Review: "The Sky People" by S.M. Stirling

The Sky People Buy at Amazon

The Sky People
Buy at Amazon

When I saw that S.M. Stirling was writing a new novel I figured I would give it a quick look over since I enjoyed his Emberverse novels. I'm not much for alternative history stories so I was a bit leery since it appeared to be an alternate history setting. I was also intrigued since it was a science fiction style alternative history. The novel was done in the vein of the pulp science fiction genre of the 60's with a hearty nod to the authors who put forth the notion that Mars and Venus were habitable worlds with sentient peoples. I was almost expecting a "Barsoom" type of a story but it wasn’t quite like that.

The Gist: In the 1960's Russian and American probes reveal that Venus and Mars have breathable atmospheres, plant and animal life and also a sentient race inhabiting the surface. So the race is on to colonize these worlds. It is the mid 1980's and the Cold War is still going strong with each side trying to take the lead over the other, in space and in setting up colonies planet side.

Venus has been settled by Russia and America. Jamestown is the American base while the Russians have Cosmograd. The Venusian city of Kartahown is nearby Jamestown. The Venusians are a Bronze Age culture filled with superstitions but they are friendly allies to the "Sky People", the Venusian name for the off world settlers. Venus itself is a paradise of sorts overflowing with primordial forests, animal life and LOTS of dinosaurs.

The main story centers around three characters. Lt. Marc Vitrac, who has been planet side for some time, of the Rangers, Cynthia Whitlock a geologist, new to Venus, and Christopher Blair, British Anthropologist, who is also new to Venus. They are part of a team that is sent, via dirigible, to rescue a downed Soviet shuttle and her crew that have crashed deep within the uncharted wilderness of Venus.

The Good: I really enjoyed the "old school" pulp science fiction feel. It made me think about the earliest science fiction books I had read during the lazy summers growing up.

The sly nod to the "Wing Commander" video games in which the main character was named Christopher Blair. Stirling's character Christopher Blair is the rank of Wing Commander.

The historical background tidbits that started each chapter. This was a different and interesting way to introduce the history of the space race, information about Venus and general background information of this alternate universe.

The Bad: The patois that Marc used got old after reading it for the umpteenth time. I get it! He's Cajun! ENOUGH ALREADY!

The end story seemed a bit hurried trying to wrap up everything before hitting you with the big tie in to the next novel.

The Ugly: Nothing really.

The Sky People is a fun read that harkens back to another time in science fiction writing. It has some minor quibbles but nothing that would get in the way of enjoying this rousing tale. So fire up the rockets and head to your local bookstore and pick up this gem.

The Sky People by S.M. Stirling
Published by: Tor (November 14, 2006)
ISBN: 0765314886
Genre: Science Fiction

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