This new novel is old again. That is, it is quite explicitly, indeed exuberantly, in the mold of planetary romances such as Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars books, Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon serials, and Leigh Brackett's work. And, as the author reminds us, the television series Land of the Lost. Chris Roberson also includes buried references to many other SF books, and he grounds his story in at least vaguely (if not very) plausible speculative science. The end result is quite a lot of fun.
The main character is Akilina Chirikov, called Leena, a Soviet cosmonaut who is supposed to become the second woman in space, after Valentina Tereshkova. But her Vostok capsule encounters an anomaly, and she finds herself in another dimension, on a very Earth-like world -- but quite different.
She is quickly captured by intelligent jaguar men, and as quickly rescued by another jaguar man and a human. Fortunately for her, the jaguar man, Balam, and the human, Hieronymus Bonaventure, having little else to do, agree to help her in her quest to find a way back to Earth. She feels she must fulfill her duty to the Soviet people by reporting on this new land.
The rest of the story is a fairly typical quest, taking Leena and her companions around the whole continent of this world called Paragaea. The world is inhabited by many varieties of "metamen": jaguar hybrids like Balam, seal men, crocodile men, etc., as well as humans native to Paragaea and others who came through gates such as Leena. For instance, Hieronymus was a 19th Century British sailor. In rather Vancean fashion, the travellers encounter a wide variety of cultures. They are often forced to fight for their lives. They gather and lose additional comrades, including an immortal android of sorts, a seal man, and a human descended from a group which once ruled Paragaea.
Inevitably they are led to the mysterious city of Atla, perhaps the oldest city on Paragaea. There Leena hopes to find the secret to travel back to Earth, while Balam, it turns out, encounters his long lost daughter. And Hieronymus simply hopes to find a way to stay with Leena. And the reader learns intriguing secrets about the nature of this world.
As I said, this book is a lot of fun to read. It isn't a masterpiece: the prose is a bit uneven, the action is fun but not terribly original, the plot, as typical with quest books of this sort, is slightly rambling. But I enjoyed myself, and I enjoyed and cared for the characters. Roberson has produced some excellent short fiction in the past few years, and this book (his second novel) suggests he will be producing engaging longer works as well.