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In The Courts of the Crimson Kings
Sequel to The Sky People

by S M Stirling

      If you enjoyed Edgar Rice Burrough’s A Princess of Mars, then you will be eager to read this series about a similar, alternate Venus and Mars. This series started with The Sky People, and showed what might have happened if man had landed on Venus back in the ‘60s and discovered that it had life. A planet of vibrant, lush jungles teeming with dinosaurs, prehistoric beasts and primitive tribes, complete with beautiful women in fur bikinis. Now the scene changes to Mars, a largely waterless, dying world inhabited by a sophisticated race of the type you don’t want to get on the wrong side of. Aliens seeded this planet with life millions on years ago, and archaeologist Jeremy Wainman is there to excavate the ancient cities of the Deep Beyond, a waterless desert. Jeremy’s companion is a local mercenary, 7’2" in her socks and stunning of course. She also has a secret which is going to make the journey rather more interesting than anticipated...

I enjoyed the contrast between the two worlds, and the fun mix of SF and fantasy; this is a concept older than Tolkein but far less explored, so I hope this series is going to stretch to more than three books. Stirling is a master at world building, and his Martians are more three-dimensional than his Venusians, with more to fight against than prehistoric creatures. An ancient, refined culture is introduced to the reader succinctly, and, incidentally, with a long back-story hinted at that is an absorbing part of the book. This makes the story sound static, but it is anything but. There are adventures aplenty involving dungeons, pirates, live chess games and much plotting. Stirling manages to fit a big story into an enviably small number of pages; this ought to be required reading for anybody about to embark on writing a Tolkeinesque doorstop. I could read any amount of these.

The Book

Tor (Tom Doherty)
March 2008
0765314894 / 9780765314895
Science Fiction
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2008
© 2008