"The Children of the Company" by Kage Baker (2005)
"But my mother's savior was about the usual business of the immortals who work for their Company, which is to walk among mortals and preserve fine and rare things that would otherwise be destroyed by them."
Kage Baker is another author that I was introduced to in The Year's Best Science Fiction collections. Her "The Hotel and Harlan's Landing" in the 2002 collection was pretty dumb, though "Welcome to Olympus, Mr. Hearst" in the 2003 collection was slightly better. She is best known for her "Company novels," of which The Children of the Company is a more recent example.
The plot? There's not much of one to speak of. The Children of the Company is more a collection of stories set throughout human history, all featuring a race of immortal cyborgs sent back in time (?) by The Company to influence major events and/or preserve our heritage for some kind of singularity in the distant future.
I'm assuming the author explains all of this time travelling and cybernetic wizardry in another novel, because I sure didn't get much in the way of explanation from The Children of the Company. I suppose this is more a stylistic choice, but for those who like reasons this novel will be a source of frustration. In some ways it resembles something Anne Rice might have written, with cyborgs and time travel taking the place of vampires and erotic reflections on history.
Is it good? Well, it's certainly well written. Compared to most contemporary science fiction authors, Baker's command of the English language is remarkable. Where other authors pare their sentences down to the barest minimum, Baker's prose is a more self-conscious affair. It's as if the nineteenth century were reasserting itself through her prose, in an attempt to come to grips with modern innovations. It's only too bad that there wasn't more of an overarching story to hang her verbal gymnastics upon.
I will say, however, that The Children of the Company has caused me to reassess this author. Whereas I previously thought of her as more a writer of silly stories, I now feel more willing to take her seriously. I'm not saying that I'm a fan, exactly, but I wouldn't mind reading another novel in the series (perhaps the first one), and giving her another chance.