Monday, July 21, 2008

In the Courts Of the Crimson Kings - S. M. Stirling

Great title, excellent book.

Stirling's updated take on the planetary romance has become wonderfully inventive. The second book is more interesting than the first - probably because the Martian civilisation is ancient, and more politically and technologically advanced--as compared to the literal Neanderthal types, in 'The Sky People'. While the title of the first book could have been Jean J. Auel or Patrick Tilley, this title is much more Leigh Brackett. The latter features in a fun intro of science fiction writers gathering to talk about the discoveries made about the Red Planet.

It does tie-in briefly to the first title, but could be read standalone, with the first in the series about exploring Venus in this alternate past where the mysterious alien 'Lords Of Creation' seed Venus and Mars with earth-type life 200 million years ago.

It is over a decade since the first book, and the story centres on an archaeologist (who is of course a fine fencer), taking a trip on the surface to find an important Martian archaeological site.

The woman that shares major character status is a Martian native, an extremely competent mercenary, and, unbeknownst to the Earth pair, well, think Edgar Rice Burroughs titles.

Martian political conflict sees her as a target, because she possesses the requisite genetics to be an important piece in a conflict between the Emperor, a Prince, and the local bureaucracy, and this expedition gets caught in the middle.

The author has invented a style of speech for the Martians that the Earth humans have to try and get the hang of, full of stuff like 'Explicative-Interrogative?' and 'Parareproductive intromission activity', etc.

So, the hunt is on, and monumental discoveries await to be made. Including your actual Lost City, of course, and plenty of Indiana Jones bad jokes to be made.

Part of the interest in the book is the Martian technology - biotech based, so they have creatures that chew gravel and spit out bitumen, or live facemasks and binoculars, and living engines - a bit Dune-like, some of this.

Given the end, it appears we may just get more. Hopefully these are popular enough for such, as I'd happily read this again, right now, after just finishing it.


4.5 out of 5

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