In the Garden of Iden

Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 2, 1999

In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker

Nine people attended the discussion of Kage Baker’s first novel, which has a fascinating premise. Scientists in the future, working for Dr. Zeus Inc., develop the technology for time travel. They discover that they can neither alter recorded history nor bring anything other than themselves back to the future. Desiring to rescue lost works of art and extinct species, they recruit people from the past to help them. These recruits hide treasures from harm, and leave messages so that they can be found in the future. As payment, the recruits are made immortal. This novel involves a group of people trying to save several endangered species of plants in England between the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

We all liked the premise of the book. We felt that the first 50 or so pages, which set up Dr. Zeus Inc. and describe the recruitment of a young girl rescued from the Spanish Inquisition, were brilliantly written. The authorial voice was engaging, and wonderful ideas were tossed off on every page.

Once the story settled down into the mission in England, the pace of the book changed. We got to know several members of the mission team (who originally came from vastly different historical eras). Then we got to witness them carrying out the mission against the backdrop of historical happenings, which eventually had a big impact on the plot. Most of us loved the historical details, the clever characters, and the steady stream of great ideas.

A couple of us didn’t enjoy the character of the young girl, who in the course of the novel experiences her first romance. They felt that the “teen romance” element was uninteresting and overwhelmed the second half of the book.

In general we liked this book and the author’s writing quite a lot. Most of us intend to recommend Baker’s work. At the end of the meeting, one member of the group immediately bought Baker’s next book, which had just been released in hardcover.

— A. T. Campbell, III