The novel “The Machine’s Child” by Kage Baker was published for the first time in 2006. It’s part of the cycle of the Company.
Alec Checkerfield is determined to free Mendoza from the prison she was locked in by Dr. Zeus Incorporated when she became an inconvenient operative. His clones Nicholas Harpole and Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax, whose personalities were incorporated into Alec’s cyborg body, agree but the three of them are as different as possible and this makes it difficult to agree on everything else.
Joseph is watching over the regeneration of Budu, who is like a father to him, after literally recovering his pieces. It’s a long and complex process, which leaves him a lot of time for other tasks. Joseph also wants to save Mendoza, who is like a daughter to him, but he also wants to save her from Alec.
“The Machine’s Child” heavily takes up various narrative threads developed in previous novels of the Company series. You need to have read this series to understand who the protagonists are and their personal stories. The motivations behind their actions are exposed in this novel and this makes it easier to follow the story even without remembering all the details of past events but this can’t replace reading everything that happened previously. This novel isn’t a sequel to “The Children of the Company” even though it’s the next book in the series. Instead, the events follow those of “The Life of the World to Come“.
I found in this novel all the best and worst of the series. For this reason, it left me with mixed feelings at extreme levels as has rarely happened to me, going from evocative moments to boring or even irritating ones and the other way around.
Kage Baker takes full advantage of the possibilities of time travel possible thanks to the technologies of Dr. Zeus Incorporated with the protagonists making several journeys, sometimes even going back to the distant past. These are technologies that are supposed to be under the strict control of Dr. Zeus Incorporated but in previous books, we have already seen how someone manages to make a clandestine use of them.
For readers who appreciate time travel stories, in my opinion, the many leaps back and forth are the best part of “The Machine’s Child” in a story developed on a truly remarkable time scale. Historical events and characters are also included, somehow anchoring the science fiction parts to parts of human history.
The protagonists are what didn’t convince me at all. They don’t appear to be in full possession of their mental faculties. Alec and his clones must endure the forced sharing of a single physical body with the stress that comes with it. Joseph is probably under extreme stress caused by trying to save both Budu and Mendoza, a truly complex situation to manage. Mendoza is rescued just to find out that she’s suffering from serious amnesia.
The protagonists’ mental state determines behaviors that are not exactly lucid. The biggest problem I had was the constant bickering that occurs between the three personalities included in Alec’s body caused by their profound differences. They continually declare their love for Mendoza while simultaneously clashing with each other about everything else. Honestly, it seemed to me that all of that was written above all to make the novel longer but the level seemed soap opera-like to me.
Overall, “The Machine’s Child” has its importance within the Company series for the stories of the protagonists, who are working against Dr. Zeus Incorporated. It’s certainly more suitable for readers who have no problems with the behavior of certain characters.