and I'm looking to pick up the next books. I suspect it's denigraded as a "bodice ripper" by those who have never picked up one of those silly books.
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on October 18, 2001
More about romance than cyborgs in this book about the activities of an organization, The Company, that works to preserve the past by sending immortal super-cyborgs back in time to collect important art, flora, fauna, etc. Intriguing idea but the reader is only teased with it as a backdrop. Instead, we get a detailed fly-on-the-wall account of the interactions between the narrator/cyborg and her mortal lover. Author also presents interesting ideas about immortal-mortal love and cyborgian views of humanity. That's what you get and it's all very very good (and note that I'm the type of reader who wants blasters, starships and gibbering man-eating aliens with his cyborg stories). Excellent writing, funny, clever, realistic.
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