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In the Garden of Iden

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In the Garden of Iden

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Author: Kage Baker
Publisher: Tor, 2005
Harcourt, Brace & World, 1997
Series: The Company: Book 1
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
Sub-Genre Tags: Immortality
Time Travel
Alternate History (SF)
Avg Member Rating:
(74 reads / 41 ratings)


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.


Chapter One

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.

Once, there was a cabal of merchants and scientists whose purpose was to make money and improve the lot of humankind. They invented Time Travel and Immortality. Now, I was taught that they invented Time Travel first and developed Immortals so they could send people safely back through the years.

In reality it was the other way around. The process for Immortality was developed first. In order to test it, they had to invent Time Travel.

It worked like this; they would send a team of doctors into the past, into 1486 for example, and select some lucky native of that time and confer immortality on him. Then they'd go back to their own time and see if their test case was still around. Had he survived the intervening nine hundred years? He had? How wonderful. Were there any unpleasant side effects? There were? Oops. They'd go back to the drawing board and then back to 1486 to try the new, improved process on another native. Then they'd go home again, to see how this one turned out. Still not perfect? They'd try again. After all, they were only expending a few days of their own time. The flawed immortals couldn't sue them, and there was a certain satisfaction in finally discovering what made all those Dutchmen fly and Jews wander.

But the experiments didn't precisely pan out. Immortality is not for the general public. Oh, it works. God, how it works. But it can have several undesirable side effects, mental instability being one of them, and there are certain restrictions that make it impractical for general sale. For example, it only really works on little children with flexible minds and bodies. It does not work on middle-aged miilionaires, which is a pity, because they are the only consumers who can afford the process.

So this cabal (they called themselves Dr. Zeus, Incorporated) came up with a limited version of the procedure and marketed it as truly superior geriatric medicine. As such it was fabulously profitable, and everyone commended Dr. Zeus.

Everyone, of course, except all those flawed immortals.

But about the Time Travel part.

Somehow, Dr. Zeus invented a time transcendence field. It, too, had its limitations. Time travel is only possible backward, for one thing. You can return to your own present once you've finished your business in the past, but you can't jump forward into your future. So much for finding out who's going to win in the fifth race at Santa Anita on April 1, 2375.

Still, Dr. Zeus played around with the field and discovered what could at first be taken as a comforting fact: History cannot be changed. You can't go back and save Lincoln, but neither can you erase your own present by accidentally killing one of your ancestors. To repeat, history cannot be changed.

However-and listen closely, this is the important partthis law can only be observed to apply to recorded history. See the implications?

You can't toot the future, but you can loot the past.

I'll spell it out for you. If history states that John Jones won a million dollars in the lottery on a certain day in the past, you can't go back there and win the lottery instead. But you can make sure that John Jones is an agent of yours, who will purchase the winning ticket on that day and dutifully invest the proceeds for you. From your vantage point in the future, you tell him which investments are sound and which financial institutions are stable. Result: the longest of long-term dividends for future you.

And suppose you have John Jones purchase property with his lottery winnings, and transfer title to a mysterious holding firm? Suppose you have an army of John Joneses all doing the same thing? If you started early enough, and kept at it long enough, you could pretty much own the world.

Dr. Zeus did.

Overnight they discovered assets they never knew they had, administered by long-lived law firms with ancient instructions to deliver interest accrued, on a certain day in 2335, to a "descendant" of the original investor. And the money was nothing compared to the real estate. As long as they stayed within the frame of recorded history, they had the ability to prearrange things so that every event that ever happened fell out to the Company's advantage.

At about this point, the scientist members of the cabal protested that Dr. Zeus's focus seemed to have shifted to ruling the world, and hadn't the Mission Statement mentioned something about improving the lot of humanity too? The merchant members of the cabal smiled pleasantly and pointed out that history, after all, cannot be changed, so there was a limit to how much humanity's lot could be improved without running up against that immutable law.

But remember, Gentle Reader, that that law can only be seen to apply to recorded history. The test case was the famous Library of Alexandria, burned with all its books by a truculent invader. Technically, the library couldn't be saved, because history emphatically states that it was destroyed. However, Dr. Zeus sent a couple of clerks back to the library with a battery-powered copier disguised as a lap desk. Working nights over many years, they transferred every book in the place to film before the arsonist got to it, and took it all back to 2335.

Even though the books turned out to be mostly liberal arts stuff like poetry and philosophy that nobody could...

Copyright © 1997 by Kage Baker


Cyborg immortality turned into stale romance

- Triseult
In the Garden of Iden

- controuble
WOGF - Review #1

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In the Garden of Iden

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WoGF #1 - In the Garden of Iden

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In the Garden of Iden

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