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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 December 2006
This excellent book is alternative history in space with a difference: it it begins in 1988 on Venus in a world where, as in the Martian fantasies of Edgar Rice Burroughs or other works of early science fiction, Venus and Mars are inhabited.

This history of the world of "The Sky People" begins to diverge from ours around 1960 when probes to Mars and Venus reveal first that these planets are habitable, then that they are teeming with terrestial forms of life from all eras of our planet's history, and finally that these include Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis and Homo Sapiens Sapiens. And everything else from dinosaurs to sabre toothed cats. Someone is using these planets as giant zoos for terrestial life forms.

Instead of concentrating on the arms race, the Soviet bloc and the USA compete to colonise Mars and Venus. At the start of the story, both the USA, with some support from the UK, and the Communist powers (including China) have bases on Venus. A soviet shuttle crashes, and although it contains a number of things which the Russians would rather the US did not know about, they are so desperate to recover the crew that they ask the Americans for help. Meanwhile the French have plans of their own.

There are a number of amusing references to events and fiction in our history: one of these is that Stirling has named one of the major characters in this book "Wing Commander Christopher Blair." (For those who never played space sim games, Christopher Blair was the main character in four of the five "Wing Commander" computer games.) However, Blair in this book is definately not the clean cut boyish hero played by Mark Hamill in the Wing Commander games. Indeed he's more like Admiral Tolwyn in a number of respects, starting with the fact that he appears to be a stiff upper lip British type who is not an entirely sympathetic character.

Overall this is a very exciting alternative history/sci fi crossover, which is as entertaining as Stirling's "Nantucket" trilogy and his book "The Peshawar Lancers". So far there is one sequel, "In the Courts of the Crimson Kings," in which the action moves to Mars.
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on 29 August 2009
S.M. Stirling decided to write his own Mars/Venus pulp stories. There is the problem that we now know the two planets to be sterile. Stirling's solution: Create an alternative universe where XT's terraformed the planets a couple of hundred million years ago and seeded them with life. Then 200.000 years ago some hominids were transferred to Mars, uplifted to intelligence and then more or less left to their own devices. Venus got neanderthals when they were still around and homo sapiens maybe 8000-10.000 ago.
Then a novel is written about each planet.
Burroughs has two versions of these stories: Hero meets stone age princess and hero meets princess from an ancient civilisation. The Sky People is the firt kind of book. In the Courts of the Crimson Kings is about an old not-quite-human civilization on Mars.
For old fans of Burroughs, Kline, Brackett and so on they are must reads. For other people they are good reads.
Stirling has incidentally written a novel in what you may call the Kipling/MacDonald Fraser universe: The Peshawar Lancers.
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on 3 January 2008
Reminiscent of the care free action novels of pulp 1930's sci-fi. The premise is a solar system where the inner planets have humanoid life discovered on them. Unlike Harry Turtledove's "A World of Difference", the life turns out to be Homo sapiens with other human culture turning out to be as alien as anything among the stars. The Earth's Anglo-American alliance and the Communist by the 1980s have set up rival bases on a Venus: which resembles a Jurassic era Earth, replete with large and hungry dinosaurs, sabertooths and Neanderthals. A crashed space shuttle and a rescue mission leads to hints of true alien involvement. Looking forward to its sequel for more escapism, "Halls of the Crimson King".
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 February 2015
This is a throwback to the old style of "planetary adventure" which flourished in the first half of the last century, before we learned we were all alone in the solar system. As the saying goes, this story bring back a Venus that never was…but should have been. Treated as alternate history, this is a fantastic homage to the old days of sci-fi, with guns, swords, dirigibles and dinosaurs.

In this alternate solar system, Venus is a primitive world of steaming swamps with primitive human inhabitants (and dinosaurs), but apart from this its 1985 and the Cold War is in full swing - but largely moved to space exploration rather than MAD. We have the story of a US team (note: includes Great Britain) on Venus, who help out the Eastbloc (Russia + China) to look for a crashed cargo ship.

As it turns out, the cargo included a crate or two of AK-47's, leaving us with the unforgettable showdown between dinosaurs and Neanderthals with assault rifles (OK, that did not, in fact, quite happen - but the whole book was just a huge pile of insane fun). There is more to it than that though - there are questions about old alien intelligences, the seeding of the solar system with life, and best of all, there is a semi-sequel, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings.

But for all that, this is sheer old fashioned romp, with adventure, betrayal (by the French, no less - and that’s not really a spoiler), redemption, a primitive warrior princess, and pretty much any - and every - other old trope you can think of.

Highly recommended.
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on 22 June 2011
this was supprisingly a good read, i liked the cover then as i got to grips with the first few chapters the story began to unfold nicely, the more i read the more i could not put this down!
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on 14 July 2015
An awesome book. The edition I got was a hardbook with a fabric hardcover. There were some slight water damages on the last pages but overall great book (in depth detailed writing with a focus on the scenery and thorough detail of the action). Awesome for people with a good visual imagination!
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on 26 March 2012
Read in a day it was that good. Looking forward to the sequel and hoping the author will write more in this series.
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on 28 September 2006
I have just read the first few chapters online of this new story and it looks as good as his other stories, I was hooked straightaway and I am looking forward with great anticipation to the launch of this new series.

It reminded me of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy in that they are building a colony on a new planet and reminded me of some of Striling's other books like the Island in the Oceans of time or Dies the Fire. Regardless, it looks like another great sci fi story and i have pre ordered it. Try S Stirling other books if you like this one.
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on 8 August 2008
I guess that once you have been around for a while reading your science fiction that sometimes things can get a little old hat. Not always a bad thing when something is well written or has a subtle aspect to it that defeats the "Derivative" tag. Alas this is not one of those occasions. There is very much an old style feel to this book which speaks well of it but after that there really is nothing to write home about. The "plot" could have been set anywhere ( the jungle, a fantasy world, the savage land, lost world etc... ) with very little science to the science fiction. Not helped either by the main character's annoying tendency to speak in French constantly. Something that perhaps adds a little bit of colour to a comic book character but really grates in a novel. Nothing original or remotely significant - Michael Moorcock did it much better.
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on 17 January 2007
I generally like Stirlings books. I've enjoyed very much the island in the ocean of time series (any more follow-up coming mr. Stirling?), I liked the older Draka series as well and of course the new series starting with Dies the Fire. But this book did even more for me. Since my teen years in the '70s I enjoyed SF, mainly the big ones like Heinlein, Asimov, Vance, ..., but I equally enjoyed also the books from Robert E. Howard, Lin Carter, Sprague de Camp and especially the ones of E.R. Burroughs. Many were the moments that I (re)read with a lot of pleasure the Barsoom stories or the moon-men books. And Stirling has not only dedicated this new work to these great masters, he has masterly achieved to capture the special athmosphere of the originals. Extremely well done, so much so, that immediately following this book I restarted on Burroughs Pellucidar stories! Mr. Stirling I hope we will see many more from you!
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