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Not Less Than Gods (Company) Hardcover – March 16, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
The ninth Company novel (after 2007's The Sons of Heaven) introduces Edward Bell-Fairfax, a child of mysterious origins who gradually discovers that he's not quite like ordinary people. Born to an unmarried aristocratic mother, raised by distant foster parents, and spirited away to boarding school by the sinister Dr. Nennys, Bell-Fairfax serves an unhappy stint in the military and afterward is inducted into the Company of scientists and spies. Using messages from the future and Charles-Babbage-meets-Maxwell-Smart technologia, Bell-Fairfax travels Europe with his mentor, Ludbridge, attempting to swing the Crimean War in England's favor and learning in the process that achieving utopian goals requires a great deal of dirty work. Plenty of cloak-and-poison-dart action gets the reader through the exhausting Victorian nomenclature (the Aetheric Transmitter, the Ascending Chamber) and discourses on the evils of misused technology. (Mar.)
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Returning to the worlds of the Company novels, Baker delves into the history of a young man whose name has come up before. Edward Bell-Fairfax is an idealist ideally suited to the life of intrigue and derring-do that Redking’s Club provides. One Dr. Nennys grooms him, then delivers him to a residential place at Redking’s. In a Europe layered with secret societies and intrigue, riddled with astonishingly advanced technology, where the great powers are trembling at the brink of war, Bell-Fairfax and three other young men are trained to work as a team of spies and assassins. Then they are sent on a grand tour across Europe, where they experience marvels, and Bell-Fairfax proves that he was born for the work. Baker builds a fantastic alternate Europe with a deft historical touch and spins an excellent spy story around it. Not Less Than Gods is a satisfying addition to the annals of the Company that is also an engaging stand-alone novel. --Regina Schroeder
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Top customer reviews
Edward joins the British navy, but his childhood and his unique skills of instant reaction thinking and super strength make him a loner, who fails to fit in with bands of brother warriors. He leaves unwelcome again, but Edward joins the Company of scientists and undercover agents. Dr. Ludbridge tutors Edward who is amazed with the friendly acceptance of him as well as the annual message from the future. The teacher and his prize student travel to the continent where Edward tries to influence the outcome of the Crimean War. He learns from his effort that to achieve his idealistic vision of a better world, good intentions are not enough and dirty deeds are sometimes the only solution.
This work of speculative fiction is an intriguing look at the past of one of the more fascinating Company characters; before Edward and botanist Mendoza becomes a pair. For die hard fans of the recently completed saga only who will appreciate how far Edward came from being unwanted, abused and neglected with only sinister Dr. Nennys interested in manipulating the child to take advantage of his uncanny skills. Yet through all that he remains an idealist who finds his niche with the Company and his soul with Mendoza.
After completing her time travel Opus in The Company novels, Baker decided to explore the Victorian origins of the Company and gave that exploration a steampunk flavor. It was an entrancing idea and she pulled it off with Nell Gwynne's Scarlet Spy - a delightful confection of a novella. In Not Less than Gods, Baker is exploring the history of Alton Bell-Fairfax, the genetically engineered hero that has been cloned several times throughout history and who appears in the Company novels in these various incarnations. This was a wonderful idea, but Baker just wasn't up to giving it the attention it deserved.
Not Less than Gods is worth reading for established Company fans and there are a few gems here - like meetings between Lady Beatrice and Edward - but the whole is a choppy read that isn't connected and the one thing that Company fans would have liked to see e.g. the meeting between Mendoza and Edward Fairfax from Edward's point of view and more detail on the skullduggery that eventually got him killed never materialized and now will never be written. For compleatist fans, not an introduction to a stunning body of work.
Ms. Baker died in Jan. 2010 and I do not know her intent here - was it to be a new series? A sub-story of the Company? But that it was most likely finished by her editors explains its derivative and unfinished nature. Strong fans might appreciate this final addition to her work, but others would better enjoy "The Garden of Iden", her first company novel, which, like many of her company books, stands well on its own (for those who dislike series).