Facilitator Joseph has outlasted entire civilizations during his twenty-thousand years of service to Dr. Zeus, the twenty-fourth century Company that created immortal operatives like him to preserve history and culture. The year is 1699 and Joseph is now in Alta California, to imitate an ancient Native-American Coyote god, and save the native Chumash from the white Europeans.He has the help of the Botanist Mendoza, who hasn’t gotten over the death of her lover Nicholas, in Elizabethan England.
I ought to be writing a positive review of ‘Sky Coyote’. It’s original, surprising and clever. The ideas are huge and complex. There’s a vein of quiet humour through the whole thing and, underneath that a growing sense of alienation from The Company. The characters and the overall story arc move forward and we get a richly imagined historical setting.
Sounds like great Science Fiction doesn’t it? And, in its way, it is great Science Fiction. It just isn’t great Science Fiction that I could enjoy.
I struggled to become engaged with the story or the people in it. I think that was mostly because Facilitator Jackson tells the story in a sort of tongue-in-cheek folk myth mode. I can see that this is partly because it matches the fake Sky Coyote persona that he has taken on and partly because it echoes his own growing alienation from his work and with the people driving The Company. Whatever the reason, the effect it had on me was to keep me at an emotional distance from the story. I stayed interested in the growing doubts about The Company but in a ‘hurry up and get on with it’ kind of way. I found some of the ‘this is how I tricked an entire tribe into believing I was their God and convinced them to walk away from everything they knew and become Company assets’ a little tedious. It was clever but bloodless.
At the end of the book, I found myself admiring Kage Baker’s vision and imagination but not feeling a strong urge to continue with the series, especially as the next book is set in Hollywood and so is almost bound to be another exercise in gaslighting.