In the parallel world first introduced in S. M. Stirling's The Sky People, aliens terraformed Mars (and Venus) two hundred million years ago, seeding them with life-forms from Earth. In the Courts of the Crimson Kings is set in that same astonishing world.
Humans didn't suspect this until the twentieth century, but when the first probes landed on our sister worlds, and found life—intelligent life, at that—things changed with a vengeance. By the year 2000, America, Russia, and the other great powers of Earth are all contending for influence and power amid the newly-discovered inhabitants of our sister planets.
Venus is a primitive world. But on Mars, early hominids evolved civilization earlier than their earthly cousins, driven by the needs of a harsh world growing still harsher as the initial terraforming runs down. Without coal, oil, or uranium, their technology was forced into different paths, and the genetic wizardry of the Crimson Dynasty united a world for more than twenty thousand years.
Now, in a new stand-alone adventure set in this world's 2000 AD, Jeremy Wainman is an archaeologist who has achieved a lifelong dream; to travel to Mars and explore the dead cities of the Deep Beyond, searching for the secrets of the Kings Beneath the Mountain and the fallen empire they ruled.
Teyud Zha-Zhalt is the Martian mercenary the Terrans hire as guide and captain of the landship Intrepid Traveller. A secret links her to the deadly intrigues of Dvor il-Adazar, the City That Is A Mountain, where the last aging descendant of the Tollamune Emperors clings to the remnants of his power…and secrets that may trace their origin to the enigmatic Ancients, the Lords of Creation who reshaped the Solar System in the time of the dinosaurs.
When these three meet, the foundations of reality will be shaken—from the lost city of Rema-Dza to the courts of the Crimson Kings.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Stirling's charming second pastiche of 1930s planetary romances (after 2006's The Sky People) moves from Venus to Mars, where different Terran factions vie to pick up the pieces of the Tollamune emperor's shattered realm. Archeologist Jeremy Wainman, sent by the U.S. Aerospace Force to explore the lost city of Rema-Dza, promptly falls in love with Martian mercenary Teyud za-Zhalt; no surprise that she turns out to be heir to the long-vanished Crimson Dynasty, or that they rush off to thwart an attempt to usurp the Ruby Throne. Soon they find themselves fighting a pack of feral airship engines and questing after the invisible crown of the first emperor. Stirling successfully creates a truly alien environment ("Rugs crawled to envelop the feet"), and his flair for the dramatic and obvious affection for the Mars of Burroughs, Brackett and Bradbury almost make up for his inclusion of pirates with eye patches, heavily armored guards riding "fat-tired, self-propelled unicycles" and other moments of near-parody.