This is my first contact with the oeuvre of Kage Baker who died in January 2010. It is an unusual approach for me because Not Less Than Gods (2010) [ISBN-13: 978-0765318916] is the latest novel in Kage Baker's Company universe. Normally I start with the first book in a series. But I was relieved when I read following passage on the back of the ARC which I received by the kindness of Tor publicist Cassandra Ammerman:
"Now that the main story arc of Kage Baker's Company novels is completed, she has embarked upon a group of novels set in the same world and investigating some of the same characters. She has written the story of the young life of Edward Fairfax, who lives in a secretly steampunk version of Victorian England, and in a Europe filled with covert and hidden advanced technologies."When you review the latest book in a series then your point of view will depend on your knowledge about the books before. You can imagine that a connoisseur of the Company universe will emphasize other things like a newbie what I am in this case. And I didn't try to fill the gap by reading the Wikipedia entries about the Company. And what thinks a newbie about Not Less Than Gods?
In fifteen named Chapters and and epilogue Kage Baker delivered the story of the first 25 years in the life of Edward Fairfax (which is the short form of Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax). It doesn't take long to recognize that Edward is something special. He thinks faster than normal people, has a very persuasive voice and is strong as an ox. But his life is from from being self-determined. Members of the Gentleman’s Speculative Society (GSS) manipulate him from the very beginning. There is a kind of relationship between the GSS and the Company. The GSS is a boys club. And if you assume that Edward enters the GSS then you are right. After several training sessions in a kind of Victorian London - which could have been depicted with more details - four members of the GSS travel through Europe and the Middle East in order to affect history in terms of the GSS. Ostensibly they act as a group of British tourists who like to drink a lot. And then the gadges and weaponry comes into play. Kage Baker did a devastatingly job with the description of each gadget. I closed my eyes and I could touch and smell them. Very impressive. No, no, I don't tell you which gadgets you can expect. There is also action which is partially violent and appears wave like. In between we get humorous dialogues. The group members are great in British witticism. One evening they have to stay in a room without beds. Complaints are coming up. But Ludbridge - the leader of the small group - stops all complaints with following words:
"Look it that way: where there are no beds, there are no bedbugs." [p. 184]Beside this we get some insights of Edward's and the GSS moral visions which are ambiguous. And not unexpected the story has an open end.
I like Kage Baker's prose a lot. I forgot time and space every time when I read Not Less Than Gods. The whole novel is timeless and firm as a rock in this bustling world.
With Not Less Than Gods Kage Baker hooked me. I must definitely read more Company novels.
Even she is dead now I hope her books will be unforgotten.
The Literary Quintet
ediFanoB, Bona, Fide, Bona Fide and the Keeper of the minutes (we call him Kotm) debate about the book.
Don't worry it will be shorter than War and Peace and more interesting than counting grains of sand on the beach.
ediFanoB: "Hey personalities." The choir of personalities in unison: "Hey fogey!"
ediFanoB: "Nice to meet you all again. Today...."
Bona Fide: "you would like to talk ....."
Bona: "with us ......"
Kotm: "Not Less Than Gods"
ediFanoB: "You are all so intelligent. Does anyone has to add something substantial?"
Kotm: "Talk is silver, silence is golden!"
ediFanoB: "Come on you intellectual bastard."
Bona: "I knew it before. I knew before. I won the bet. I chose next book we read!"
Bona Fide: "It is a company novel. But I still don't know much about the company."
Fide: "That's true. Anyhow I liked all the machines and gadgets a lot. Totally steamy."
Kotm: "And what else do we know about the Company in detail after reading Not Less Than Gods?"
ediFanob: "They communicate through space and time which means the Company exists in past presence and future. The organization is spread over the World."
Bona: "What a concept!"
Fide: "I would like to get more information about the Company."
Bona: "I can't believe it! You amoeba want more information?"
Bona Fide[dumbfounded]: "......"
Kotm: "No problem. There are several possibilities. Start to read the Wikipedia entry about the Company."
ediFanoB: "But then you will miss the pleasure of reading books."
Bona Fide: "You should buy all Company books,so that we can read them."
Bona: "Great idea. July ... ediFanoB's ... birthday .... birthday gift ..... all Company books ..."
Fide: "JULY??!! I don't want to wait until July!!"
Bona: "Stop grouching! I choose the next book we read. I decide that our next read will be The Empress of Mars! Hey! Fide! Don't try to kiss me! Want to smell my fist?"
Fide: "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Bona Fide: "Apple polisher!"
Kotm: "ediFanoB, why do you share your mind with such ill-bred characters?"
ediFanoB: "Because I like to see when you grimace in pain. Ooops! That wasn't nice. Forget it."
Kotm: "I should look for a new guest mind. QUIET IN THE CHEAP SEATS!!
ediFanoB: " Thank you Kotm. Now the time has come for The Final Five. Everyone ready to go?"
The choir of personalities in unison: "Yeeesss, Lord Fogey!"
The Final Five
Each personality has to describe their opinion of the book in maxim five words.
So we get 25 words which are the base for the final judgment.
And the final judgment consist of maximum five sentences.
Remark: When you think five sentences is short, then you should read Heinrich von Kleist, who was famous for filling a page with just one sentence!
Adventure, technical heaven, entertaining
Rollicking, steamy, timeless
Gadgets, adventure, humor, timeless
Steamy, adventurous, entertaining, steampunk
Kotm (Keeper of the minutes)
Solid, steamy, gadgets, gorgeous
In the eyes of five Company newbies Not Less Than Gods is a gorgeous, entertaining steampunk adventure gem which is timeless, against all trends, firm as a rock.
You like steampunk? Then read Not Less Than Gods.