Marc Vitrac was born in Louisiana in the early 1960's, about the time the first interplanetary probes delivered the news that Mars and Venus were teeming with life—even human life. At that point, the "Space Race" became the central preoccupation of the great powers of the world.
Now, in 1988, Marc has been assigned to Jamestown, the US-Commonwealth base on Venus, near the great Venusian city of Kartahown. Set in a countryside swarming with sabertooths and dinosaurs, Jamestown is home to a small band of American and allied scientist-adventurers.
But there are flies in this ointment – and not only the Venusian dragonflies, with their yard-wide wings. The biologists studying Venus's life are puzzled by the way it not only resembles that on Earth, but is virtually identical to it. The EastBloc has its own base at Cosmograd, in the highlands to the south, and relations are frosty. And attractive young geologist Cynthia Whitlock seems impervious to Marc's Cajun charm.
Meanwhile, at the western end of the continent, Teesa of the Cloud Mountain People leads her tribe in a conflict with the Neanderthal-like beastmen who have seized her folk's sacred caves. Then an EastBloc shuttle crashes nearby, and the beastmen acquire new knowledge… and AK47's.
Jamestown sends its long-range blimp to rescue the downed EastBloc cosmonauts, little suspecting that the answer to the jungle planet's mysteries may lie there, among tribal conflicts and traces of a power that made Earth's vaunted science seem as primitive as the tribesfolk's blowguns. As if that weren't enough, there's an enemy agent on board the airship…
Extravagant and effervescent, The Sky People is alternate-history SF adventure at its best.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
For this rollicking first of an alternate history series, Stirling (Island in the Sea of Time) uses the terrific premise that Mars and Venus are exactly as depicted in pulp-era SF, eerily Earth-like and populated by prehistoric people and creatures. When 1960s space probes find that Venus is habitable, the Americans and Russians scramble to set up colonies and get in good with the natives. In 1988, a Russian rocket crashes in the wilderness and can only be reached by an airship from the U.S. Commonwealth base of Jamestown, crewed by a classic love triangle: Ranger Lt. Marc Vitrac, Harlem-born geologist Cynthia Whitlock and ultra-British anthropologist Christopher Blair. Stirling doesn't stint on old-fashioned elements, most notably the gorgeous native princess with magical powers, but the multiculturalism sidesteps most stereotypes while retaining a broad-brush pulp sensibility; the science is refreshingly realistic; and everyone cusses (sometimes in awkward translation). Readers will eagerly anticipate a trip to Mars in the sequel, In the Halls of the Crimson Kings.
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The Sky People
Great fun enjoyed the time I spent in its pages. I would return Venus anytime.
SKY PEOPLE/COURTS OF THE CRIMSON KINGS is arguably the best fiction that S.M. Stirling has ever written. At once there is a nostalgic feel about the setting and the characters, but that is exactly what makes it timeless. Well written, entertaining and exciting. If only the third book would get published...