?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Recent Entries Friends Archive Profile Tags Jeamland
 
 
 
 
 
 
Coyote is the latest novel by Allen Steele. I think there are a couple of interesting things to say about it.

The first of these is that it's not really a novel. It's a series of novellas, novellettes and short stories, most of which were first published in Asimov's, collected in one volume with minimal changes. At some points, there arguably should have been more changes; more than one section has an unnecessary plot recapitulation for the benefit of readers that missed the previous story. The large plus, however, is that Coyote has a greater variation in focus and style than you commonly see in novels, with segments in first and third person, present and past tense, and from the viewpoint of a wide range of characters. This keeps things interesting.

The second thing worthy of note about Coyote is that it's american. I don't read a great deal of (modern) american science fiction. This is particularly true for the american practitioners of hard SF - I will always, without hesitation, take Egan over Benford, Baxter over Bear, Macleod over Brin. There are exceptions; Kim Stanley Robinson, for instance, or Vernor Vinge. By and large, though, there's something about large tracts of american science fiction that I Just Don't Get.

On paper, I should dislike Coyote. Hell, I should hate it. Not only is it by an american author, it is about that most american of topics: pioneering. Coyote is the story of a group of intellectual dissidents escaping from the clutches of a totalitarian state to start afresh on a new world. Moreover, once they arrive at their destination, it just so happens that the new world in question features plains country suitable for Huckleberry Finn-esque adventures. Much of the novel barely has a reason for being SF; it's a tale of the pioneers transplanted to the stars. And the leader of the exodus is called Robert E Lee.

But - it works. It's not the most complex or intellectual novel in the world, but it's enjoyable, and it feels honest. The science and ideas aren't the focus of the story, but when it matters, the details are right. You can tell Steele has done his research. There are some damn fine individual stories here, too, ones that don't dodge the harsh realities that would come with such a colonisation attempt. For my money, though, the opening double-bill is difficult to match: The gripping 'Stealing Alabama' skips neatly between viewpoints as it details the initial escape from Earth, whilst the wrenching 'The Days Between', tells the tragedy of a colonist roused from cold sleep whilst the starship is still two centuries from its destination.

The Coyote stories continue; there's another in this month's Asimov's that I've not yet had the chance to read. To call them a guilty pleasure of mine would be a lie, because I don't feel guilty. I just want more.
 
 
 
 
 
 
whilst the wrenching 'The Days Between', tells the tragedy of a colonist roused from cold sleep whilst the starship is still two centuries from its destination.

I read this. Was rather unimpressed. It's here if anyone's interested.
Fair enough. And, yikes. The formatting on that version is severely messed up.