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Candide (see previous post) finished up in what I can only call an appropriate fashion. If you haven't read it, I recommend looking it up.


Back to the Tor collection, with In the Garden of Iden, by Kage Baker. Sometime in the 2300s or so, a company which eventually calls itself Dr. Zeus make two important discoveries; how to travel in time, and how to make someone immortal or anyway very long lived indeed. Both processes have their flaws - the latter only works on small children and sometimes goes spectacularly wrong, while the former only allows you to travel backwards in time. You can return to where you came from, but you can't go forward. Furthermore, you can't change history. Or rather, change the history you know about; after all if it's history nobody knows about then whatever you did is obviously already what happened. So no stopping the fire in the Library at Alexandria... but you can spend years sneaking teams in when nobody's around and photograph all of the contents before it happens. No bringing back lost Old Masters directly, but an agent can hide one in a chest that you just happen to open later. And so on. Of course if you want breeding populations of extinct animals it's a bit trickier, since someone has to be around to take care of them... and so it was that they started recruiting lost children in the past... in some cases clear back to the Pleistocene (and not necessarily H. sapiens), made them immortal, and used them as agents to take samples of everything desired later, and care for it as they go along. The protagonist is such a recruit, rescued from the dungeons of the Inquisition, immortalized, trained and now on her first assignment, as part of a group posing as a family of Spaniards (in her case this is true - she's a genuine Spanish teenager) in England during the reign of Queen Mary. It's her job to collect samples of everything that'll be extinct later currently found growing in the garden in question, and also to acclimatize herself to normal humanity, something of which her early experiences have made her extremely wary. And every teenager's first duty, of course, to continue maturing. Now I'm not sufficiently familiar with the days of Queen Mary's England to tell how accurate this is, but the book has very much the feel of authenticity, the story is believable, and most important of all, the characters are too. I enjoyed this book, and will be looking up more works by this author.

At this point I stopped the Tor readathon in favor of "Legacy" the second book in Lois M. Bujold's The Sharing Knife series. This is a fantasy romance, set in an environment where two different populations are threatened by a leftover bit of nastiness from an ancient magic war, and who are going to have to stop sneering at each other before they're jointly overwhelmed. We met the first population, Fawn Bluefield's people who are agriculturalists in the first book, now that she's married Dag the Lakewalker, they go home to meet his semi-nomadic people, who use the minor magic powers they've inherited from the folks involved in that ancient magic war to battle the threat of the "malices". Their peoples' lack of understanding of each other not only causes severe problems with both Dag's and Fawn's relatives, but also is the root of a major disaster. I expect book three will involve the solution to this. Bujold's style, as always, is pleasant to read.. however I'm kind of disappointed with this series since I don't generally expect her to be quite so formulaic. I probably will read the third book - but it'll be out of the library, same as I did this one. Or maybe I'll go back and reread her far livelier A Civil Campaign, also a romance but not at all bland.

And on to another Tor, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, which, bless them, is clearly labeled number one of four... and which at the same time does have sufficient of an ending that you don't HAVE to read the rest of the series. Alas, it starts out in such familiar style (the Evil Aristocracy keeps everybody else in subjection, Our Heroine learns she has Special Powers, quotes from someone's diary about their Destiny begin each chapter) I nearly dismissed the whole thing as Extruded Fantasy Product, but actually it picks up. The magic system is one I've never seen before, the quotes are actually significant and sufficiently important by the end of the book that you may want to go back and read them if you haven't, the people are mostly interesting, and while the pattern of the story is pretty much as expected, it's still fun watching them get there. I think I may read the next one.

Next up, this year's Hugo best novel winner, The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. Who, interestingly enough won the Pulitzer literary prize in 2001. Must go look up The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay after I finish this one. Then back to Tor again.

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