Sometimes, if you’re lucky, there’s a moment when you’re reading a book and you’re filled with a sudden joy. That moment came about 40 pages into Into the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker. I was suddenly reminded of what it was like to read Harry Potter for the first time, or Ella Enchanted, or a Wrinkle in Time even. It’s a childlike happiness that’s hard to describe or pin down. What those books have in common, above all, is the idea that life is not what we make of it and, in some ways, there is an escape. There is an escape to the fantastic and to the wonderful to beat out the mundane, even though all of those books eventually show you that there is no escape, not really, that even a magical life is one that we have to fight for. In the Garden of Iden takes this escape to the next level in a mature, historical context that solidifies it as a science fiction classic.
Mendoza is a young girl during the Spanish Inquisition when she is recruited by the mysterious company Dr. Zeus. They whisk her away to Australia and begin to operate, giving her the gift of immortality and a job as a botanist, to save all the rare plants that will go extinct in the future. You see, Dr. Zeus discovered time travel, but only so they could prove that their formula for immortality existed. Mendoza and her team are sent to England during the reign of Queen Mary to the rare garden of Sir Walter Iden. While there, Mendoza does the unthinkable: she falls in love with a mortal.
What was most exciting about In the Garden of Iden was the prospect of what is to come. Iden was not perfect and there were times when the story dragged a little, but if this first novel is any indication of what the series will be like, it is all I can do to keep myself from running out to the library right now and pick up the second book. The characters were believable and enjoyable to read about. Iden manages to not only have a clever science fiction premise, but also seamlessly incorporate historical elements. To top it all off, it’s a heartbreaking tragedy and a beautiful romance.
I can’t recommend this book enough. Tragically, Kage Baker passed away on January 31, 2010. Thank you Kage Baker for such a wonderful story, I’m only sad that we didn’t meet sooner.
So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR
Recommended by: bookshelves of doom.