by S M Stirling Book : Fiction  |  1st ed
Dinosaurs on Venus   (2007-05-17)
"The Sun rose in the west. Deera of the Cloud Mountain People ran as she had through the short hours of darkness, without hope and without much fear."Stirling has combined science fictional elements from a variety of sources, including Edgar Rice Burroughs to create a story that is engaging, but not always persuasive. Here, space flight has moved forward with human life, notably similar to life on Earth, found on Mars and Venus. The natives on Venus call those from Earth the "sky people." Native culture is based on relatively simple technology with some few metal tools and primitive weapons. The Americans have a base on Venus near the largest city while the Soviet-Chinese have a base rather far away. The Americans are more advanced in their progress and the Soviets are unhappy.Besides the competition between the Soviets and the Americans, the native people favored by both are threatened by the primitive, brutal Wergu, the beast men, here seen as Neanderthals.Marc Vitrac is one of the elite selected for duty on the U.S. base on Venus. He is a ranger as well as a pilot and the leading character. When a Soviet space shuttle crashes far away, but closer to the U.S. base at Jamestown, a lighter than air ship is sent to rescue the crew -- if they are still alive. Besides the air ship captain, the crew consists of Marc, Christopher Blair [English], Cynthia Whitlock [geologist], and a Soviet female.Most of the story is devoted to the voyage to the crash site, the distruction of the airship, collaboration with the Cloud People against the beast people [who gained automatic weapons from the Soviet shuttle], and a long, long journey back to Jamestown.The first third of the story does a good job in establishing the world with its dinosaurs and other unusual beasts and in developing the characters. The second third is more adventuresome while continuing to describe the people, the culture, and the landscape.The major story line works well, but the fuzzy linkage to alien observers/manipulators in the cave of mysteries is neither clear nor persuasive. The story would be better without it.World building is quite satisfactory. The alternate history with the informative Encyclopedia Britannica 16th edition chapter openings worked well. The exotic flora and fauna provide a convincing environment for the plot. The the pages turn quickly and the adventure is quite satisfactory if we ignore the alien mystery part. Character development is adequate, but a bit more on the background/development of the major characters, especially Blair, would strengthen the story.This is a quick, easy adventure story.Recommendation:Stirling is well established with many books on the shelves of most larger libraries. The Edgar Rice Burroughs touch and the manly adventure make this a good cross-over title for those who don't usually read SF and for teens. Jacket art by Gregory Manchess shows a crashed space vehicle, space men and prehistoric animals so it clearly identifies the theme and story type. The book has good white space, dark print, and a relatively large font.
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