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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker. New York: Tor, 2003. ISBN: 0765308185

Kage Baker is well known for her series of time travel novels involving "The Company," also known as "Dr. Zeus, Incorporated," in which a group originating in the 24th century, recruit and train society castoffs from various other periods of history, making them virtually immortal, and assigning them tasks in their scheme to control or alter history to suit their own presumably but not inevitably altruistic aims. The titles in this series include In the Garden of Iden (1997), Sky Coyote (1999), Mendoza in Hollywood (2000), and The Graveyard Game (2001). Black Projects, White Knights (2002), subtitled "The Company Dossiers," which I haven't read yet, is a collection of short stories from the same universe and storyline. Two or three more volumes are projected, in order to deal with all of the loose ends, and to, in a quote from the author's website, "wrap it all up."

The Company novels are wonderfully entertaining, and while they function loosely as science fiction, given the premise of the series, they could more appropriately be described as historical novels, since major portions of each one explores some fascinating historical period or other, replete with scrupulously researched detail.

But this blog entry isn't supposed to be about The Company novels. The Anvil of the World is Baker's first fantasy novel, and it, too, is entertaining and well worth reading. It is worth pointing out that there is not a single book-length plot presented here, but rather a series of novella length stories, all featuring the same enigmatic character. The final and longest story develops themes only hinted at in the earlier tales into a truly satisfactory and stunning conclusion.

In the process, Baker develops a richly endowed universe and characters which could easily be the source for many more tales, both short or long. The "coda," especially, promises the fertile possibility of at least one complete additional novel. This book isn't quite as good as Bakers "Company" stories, in my opinion, but is quite entertaining, and definitely worth a read.

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