Bewildering Stories

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Kage Baker’s Sky Coyote

reviewed by Jerry Wright

Picture of Book Jacket
Sky Coyote
By Kage Baker
Harcourt, Brace; Avon-Eos
ISBN #0613494571
310 pages or 289 pages, depending

Who is this Kage Baker person??? Oh, I'd seen her name around on the Asimov's Forum, but I'd never cared much for the style of fiction in Asimov's. Except people whose judgement I respect kept talking about this story, and that story, and so on. So I bought August's issue of Asimov's SF Magazine, and who should be therein represented but Kage Baker and a story called "The Empress of Mars". A cute novelette or novella, whatever, and enough to make me bookmark that name and say, "I'll keep my eye open for books by her." (or him... didn't know at the time)

So I ran into Sky Coyote.

I said, "Hmm. Kage Baker. A Company story (hunh?)." So I read it. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. I now have to get copies of all the other Kage Baker books I can find and devour them.

Oh, yeah, Sky Coyote... This is second in a series. Normally, that would be the kiss of death. Starting in the middle? Not a good idea. However, this book stands WELL on it's own. But it does make you want to read the rest... The Garden of Iden, Mendoza In Hollywood, the Graveyard Game, the rest.

Joseph is a Facilitator. For the Company. The Company has its tentacles throughout Time, working in the background, in the eons of "unrecorded" history. Pay attention, because, if it is unrecorded, by the best Time-Theory, it is mutable. Time travel is expensive, however, and much of the 24th century upper echelon are perfect examples of Hollywood elitism mixed with "outcome-based education". Scary, indeed. So the Company kidnaps Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon kids about to die, modifies them into immortal cyborgs, and sets them free (more or less) to record and recover the lost valuables of history.

Joseph, whose backstory is delved into a bit, is modified into "Uncle Sky Coyote" with a real (prosthetic-wise) coyote head, so that he may visit the Chumash, a California based Indian tribe about to be ravaged by the coming of the white man. His job? Move the Chumash out of their time to a "paradise" prepared by the Company.

The Chumash are not a simple, primitive people. Historically, and accurately, Ms Baker delineates their complex capitalistic society. As the Chumash no doubt spoke an idiomatic and slangy version of their own language (as do people everywhere), Ms Baker translates that for us into idiomatic, slangy 20th Century English. A refreshing change from "Ugh, Kemo Sabe..." And wouldn't you know that mid-twentieth century mores are just about perfect for imprinting in immortal enforcers and facilitators. Sadly, that makes just too much sense.

I thought this was a great book, and I am really looking forward to reading the rest.

Kage Baker... Woohoo...

Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Wright