The Graveyard Game (The Company #4)
by Kage Baker
The Graveyard Game is easily my favourite Company series book to date. The story starts with Literature Specialist Lewis’s reaction to Mendoza’s mysterious time-bending visitation from the last book, Mendoza in Hollywood. Lewis’s immediate reaction is to contact Facilitator Joseph, the immortal who recruited Mendoza and rescued her from her own stupidity time and time again. The book’s narration alternates from Joseph’s first-person commentary to Lewis’s third person perspective. While the other novels are ecover only brief moments in history,Graveyard Game starts in 1996 and continues up through 2250, transforming the series from hidden alternate histories in the style of Tim Powers to more wide-ranging near-future science fiction.
Joseph is my favourite character in the series, so it was refreshing to hear from him again. Joseph is a cynic, yet a thorough Company man, someone who always follows orders but finds ways to make his orders suit his own agenda. The previous book left him on the edge of his equilibrium, and this book finally pushes him over the edge. As one character tells him:
"We've known each other a long time, and I mean it as a compliment when I say you're the most Company man I've ever seen. You're also a lying little bastard when you mean to be. That's a good thing, given your line of work. Unfortunately, I think you lie to yourself, too."
Lewis is a nice addition, and his romanticism provides a perfect foil for Joseph. This book also contains the culmination of plot threads and cameos of characters from each of the previous books. The plot also gets--if it’s possible-- even weirder and more scientifically impossible, but I’m still anxious to find out what happens next.
More than any other, this book questions the mission of the Company, and the fate of its faithful servants:
"We're all of us angry when we come into this immortal life; keeps us motivated to fight for humanity against evil.
The question is, how long can we fight without coming to see humanity itself as the source of evil?"
One of my favourite elements was the incorporation of the myth of the djinns who are feared by their human masters, yet “must continue faithful slaves until judgment day,” at which point they die at the first trumpet blast because they lack souls.
As was foreshadowed in the previous books, in Baker’s future, humanity has become simple to the point of infantility. Her people are oddly and ineptly kind, enacting new laws that forbid all “enslavement” of animals for food, labor, or entertainment. They are intolerant of any who do not adopt the new crusades, but don’t appear to replace the gaps with new behaviours. Personally, I had real trouble accepting Baker’s future. Her future people are flat and superficial, and her characterization of society seems unimaginative and limited to me. I don’t believe in a future where meat, alcohol, and all stimulants such as coffee are outlawed with no new indulgence to replace them. Waves of reform will inevitably sweep through, but I believe reaction will necessarily set in. Our targets of permissiveness and intolerance may shift, but neither behaviour will disappear. I think we view ourselves as less savage than our ancestors, but in actuality, we only isolate ourselves from the violence, and this often only exacerbates the cruelty. Certainly most of us would be unable to kill a turkey ourselves, but with a comfortable padding between ourselves and the slaughter itself, we’re perfectly happy to buy them from turkey farms. I think technology allows us to become ever more specialized and complex, but I don’t think it really infantilizes us. And while the targets of our intolerance, violence, and acceptance may change, I think human nature remains the same.