Monday, January 7, 2008

Members of Critical Mass: S.M. Stirling, Part II

So as I said in my last post, S.M. Stirling has two series going right now. Aside from doing post-technology, high fantasy, alternate history, he also does adventure science fiction alternate history in the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He wrote The Sky People a couple of years ago, and that one went in the direction I expected it to. The premise is that when Earth developed early spaceflight, landers sent to Mars and Venus found both planets inhabited by homo sapiens and other suspiciously Earth-like fauna.

The Sky People takes place on Venus and follows a group of Earth humans on a classic, pulp-esque journey on this wild and unexplored planet. There are giant direwolves and dinosaurs and women wearing fur bikinis. There are men being heros and women being Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I thought it was okay. Like I said, this isn't my usual thing.

Then Steve wrote In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, which went entirely against expectation, and I mean that in a good way. Unlike the wild and untamed Venus, Mars has an ancient society with a very advanced social order and bio-technology. The place just creaks with age and is sagging under the weight of its history. It's gorgeous. Then a group of Earth humans comes into the picture, with their superior strength, thanks to their high-gravity homeword, and the adventures begin. Steve's writing showed real insight and humor into the style of story he likes to tell. Suffice it to say, many cliches get remixed or thrown out altogether. I found this book to be a great ride, even if it isn't my kind of thing at all.

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