The Best of Kage Baker makes me mad – not in a “reading this was a waste of time” way but in a “she had so many stories left” way. My anger is purely selfish.
While the bulk of the stories collected here have turned up in other publications and online, it is lovely to have these 20 tales under one cover, even though most have been anthologized before. Best contains a slice or two from each of Baker’s worlds. The Company is well represented, as is her House of the Stag universe, her take on a future Mars and the proto-Company world of Nell Gwynne. Plus, there are stories that are outliers, like “Plotters and Shooters”, which is about adolescent power dynamics and meteors. The last few stories, “The Ruby Incomparable,” “Bad Machine,” and the heartbreaking “The Carpet Beds of Sutro Park” show the writer that Baker was becoming, one full of both melancholy and wit.
One could quibble about these particular 20 stories representing the best of what Baker had to offer – but that is the sort of argument that revolves around almost any best of anthology for any writer. What would have been helpful to have, however, is a more informative table of contents, one that gives the reader a sense of when and where the bulk of the stories were published, if only to provide a better outline of how Baker was developing as a writer.
Still, The Best of Kage Baker is nice to have, even if it also limns what could have been.