Kage Baker, The Sons of Heaven (Tor, 2007)
It’s a bit strange that I’m writing a review on the last book of a series, as I typically avoid series like the plague. I have a child’s impatience about knowing how a story ends; I just do not like to wait years, sometimes decades, to find out (predictably) that the good guys won. Kage Baker tricked me into this Company series, by getting me hooked on it via her short stories. Having read them, I just had to see who or what Alec Checkerfield was, did the ever-lonely and ever-lovely Mendoza find happiness, how the hell did chocolate get banned, how it all wound up. Her stories draw you into her characters, and you take a vested interest in how they will overcome all of their trials and tribulations.
This last book deals with the coming Silence -- that future date when all communications from the time-traveling cyborgs cease. Accustomed as they are to having messages from the future over the past few millennia, the cyborgs, the directors of the Company that control the cyborgs, and certain Recombinants that were made by the Company formulate their own theories and form their own plans. All of the major characters from the first ten books are busily scheming to ensure, at the least, their survival: Alec, his faithful AI Captain Morgan, and his two “brothers,” Edward and Nicholas; Labienus, who wants to exterminate mortals; Suleyman, another cyborg, with a less genocidal plan, but still bent on world domination; Budu, leader of the banished cyborg Enforcers, out for blood, Paleolithic-style; Lewis the lab rat; Victor the Typhoid Mary; Marco the torturer; the spineless directors of the Company; little people from under the hill. The book mostly deals with the plotters and plots of all of the characters as they prepare for July 9, 2355.
Between the dark plots there are light, amusing interludes where stuffy Edward is busy being a parent; although one may expect a disaster, he does such a fine job he writes a book on the care and raising of cyborg children. It’s touching and a bit bizarre how the family matures together, and, of course, the family has their role to play at the end.
The ending was particularly good, as it should be as the culmination of eleven books. What happens at the Silence? Perhaps Hamish the hedgehog leads his troops out from the hills and chases the cyborgs into the sea? Perhaps the Company directors decide to share their great wealth with the cyborgs and they live happily ever after? The players take no chances about who is going to be on top, and mass all of their resources for a final battle, with treachery and backstabbing for all. And the ending is, well, not what I expected. To truly understand all of the ramifications of the ending, I’d have to grok the last few sections, for a month or a year, and if I delayed my review that long I’d garner virtual Cat-clawing. The answer to the Silence is mind-boggling, but DO NOT read the last chapter first. This is a book that has to be enjoyed as the author has set it down. To do less is cheating yourself out of one of the finest series finales ever.
It is possible, for those souls that have not read the earlier books in the series, to read this book and not be totally lost, but I’d advise against it. Far better to read at least some of the other books first, so to savor every nuance of the final book. It’s worth the investment in time and money. Trust me, you’ll never ever see me say this about any other series.
Is this the end of the Company stories? Probably not. Unless the Silence falls on us all.