Conquistador by S.M. Stirling is an… interesting book. The premise is classic Golden Age science fiction: a H. Beam Piper*-esque hero creates a stable dimensional portal to an alternate California that Europeans have never colonized, or even visited. And so, in classic Golden Age style, the aforementioned Great Man of history goes and carves out a nice little kingdom for himself and his fellow freebooters… and that’s where the book gets a little enjoyably awkward, because S.M. Stirling quite enjoys reminding us that our grandparents and great-grandparents were from a completely different people. The book is not precisely a dystopia, but the society it describes is perhaps not somewhere you’d want to live. Read about? Sure. Live? …Not so much. But it is indeed a page-turner. Especially if you like your adventure fiction to come with appendices, and who among us does not?
And so, adieu to Digital Divide.
*This was so totally a homage to H. Beam Piper. Stirling made it pretty explicit, in fact.
The Sky People is the first book of a two-book series (plus novella) that asks the question, Hey! Wouldn’t it have been great if Mars and Venus was actually as inhabitable as the Golden Age of SF assumed that they were? – only it’s hard science fiction. It more or less assumes no change to our timeline until the 1940s or so, but after that the changes start to accumulate. In the meantime you get giant Venusian dinosaurs in this one (and Martian rapier fights in the sequel), which is really the important thing here. Extra points for a universe where Edgar Rice Burroughs is the unchallenged greatest literary figure of the Twentieth Century…
And so, adieu to Blood Maidens.
S.M. Stirling’s standalone book The Peshawar Lancers (there is a short story set in the same universe, mind) is an alternate history novel that asks What would happen if you dropped a comet or an asteroid into the Atlantic Ocean during the height of the Victorian era? One answer apparently would be Eventually, Rudyard Kipling’s dream world. It’s all very steampunk, in the brass-and-gears sense: but it’s also very deliberately evocative of Haggard and Kipling and Fraser (to give an idea, the Flashman novels are not so much evoked in this book as they were slipped a Mickey Finn and shanghaied to it). I enjoyed it greatly, not least because Stirling is always good at showing the world-building. Lots of fun and it’s a shame there hasn’t been a true sequel.
Adieu, The Lost Majority: Why the Future of Government Is Up for Grabs – and Who Will Take It. We’ll have need of your services again soon enough, I fear.
…I mean, I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen this “Revolution" thing before - only it was called Dies the Fire and was the start of a fairly involved, fairly well-known book series. One hopes that NBC isn’t simply planning to file off the serial numbers and pass off Mr. Stirling’s work as their own…
…The SM Stirling it is, then.
From SM Stirling’s alternate history The Tears of the Sun. Background: …too long to explain; suffice it to say that the heroes are being a bit standoffish towards someone who was until-quite-recently an ally of one of the major villains. And the attitude of said heroes is not really flying with the local holy man:
The lama sighed and looked around at the others; the firelight picked out his wrinkles, like the hills and valleys of a mysterious country. Beyond gleamed the peaks of mountains where bear and cougar and tiger roamed, and men as savage as either.
“My friends,” he said gently, “self-righteousness is the fumes of decomposing vanity; it is the means the Devil’s Guard use to cloud the vision of those who truly love virtue. If someone is far along a journey to destruction, shall you hate them for waking to their situation, and turning about, and taking even a single halting half step back? Will that encourage them to take a second step, and a third? Or will it minister only to the darkness in our own souls?”
I know, I know: but nobody ever said being good was easy.
And it’s about time, too. Unfair, no doubt: The High King of Montival is part of a series (the Emberverse*), which means delays. Still: out in a week.
And so Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Roleplaying Game: An Essential D&D Starter (4th Edition D&D) is out this week. Err, it’s being switched out. You know what I mean.
*Short version: gunpowder, electricity, and most high-energy chemistry stops working one day – while at the same time not affecting actual people. This would drive scientists and engineers mad, except that most of them lived in areas which promptly started in on starving to death and the survivors had more important things to worry about. Essentially, adventure with a steadily-increasing fantasy quotient.
S.M. Stirling puts up the first chapters of whatever book he’s working on at the moment at his website, in the fully-justified belief that this will keep me sufficiently interested to buy the book as soon as it hits hardcover. It’s interesting to see the differences that occur between these drafts and the finished product, too.
The latest one is A Taint in the Blood, and it looks to be urban fantasy… only not, unless you consider psionics ‘fantasy,’ which they are and are not, depending on how rigorous the science is otherwise, so it’s more like urban horror, except that makes no sense… oh, just read it. It’s turning out pretty good so far.
It being Sunday, we remove Harry Turtledove’s Hitler’s War – which I will figure out how to acquire in a week or so; and bring in S.M. Stirling’s The Sword of the Lady, which I have an entire month to figure out how to acquire. It’s good for me, really. Teaches me resourcefulness.
It’s called Age of Sail, and it looks like a historical blog discussing precisely that.
I came into Age of Sail fiction from the science fiction end of it, actually: reading S.M. Stirling and David Weber got me reading Patrick O’Brian and C.S Forester (I’m currently halfway through A&E’s Horatio Hornblower series, and enjoying it muchly). And then, of course, there’s George MacDonald Fraser’s The Pyrates, which is required reading for anybody who loves old Hollywood swashbucklers (and who doesn’t). So I guess I’m explaining why this is going on the blogroll…
PS: OK, one last one: Naomi Novik. For all your “Napoleonic warfare novels with dragons added; only, and this is really important to note, adding the dragons doesn’t make the whole thing suck horribly, or indeed at all” needs.