The first novel of Kage Baker’s critically-acclaimed, much-loved series The Company introduces us to a world where the future of commerce is the past. In the 24th century, the Company preserves works of art and extinct forms of life (for profit of course). It recruits orphans from the past, renders them all but immortal, and trains them to serve the Company, Dr. Zeus. One of these is Mendoza the botanist. She is sent to Elizabethan England to collect samples from the garden of Sir Walter Iden.
But while there, she meets Nicholas Harpole, with whom she falls in love. And that love sounds great bells of change that will echo down the centuries, and through the succeeding novels of The Company.
Breathtakingly detailed and written with great aplomb, The Garden of Iden is a contemporary classic of the science fiction genre.
"Clever . . . Baker draws a colorful portrait of life in sixteenth-century England. Into this she inserts an unusual mix of mortals, all-too-fallible immortals, and a generous dollop of antic with."—San Francisco Chronicle
"So, how do you classify a seriously philosophical time-travel story of a young cyborg’s first love amid religious conflict? As a good read."—Locus
"The prose is compulsively readable—it has the breezy feel of someone casually telling us a story, a feeling I associate with, say, Heinlein at his best. . . In fact, the whole book is a great deal of fun . . . it’s easily on a level with Le Guin’s or Resnick’s first novels."—New York Review of SF
"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."—Library Journal
"The ubiquitous Company is Dr. Zeus, Incorporated; by the year 2335, it owns nearly everything. How? Well, it invented time travel (you can't go forward from your own time, but you can travel into the past and return) and a flawed type of immortality. So Dr. Z sent operatives back into prehistoric times to gather up some promising children, make them immortal, and form them into a secret network that will make all the right investments--and preserve species that, according to history, will become extinct. In 16th- century Galicia, a little girl, Mendoza, is threatened by the Inquisition--until she's rescued and recruited by Company operatives Joseph and Nefer and trained as a botanist. Then, in 1554, Joseph, Nefer, and Mendoza, posing as Spanish grandees, travel to England as part of the entourage of Philip of Spain, soon to be the husband of Mary Tudor, the fervent Catholic queen dedicated to returning Protestant England to the Vatican. Mendoza's mission is to study and preserve the rare plants growing in the gardens of Sir Walker Iden of Kent. But young Mendoza soon falls in love with Nicholas Harpole, Sir Walter's (mortal) secretary. Worse, as Mary's brutal and repressive grip on England tightens, freethinkers like Nicholas are being condemned and burned at the stake. Can--should--Mendoza save Nicholas? What of her mission, her immortality--and the Company? Baker's time-travel rationale genuinely hangs together. Add on the authentic 16th-century setting. Set it forth in a narrative that sparkles with wit: The upshot is a highly impressive and thoroughly engrossing debut."—Kirkus Reviews
"Looking for a lost plant, an immortal, nearly 1000-year-old botanist returns to the 16th century from the 24th in this lively debut. On her first trip back through time, Mendoza lands in the England of 1554, just after the accession of Mary Tudor, aka Bloody Mary. Her mission: to prevent the extinction of a strain of holly that can be used in the 24th century as a cancer cure. In the past, Mendoza encounters religious persecution, flaws in her disguise and, most dangerous of all, affection for a 16th-century mortal male. She escapes these perils in a way that strongly suggests this book may be the first in a series. Which is indeed good news, since Baker's characterizations are robust and detailed, as is her development of the historical setting . . . Dedicated aficionados of time-travel stories will certainly find this an agreeable read, while others will recognize in Baker a fantasist of considerable promise."—Publishers Weekly
"The debut of a major talent. Kage Baker is a fresh, audacious, ambitious new voice."—Gardner Dozois
"A savoury if there ever was one. The period details is delicious. What a treat. A beautiful writer."—Cecelia Holland
Kage Baker has been an artist, actor, and director at the Living History Centre and has taught Elizabethan English as a Second Language. Born in 1952 in Hollywood, she lives in Pismo Beach, California.
I AM A BOTANIST. I will write down the story of my life as an exercise, to provide the illusion of conversation in this place where I am now alone. It will be a long story, because it was a long road that brought me here, and it led through blazing Spain and green, green England and ever so many centuries of Time. But you’ll understand it best if I begin by telling you what I learned in school.