Kage Baker,
Sky Coyote
(Harcourt Brace, 1999)

Sky Coyote, is Baker's second novel about the Company, the organization of the 24th century dedicated to preserving works of art and literature and endangered species through the work of the cyborg "immortal" operatives living through time. The darker side of the Company is revealed throughout Sky Coyote as the immortals have more contact with the 24th century people who created them.

Sky Coyote is narrated by Facilitator Joseph, the immortal responsible for rescuing Mendoza, the feisty heroine of In the Garden of Iden. It is 1700, and Joseph's new assignment is to prepare a Chumash village to be lifted into the future. The Chumash are not a simple, primitive people. They have a complex economic system in place and a sophisticated culture, and the Company wants to preserve it. Thanks to a set of prosthetics, Joseph is transformed into a Chumash god, Sky Coyote. The villagers accept him and his message, couched in mythology, but before they can leave, the teams of anthropologists and scientists must gather and records samples of all aspects of the culture. Joseph must maintain interest and morale, as well as fighting off intruders from a tribe of zealots to the south.

At the same time, Joseph must also deal with the 24th century mortals sent back in time to supervise the project. The mortals possess limited vocabularies and interests and an immature aspect, and they are suspicious and fearful of the immortals they created. The 24th century people seem to represent what will happen if our trend toward "dumbing down" education, arts and literature continues.

Joseph also contemplates exactly what the Company does with "unsatisfactory" immortals. He has never before questioned what the truth lying ahead of him in the middle of the 24th century might be, and at the end of the novel, he is still holding off on facing that truth.

The reader gets a better sense of who Joseph is in this novel, which provides more information on his past and on Company history. Mendoza is present as a field botanist, but she seems closed and unreachable, becoming more remote as the story progresses. Despite the dark overall cast, Baker retains her sense of humor, and parts of the book are laugh-aloud funny, and the plot is fast-paced and fascinating. Baker especially captures the spirit of Trickster Coyote, in many different ways.

Sometimes an author's second novel just doesn't measure up to the first, but Baker delivers with Sky Coyote.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]



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