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The Life of the World to Come


The Life of the World to Come

Long before finishing Kage Baker's THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME, I
experienced an irresistible urge to look up "picaresque hero" in my
old English lit crit textbook. (So there is a reason why we
keep these things!)

And what I found confirmed a not-too-bad memory of what we're
dealing with in this rollicking book about time travel gone
slightly wonky. Baker's endearing child-genius, Alec Checkerfield,
does indeed grow up to be everything the picaresque or anti-hero
was meant to be. He's a drifter, an outsider, a risk-taker, a
heartbreaker, a goon, a gentleman, a thief, a saint...all of them
and more.

In technical terms, Checkerfield is a 24th-century cyborg, but his
software "conscience" since childhood has been the zany yo-ho-ho
character of an old-fashioned South Seas pirate, which makes for
some pretty interesting dialogue. In Baker's skilled hands, the
lead adventurer not only talks to himself but also gets good

Roving around the remaining civilized continents of a vastly
depopulated and rigidly legislated world in his (what else?)
futuristic sailing ship, Checkerfield turns his hand to everything
from smuggling to espionage. One moment he's a Robin Hood of the
high seas, and the next we find him trying to understand the
spirituality of his estranged priestess-mother. And then there's
the love-lust interest, an enigmatic seductress, also trapped in
time, whose motives are never fully revealed. It's all such
tantalizing fun.

Just like Alec's brief enthusiasms and passions, the storyline
flits back and forth across the time continuum, revealing more and
more complexity and introducing an odd assortment of mortal and
synthetic characters who play essential roles in ensuring that true
history is not distorted beyond repair. Not surprisingly, we learn
that our "hero" is really several genetically enhanced entities who
have emerged in previous centuries, sometimes coming to bad ends.
When they turn up in Alec's consciousness to fight it out for
control, new options for co-existence are discovered, thanks to the
advice of Alec's old friend, the internal pirate.

Baker's story leaves Alec and his various pacified nemeses under
full sail, but not heading towards the sunset and a tidy
denouement. Now more like a questing Flying Dutchman than salty old
pirate, he's off to new adventures in a world where time, space,
and cyberspace are in constant creative ferment.

THE LIFE OF THE WORLD TO COME is a compulsive page-turner that can
keep even the most restrained reader on the edge of anticipation
from beginning to end. Highly recommended.


Reviewed by Pauline Finch ([email protected]) on December 30, 2010

The Life of the World to Come
by Kage Baker

  • Publication Date: December 1, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • ISBN-10: 0765311321
  • ISBN-13: 9780765311320