Book: In the Courts of the Crimson Kinds by S. M. Stirling

Very entertaining second novel in science-fiction series modeled after 1950s pulps

S. M. Stirling
In the Courts of the Crimson Kings
Tor, 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-1489-5
ISBN-10: 0-7653-1489-4
304 pages

In the Courts of the Crimson Kings is the second novel in S. M. Stirling's "Lords of Creation" series. The first one is The Sky People, which is set on Venus. This book contains some spoilers for that one so it would be best to read that one first. My opinions of it are here.

As you might guess, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings is set on Mars. In the universe it's set in, in the early 1960s, unmanned probes from Earth to Venus and Mars found life, indeed civilization, on both planets. A much grander space-race began between West and East began than in the real world and there was a consequent lessening of tensions on Earth. By the 1980s, both blocs had bases on each planet. As the main part of this book begins, it's the year 2000 and Jeremy Wainman is an archeologist on Mars and he's outfitting an expedition into the deep Martian desert to a place where he thinks that some ancient artifacts may be found.

If that sounds like a plot from a 1950s-era pulp science-fiction novel, that's because it's meant to. Both books in the series take pulps as their models, but they do in slightly different ways. The Sky People has a plot full of adventure and characters with can-do attitudes, while In the Courts of the Crimson Kings (though not short on adventure) spends more time on the ancient, elaborate, and decaying Martian civilization. In the book there has been a single, unified Martian civilization for around the last 36,000 years but things haven't been going so well for the past few thousand years. That's a nifty theme for a book and it's made more interesting by the fact that almost all Martian technology is biological.

If The Sky People is sometimes more raw fun because of the adventure, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings is often more interesting because of its more sophisticated premise. In both books Mr Stirling takes pulp tropes, updates them and works them out with everything that has been learned about writing science-fiction since those ideas were new. The book is a splendid fun.

Posted: Tue - June 3, 2008 at 04:41 PM   Main   Category: