US cover art by Michael Koelsch; UK cover art by Angelo Rinaldi
"A magnificent third entry ... in an intelligent, thoughtful, and absorbing series."
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1999 issue.
" ... combines historical detail and fast-paced action with a good dose of ironic
wit and a dollop of bittersweet romance. Most libraries should add this to their sf collections
for series fans."
" ... Baker's sinuous prose evokes well California's verdant countryside as it was before being buried
under concrete and smog. The dialogue hums with a potent blend of bitchy barbs, humorous asides and pop
Book No. 3 in the unofficial history of Dr. Zeus Incorporated picks up the story of Botanist
Grade 6 Mendoza. The year is 1862, and the relative happiness Mendoza has found in the coastal
mountains of Alta California is about to be shattered: she's being transferred again. From the
serenity of the redwood forests of Big Sur she must journey far south, to a dusty, disaster-prone,
violent little pueblo known as Los Angeles.
Her job is to collect endemic plant species scheduled to go extinct in the coming great drought.
She's quartered far from the murderous mortal population this time, at a Company-owned stagecoach inn
in a quiet place called La Nopalera. Nothing much ever happens there now, but the other immortals
stationed at the inn assure her this will change; for La Nopalera will be famous one day, under
its better-known name of Hollywood ...
Mendoza settles into a quiet life there, watching the dramas in the lives of the other operatives
in a sort of cyborg version of Grand Hotel. Her fellow operatives are Imarte, enthusiastically
living her mortal disguise as a prostitute; Juan Bautista, a young operative on his first
mission; Einar, a cinema buff who organizes the first ever film festival for the other operatives,
to say nothing of tours of future movie locations; Oscar, completely absorbed in his role as a Yankee
Trader; and Porfirio, the case officer who has more than his immortal duties to deal with: he has
mortal family troubles.
Nor is the world's stage empty: on the other side of the continent, the United States have sundered
and are engaged in their bloody Civil War, as European powers look on with greedy eyes. Meanwhile,
business as usual in Los Angeles - where the body count is one murder a night, not counting Indians -
becomes complicated by a deadly drought, smallpox, and the subtle incursions of a foreign power.
As if the individual dramas in the inn weren't enough, Mendoza has her own problems: she is
suddenly and inexplicably haunted by visions of a mortal man who died three centuries ago,
her mortal lover, the heretic martyr Nicholas Harpole. Her Past and Future begin to curve
toward each other disastrously, and at their intersection stands the enigmatic British political
agent, Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax.
Mendoza In Hollywood owes most of its locations to the fact that I grew up in Hollywood, in
and around the Cahuenga Pass where the real stagecoach inn was. Most people are unaware that there
is a layer of history hidden under the strata of Cecil B. DeMille and D.W. Griffith, that there was
a time when bandits roamed the Hollywood Hills - and not as extras on a day shoot.
But the Golden Age of the movies is pretty well buried now, too. I can just remember the pretty
little cottages of L. Frank Baum's Hollywood, long since torn down for parking lots and cheap apartment
buildings. On a recent visit I went to the site where Griffith's massive set for Babylon the Great
once stood. No trace at all of the splendor of the ancient world: a dark alley behind an old brick
theatre, blocked by piled trash and a shambling drunk. His lips moved as he approached me but he
had no voice: maybe it was drowned out by the police sirens wailing past, or maybe he too was a silent ghost.
POSTSCRIPT, OCTOBER 6, 2001: My father died in August. Going down to the old home town for his funeral,
arriving late and searching vainly in my old neighborhood for my hotel (how the hell do you hide a Holiday
Inn??) what should loom out of the night before my astounded eyes but... THE GATES OF BABYLON.
Yes, folks, that vast set is being rebuilt, not at its original location but on the corner of Hollywood
Boulevard and Highland Avenue, an intersection I passed through daily for much of my life. Apparently
Babylon will double as the new location for the Oscar presentations as well as a MetroRail station. (For
those of you non-natives, Hollywood is only now getting a subway, not that a subway makes much sense in
a country of earthquakes and tar pits with subterranean pockets of explosive gas...)
But there it is, the ancient splendor of my home town, rising unstoppably in its magnificence, grand staircase,
giant elephants and all. It's absurd and marvelous, truly colossal, stupendous.
We've regained Babylon the Great and lost the World Trade Center. Something is surely wrong with time, for such
an iceberg-sized block of the Past to come bobbing up to the surface of the Present. Our elegant construction of
the Future is in deep trouble, and I wring my hands on the forward deck and wonder how many lifeboats we brought
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