Title: Not Less Than Gods
Author: Kage Baker
Page Count: 300 pages
Genre: science fiction, steampunk, alternative history
Copy for review compliments of the public library
50 words or less: Through a series of carefully engineered yet seemingly random events, Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax is raised up from relatively humble beginnings to be the perfect, yet anonymous supersoldier. That's not a tall order or anything...
I first encountered this author's work with her novella The Women of Nell Gwynne's, reviewed here, and was immediately informed that my not having read the rest of the stories in her Company series was a crying shame.
Well, I'm still no further along in reading the rest of the Company novels, but I picked this one up by chance at the library- it's a sort of companion novel/bonus features that tells the story of one Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax, and his rise through the ranks of the Gentlemen's Speculative Society. While I think I could have benefited from a more thorough knowledge of the series and the world that serves as the setting, this was an interesting enough, albeit oddly paced, story that was worth an impulse grab at the library.
Mr. Bell-Fairfax only ever wanted to be a hero, and he tries all kinds of ways to make that happen. One might speculate that he's trying to overcome a rather dubious beginning as the product of a less-than-honorable encounter between a lady in England and a mysterious gentleman (a situation that some might call date rape, which I would totally understand and do not support.) The point of the encounter is to show that although the Society will go to any lengths to support their operatives and further their aims of utopia through technologia, the ways in which they go about doing those things are squicky in the extreme. Nothing is free, after all, and that theme follows Edward throughout the entire course of the novel. Edward ultimately has to decide for himself what it means to be a man and what it means to be a hero; it takes a lot for him to finally arrive at a conclusion and not everyone would feel it's the right one.
The setting of the story is incredibly detailed and the technology of the Society is interesting to read about; these aspects went a long way to disguising the fact that the story was basically one big trip across Europe with random battles against bad guys thrown in. The ancillary characters are interesting but don't get a lot of face time; the ladies at Nell Gwynne's put in an appearance as well, in sharp contrast to the icky situation that starts off the book.
If you're a die hard fan of the series, it might be worth it to read this book just to have read all the titles. I'm interested in reading the rest of the series from the beginning, which may improve my understanding of this book somewhat.
Overall Grade: C
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