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REVIEW: The Sky People by S.M. Stirling

REVIEW SUMMARY:Well-written alternative history novel with a story that comes up a bit short.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The worlds of Mars and Venus turn out to be exactly as the classic sci-fi writers of the 50’s thought they would be – populated with sentient life. After establishing a base on Venus, American colonist Marc Vitrac goes on a rescue mission for a downed SovietBloc space ship only to be caught up in a squabble with the natives for the very reason for Venus’ existence.

PROS: Solid prose, well-done military / action sequences.
CONS: Characters are largely one-dimensional, story isn’t very compelling.
BOTTOM LINE: If you love Stirling you’ll probably like this one – otherwise, I’d give it a pass and read one of his better works such as Islands in the Sea of Time.

Overall I was thrilled to recieve this book from the publisher to read. I have enjoyed many other books by Stirling and was excited by this one. Unfortunately, I just didn’t get into it. The story seemed too contrived and too pulpish for my taste. Given that the premise – that the sci-fi writers idea of Mars and Venus from the 40’s and 50’s turns out to be right – perhaps he was intentionally working to write a pulp novel in the grand tradition of those eras. If so, then he succeeded.

I enjoyed lots of things about the book, but for some reason I had a really hard time find the story compelling. The action sequences were great – Stirling can really write these well. There was just a sense it was a bit trashy in terms of the sex (although not gratuitous at all) and entirely predictable. The ending isn’t bad, but it was telegraphed so much that it isn’t the “surprise twist” I think he intended.

I keep feeling that perhaps I’ve missed something, but I’d recommend others by Stirling before this one.

2 Comments on REVIEW: The Sky People by S.M. Stirling

  1. In reading others reviews of this book, many talk about the style of Edgar Rice Burroughs and how much this book is like that. Perhaps that was Stirling’s intent, and because I am not a fan of Burroughs I’m disinclined to be a fan of this work. Keep that in mind, as a reader of SFSignal – my review is colored by my bias, and if you ARE a Burroughs aficionado you might find this work to be highly enjoyable.

  2. Nah. I’m a fan of ERB as are many of my friends. They aren’t impressed with Stirling so far either, alas. I was really looking forward to this, now I think I’ll wait until the paperback is out given some of the comments. Maybe he’ll catch his stride with the next volume (set on Mars), my preferred setting for pulp-era planetary adventure.

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