Saturday, May 12, 2007
The Sky People by S.M. Stirling
The Sky People, by S.M. Stirling. Have to say that I am generally not a very big Stirling fan. I found his Draka Series to be unconformatably close to an attempt to make fascism seem cool, not to mention godawful alternate history. Plus, I don't really care much for his leaden writing style or his cardboard characters. However, in this book, a kind of alternate history homage to old sci-fi pulps, it actually works for him, since we expect two-dimensional, jut-jawed, heaving breasted, real men and women to be exploring this alternate Venus, complete with dinosaurs, steaming jungles, sexy barbarian princesses and neanderthals. The conceit is that sometime around 200 million years ago, as yet unrevealed aliens terraformed Mars and Venus, making them pretty much exactly as they were imagined to be in the popular imagination before all those boring old probes allowed reality to intrude. Here, the Venera and Mariner probes reveal habitable planets, already inhabited by imported flora and fauna from Earth, including humans(in what appears to be a pretty glaring plot hole, the Americans only just get around to figuring out that the Venusians are exactly like humans and, therefore, the aliens must be still restocking their zoo). It's the alternate late 1980's, Terran technology has been jumpstarted by an ongoing Space Race with the godless commies, and what little plot there is serves merely to introduce us to a set of unremarkable characters and then have them trudge through the wilds of Venus so we can see how cool it all is. This is the literary equivalent of a popcorn movie, but its a brisk read and fun, especially if you are a fan of old-style (say before the 1930's) Sci-Fi.