I received a free copy of this ebook to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher.
Science fiction author Kage Baker passed away in 2010, putting In the Company of Thieves into the awkward category of posthumous works. Some of the stories collected here were previously published, but some were finished by the editor, Kathleen Bartholomew. All of the stories take place in the world Baker created for Dr. Zeus, Inc., a company from the future that uses their immortality/cyborg technology and time travel technology to save lost works of art and literature and endangered plant and animal DNA. I first read the opening novel in the series, In the Garden of Iden, years ago and I fell in love with it because I wholeheartedly approve of the company’s mission. Whenever I see major cities destroyed by aliens or something in movies, my first thought is always for the lost art and architecture.
I jumped at the chance to read these stories when I saw In the Company of Thieves listed on NetGalley. I always wanted to know more about the world of Dr. Zeus and the cyborgs that save things for them. Some of the stories, such as “Rude Mechanicals” and “Hollywood Icons” feature characters we met in the Company novels. The other four feature the Gentlemen’s Speculation Society, a precursor to Dr. Zeus.
All of the stories are well-written, as you’d expect from Baker. They’re well-paced, though they left me hungry for more plot—especially in the case of my two favorites. “The Women of Nell Gwynne’s” features the Ladies’ Auxiliary to the Gentlemen’s Speculative Society. They work as highly talented courtesans and gather information about cutting edge technology and strange goings on. I enjoyed this one because the women in the story shine, break stereotypes, kick some serious butt, and aren’t afraid to enjoy their sexuality. My absolute favorite was “Mother Aegypt.”
“Mother Aegypt” features Amaunet, a cyborg who has been working for Dr. Zeus for millennia, since she was rescued as a child in ancient Egypt. She is terribly weary of her life because it’s always the same, though faces and clothing change. Our narrator is Barbu Golescu, a Romanian conman. He runs across Amaunet and her rescue, Emil, as he’s running away from a scam gone awry. He pressures Amaunet to make use of Emil’s gifts, but she refuses. Every time Golescu does get a chance to make a fast leu, it goes terribly wrong. There are giant chickens and uncontrollable hair tonic and worse. The end of the story is hilariously demented.
I would recommend In the Company of Thieves to all Kage Baker fans, especially fans of her Dr. Zeus stories.