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Marc has been assigned to Jamestown, the US-Commonwealth base on Venus, near the great Venusian city of Kartahown. Set in a countryside swarming with sabertooths and dinosaurs, Jamestown is home to a small band of American and allied scientist-adventurers. But there are flies in this ointment - and not only the Venusian dragonflies, with their yard-wide wings. The biologist Marc has been assigned to Jamestown, the US-Commonwealth base on Venus, near the great Venusian city of Kartahown. Set in a countryside swarming with sabertooths and dinosaurs, Jamestown is home to a small band of American and allied scientist-adventurers. But there are flies in this ointment - and not only the Venusian dragonflies, with their yard-wide wings. The biologists studying Venus's life are puzzled by the way it not only resembles that on Earth, but is virtually identical to it. The EastBloc has its own base at Cosmograd, in the highlands to the south, and relations are frosty. And attractive young geologist Cynthia Whitlock seems impervious to Marc's Cajun charm. Meanwhile, at the western end of the continent, Teesa of the Cloud Mountain People leads her tribe in a conflict with the Neanderthal-like beastmen who have seized her folk's sacred caves. Then an EastBloc shuttle crashes nearby, and the beastmen acquire new knowledge… and AK47's. Jamestown sends its long-range blimp to rescue the downed EastBloc cosmonauts, little suspecting that the answer to the jungle planet's mysteries may lie there, among tribal conflicts and traces of a power that made Earth's vaunted science seem as primitive as the tribesfolk's blowguns. As if that weren't enough, there's an enemy agent on board the airship…


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Marc has been assigned to Jamestown, the US-Commonwealth base on Venus, near the great Venusian city of Kartahown. Set in a countryside swarming with sabertooths and dinosaurs, Jamestown is home to a small band of American and allied scientist-adventurers. But there are flies in this ointment - and not only the Venusian dragonflies, with their yard-wide wings. The biologist Marc has been assigned to Jamestown, the US-Commonwealth base on Venus, near the great Venusian city of Kartahown. Set in a countryside swarming with sabertooths and dinosaurs, Jamestown is home to a small band of American and allied scientist-adventurers. But there are flies in this ointment - and not only the Venusian dragonflies, with their yard-wide wings. The biologists studying Venus's life are puzzled by the way it not only resembles that on Earth, but is virtually identical to it. The EastBloc has its own base at Cosmograd, in the highlands to the south, and relations are frosty. And attractive young geologist Cynthia Whitlock seems impervious to Marc's Cajun charm. Meanwhile, at the western end of the continent, Teesa of the Cloud Mountain People leads her tribe in a conflict with the Neanderthal-like beastmen who have seized her folk's sacred caves. Then an EastBloc shuttle crashes nearby, and the beastmen acquire new knowledge… and AK47's. Jamestown sends its long-range blimp to rescue the downed EastBloc cosmonauts, little suspecting that the answer to the jungle planet's mysteries may lie there, among tribal conflicts and traces of a power that made Earth's vaunted science seem as primitive as the tribesfolk's blowguns. As if that weren't enough, there's an enemy agent on board the airship…

30 review for The Sky People

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bookwraiths

    Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths. What if Mars and Venus had been living worlds just like ours? And what if humans discovered this at the start of the Cold War space race? Would the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. still squabble over the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam, or would they set there sites and space rockets toward a more lofty goal? And once that race began what would they have found on these other worlds and how did it get there? These are some of the questions that S.M. Stirling poses here, and he do Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths. What if Mars and Venus had been living worlds just like ours? And what if humans discovered this at the start of the Cold War space race? Would the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. still squabble over the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam, or would they set there sites and space rockets toward a more lofty goal? And once that race began what would they have found on these other worlds and how did it get there? These are some of the questions that S.M. Stirling poses here, and he does a great job of making this interplanetary space race interesting. The story itself revolves around the planet Venus, where Soviet planetary probes have discovered both Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis. Manned space flights by both the Soviets and Americans have established bases on the planet, where other familiar animals like dinosaurs and plants from the dinosaur era are found to exist. Our main character is one Lieutenant Marc Vitrac, a rugged Cajun from the Louisiana bayous who is now a Ranger in the US Aerospace Force. He and a small party of other Americans - along with one Soviet - are sent out in an airship (i.e. ballon-type airship) to recover the crew of a downed Soviet shuttle. Needless to say, weather, animals, mechanical failure, natives and sabotage from an unknown enemy cause this mission to become exciting. But throughout our near nonstop adventures, Mr. Stirling always manages to seamlessly return to the mystery of how could evolution on Venus have produced people, animals and plants so similar to Earth. A mystery that only deepens when the natives turn out to speak a language similar to those found on Earth thousands of years before. Of course, like all good scifi novels, there is a cute, savage princess who falls for our leading man; numerous fights between man and animals or man and natives; and the introduction of an unknown alien force that might hold the answers to all the questions about how similar life exists on Earth, Venus and Mars. What more could any scifi fan want from a book that is not trying to be anything other than a good old-fashioned scifi romp? Nothing. That is why you give this book a try.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Duffy Pratt

    More and more, I'm thinking of Stirling as a guy who makes mediocre books out of really cool ideas. Here, an alien race terraformed Venus and Mars a couple of million years ago. It made a kind of zoo out of Venus, populating it with all sorts of Earth critters, and then setting up a sentinel for observation. This race, apparently, is so advanced that it can go to the trouble of terraforming an entire planet, and then just leave it alone without seeming to use it for anything. That premise is the More and more, I'm thinking of Stirling as a guy who makes mediocre books out of really cool ideas. Here, an alien race terraformed Venus and Mars a couple of million years ago. It made a kind of zoo out of Venus, populating it with all sorts of Earth critters, and then setting up a sentinel for observation. This race, apparently, is so advanced that it can go to the trouble of terraforming an entire planet, and then just leave it alone without seeming to use it for anything. That premise is the jumping off point for an alternate history. When the space programs did the first drive-by of Venus back in 1962, they found a planet very capable of supporting life, instead of an 800 degree hellhole with an almost entirely CO2 atmosphere. So a probe was launched, and not only was life discovered, but humanoid life. This diverted the course of Earth history. JFK gets a second term. The cold war comes to an early end as governments focus obsessively on the exploration and colonization of Mars and Venus. This is an extremely cool premise. But Stirling does what he seems to do too easily. He sticks in his stock characters, and runs them through an adventure that seems like a coy reworking of The Lost World or One Million Years B.C. As always, his hero is a brash and hyper-competent guy with a quasi-military background. You could take Marc in this book and plug him into almost any other Stirling hero without noticing much of a difference. This time, the hero is Cajun, and that means he starts some of his interior monologues with the word "Mais", and he makes a roux once. Otherwise, he's the same guy I've seen at least five times before. He and some other hyper-competent folks go on a rescue mission, trying to save the crew of a downed Russian shuttle. Along the way there is a Russian plot, the possibility of a love triangle, the mystery of a saboteur, Neanderthals with AK-47s, and some other engaging possibilities. For the most part, these threads simply fizzle. The action remains fast paced, well described, and fun. But there is so much possibility here, some just from the set-up, and other bits from plot tensions that Stirling deliberately created. And he just doesn't do much with the material he's created. To me, it felt like he just got lazy. To a certain extent, this book feels like an homage to Burroughs. It's almost as if Stirling couldn't bring himself to take his premise seriously, and yet he doesn't make a really good joke out of it either. Great premise, but disappointing execution.

  3. 4 out of 5

    An Odd1

    ***** "The Sky People" are explorers from Earth, on the first two nearby American and Russian settlements in an alternate 1988. S.M. Stirling creates a heroic space-western style adventure, with ambiguity of motivations to show humans/ aliens may be not strictly evil. Colorful vivid Venus has dangerous predators, including prehistoric giants - dinosaurs, sabretooths, flyers. A 1960s probe finds two kinds of humanoids, smelly dirty Neanderthals who drive away clean pretty hunters from their ances ***** "The Sky People" are explorers from Earth, on the first two nearby American and Russian settlements in an alternate 1988. S.M. Stirling creates a heroic space-western style adventure, with ambiguity of motivations to show humans/ aliens may be not strictly evil. Colorful vivid Venus has dangerous predators, including prehistoric giants - dinosaurs, sabretooths, flyers. A 1960s probe finds two kinds of humanoids, smelly dirty Neanderthals who drive away clean pretty hunters from their ancestral valley. [Spoilers - When a Russian pilot crashes with modern weapons, his wife joins the American-based rescue team, including a secretly French saboteur. But their craft also crashes. Cannibal beastmen capture the Russian pilot, guns, then the defenders' lovely chief. Her brave Cajun admirer leads the good guys to win her and her home back. High-tech mind control, plus fossil, evolutionary, and linguistic evidence, hint at experimentation by earlier space-spanning aliens. The last chapter has at least one alive, so sequels are possible.]

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Imagine humans landed on Venus and they found things to be eerily similar to that seen on Earth... with a few exceptions. Dinosaur-like creatures roam the planet, there are native tribes battling for reign, and a mysterious power deep within. I absolutley loved the world that S.M. Stirling created with this book. I would describe this sci-fi as a beautiful combo of Jurassic Park and Avatar! The characters were engaging (I loved Tahyo!!) and the story was intriguing, keeping you on the edge of you Imagine humans landed on Venus and they found things to be eerily similar to that seen on Earth... with a few exceptions. Dinosaur-like creatures roam the planet, there are native tribes battling for reign, and a mysterious power deep within. I absolutley loved the world that S.M. Stirling created with this book. I would describe this sci-fi as a beautiful combo of Jurassic Park and Avatar! The characters were engaging (I loved Tahyo!!) and the story was intriguing, keeping you on the edge of your seat the entire time! I would have given it 5 stars, but the main conflict was actually hard to determine. The primary plot only appeared after 2/3rds of the book were complete. Other than that, this book was a huge success and I am so glad I read it after all these years sitting on my shelf!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    In the 1960s, probes to Venus discovered something completely unexpected – life on Venus. Subsequent probes revealed plenty of animal life including dinosaur-like creatures and human-like people complete with civilizations. Now in the 1980s, the US and it’s allies have set up a small scientific outpost on Venus. The Soviet East Block has done the same thing. Venus comes with plenty of dangers but now it seems there might be a saboteur among the American & Allies crew. Marc Vitrac, born in Louisia In the 1960s, probes to Venus discovered something completely unexpected – life on Venus. Subsequent probes revealed plenty of animal life including dinosaur-like creatures and human-like people complete with civilizations. Now in the 1980s, the US and it’s allies have set up a small scientific outpost on Venus. The Soviet East Block has done the same thing. Venus comes with plenty of dangers but now it seems there might be a saboteur among the American & Allies crew. Marc Vitrac, born in Louisiana and complete with Cajun accent, is the hero of this tale. He’s got the smarts and the muscles and the skills while also being friendly to Venusian canines and respectful of women. It’s rare to find such a man in science fiction (and even rarer to find one in real life). I really enjoyed this character partially because of all that stated above but because he’s also put in extraordinary circumstances in which he manages to keep his wits about him. The setting was gripping. First, we know today that we are very unlikely to find Earth-like people and animals on Venus, but imagine if we had? Wouldn’t that raise all sorts of questions? That’s partially what these scientists are here to investigate. They also simply need to explore Venus, learning about it’s peoples and resources. I loved all the geeky science stuff about archaeology and paleontology. There’s dinos! Yes! I loved seeing Terrans and Venusians interact with these beasties in all their variety. There’s also some intimidating predator mammals, like this large canine. In fact, Marc gets himself a puppy, Tyo, who becomes quite the novelty and Marc’s best wingman. Meanwhile, the Venusians have several different cultures going on. There’s the ‘civilized’ Venusians of Kartahown city which is nearby the US outpost Jamestown. There are other cities as well. Then there’s the semi-nomadic and mostly peaceful human-like groups, such as the Cloud Mountain People lead by Teesa, a princess and shaman all rolled into one. Lastly, there’s the mostly nomadic and violent Beastmen, which are Neanderthal-like. Toss in tensions with the Soviet outpost, Cosmograd, then you’ve got some politicking as well (most of which happens behind the scenes). The cast has a fair amount of diversity. Cynthia Whitlock is an African American geologist, and resistant to Marc’s charms. Christopher Blair is our British bloke with the RAF. Much later in the story we get a Russian woman who is doing her best to retrieve a downed Russian outpost exploration vehicle that had her husband, Captain Binkis, on it. Teesa has her moments, sometimes leading her people and sometimes playing the helpless princess. Despite the well traveled tropes in this story, I got much enjoyment out of it. For me, the weakness is in the women. Sometimes these ladies are well drawn out with skills, brains, and opinions. Yet sometimes they fall into helpless damsels in distress that need rescuing (and I felt that was too easily done and just for drama). Still, I really enjoyed the story. The Narration: Todd McLaren makes a really good Cajun Marc Vitrac. He kept all the characters distinct and had feminine voices for the ladies. There were some emotional moments in this book and McLaren was great at expressing those emotions through the characters. I liked his various accents (Cajun, standard American, British, Venusian, Russian, etc.).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    This book and its sequel, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, are based on a brilliant premise I wish I had thought of myself. The premise is that, in an alternate-history universe, Mars and Venus are inhabited worlds like they were in the science fiction stories of the first half of the 20th century, with nods to Burroughs, Bradbury, Brackett, and the rest. Stirling combines these now-obsolete images of our neighbor planets with a realistic sense of what things were like on Earth--the developme This book and its sequel, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, are based on a brilliant premise I wish I had thought of myself. The premise is that, in an alternate-history universe, Mars and Venus are inhabited worlds like they were in the science fiction stories of the first half of the 20th century, with nods to Burroughs, Bradbury, Brackett, and the rest. Stirling combines these now-obsolete images of our neighbor planets with a realistic sense of what things were like on Earth--the development of rocketry under captured German scientists, the Cold War, and the space race--up to the time of this alternate-history discovery of life on Mars and Venus. These Cold War developmenbts are subsequently diverted down new paths as the "East Bloc" stakes out Venus while the U.S and its NATO allies seek dominance on Mars. So far, these books are less discussed and, overall, perhaps less favorably reviewed than the books in Stirling's Emberverse series (Dies the Fire, Island in the Sea of Time). I believe the reason for this is that the characters in The Sky People and its sequel are less fully realized. Stirling creates lots of interesting scenery and cool aliens, but it all comes somewhat at the expense of the human story in these slim volumes. If you love pulp-era and 1950s science fiction, though, these books are fun to read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Troy

    The Sky People starts out with an interesting concept, that Venus and Mars are inhabitable planets and teaming with life. I liked the alternate history view of space exploration by the US and Russians to explore these new worlds in the 1980s . It makes you think about what kind of space exploration really could have been done by now if we hadn't wasted 30 years messing around with the space shuttle... But I am only giving this book 2 stars because by the middle of the book the plot, for me, start The Sky People starts out with an interesting concept, that Venus and Mars are inhabitable planets and teaming with life. I liked the alternate history view of space exploration by the US and Russians to explore these new worlds in the 1980s . It makes you think about what kind of space exploration really could have been done by now if we hadn't wasted 30 years messing around with the space shuttle... But I am only giving this book 2 stars because by the middle of the book the plot, for me, starts to go awry. The end gets a little too fantastical, and the plot up to that starts to get predicable. The book is a fun ride, kind of like a summer action movie, but it feels like it could have been more.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Charles

    This one was good, but more space opera to me than Sword and Planet. I liked it but it didn't have the power of "In the Courts of the Crimson Kings." This one was good, but more space opera to me than Sword and Planet. I liked it but it didn't have the power of "In the Courts of the Crimson Kings."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    A few generations ago, people believed our nearest solar neighbors (Mars and Venus) might support life relatively similar to our own. Surely the cloudy atmosphere of Venus hid steamy jungles rife with peculiar creatures and perhaps an alien civilization or two. Surely those faint lines visible on the surface of Mars were canals. This fired the imagination of scores of writers, Edgar Rice Burroughs among them, who envisioned what life on those not too distant worlds might be like. But what scienc A few generations ago, people believed our nearest solar neighbors (Mars and Venus) might support life relatively similar to our own. Surely the cloudy atmosphere of Venus hid steamy jungles rife with peculiar creatures and perhaps an alien civilization or two. Surely those faint lines visible on the surface of Mars were canals. This fired the imagination of scores of writers, Edgar Rice Burroughs among them, who envisioned what life on those not too distant worlds might be like. But what science gives it can also take away. Thanks to automated probes we now know Mars is apparently devoid of life. Venus is a volcanic hell with a surface temperature that can melt lead. Writers focused their imaginations elsewhere. Well, most writers. SM Stirling has fashioned a rousing tale of a Venus that might have been in The Sky People. Stirling's alternate-history Venus is populated by humans, extinct flora and fauna such as dinosaurs and saber tooth cats, and Neanderthals. How is that possible? Parallel evolution? Panspermia? Well there is an answer-and if you have been reading my reviews long enough you know I am not going to tell you what it is. I will tell you The Sky People is what we used to call a ripping yarn-evoking all those fun stories authors used to write about Venus or Mars while surpassing them. This is High Adventure at its' finest.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Glenn Hammer

    Kind of slow.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Col

    Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels seem to be some kind of mind virus. Whatever literary value they have peaks at ages 10-14, but any boy who reads them at those ages spends the rest of his life convinced ERB was a genius. I've only Princess of Mars, and maybe I'm too hard on it, but from what I've read, ERB wrote the same book over and over again. For those reasons I was a little skeptical going into this. Despite all that, it managed to win me over. I'm not entirely sure how, though. Maybe it's the c Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels seem to be some kind of mind virus. Whatever literary value they have peaks at ages 10-14, but any boy who reads them at those ages spends the rest of his life convinced ERB was a genius. I've only Princess of Mars, and maybe I'm too hard on it, but from what I've read, ERB wrote the same book over and over again. For those reasons I was a little skeptical going into this. Despite all that, it managed to win me over. I'm not entirely sure how, though. Maybe it's the characters. The protagonist is manly, confident, intelligent, etc. In fact, everyone is, even the women. Sometimes it's nice to read about characters who are totally free of introspection, and they slot well into the Burroughsian milieu without being disturbingly robotic and ruthless as John Carter came off to me (except for one very odd scene where they cause a violent riot in a bronze-age city and started cracking skulls). They're the best humanity has to offer, but they are human. The world too, is what I can only call fun. Cribbed from Burroughs' Venus novels, it mixes dinosaurs, megafaunal mammals and hominids both human and non into a heady soup. One of the later chapters called up a very nostalgic memory, of my fear at five years old of going into the Royal Tyrrell Museum, followed by ecstatic joy at exploring it once I'd gotten over it. Maybe it's nostalgia for the things I loved as a little kid that won me over. The writing was simple, which is fine for a simple kind of story like this. I've never liked "action" in books. It takes a very, very meandering conversation or really excessive description to bore me as a reader, but a poorly executed action scene can make me put a book down after just a paragraph or two. It once took me nearly a week to get through a 10 page action scene in Consider Phlebas. But the action here was always smoothly conveyed and snappy. My interest never flagged much at all. The descriptions, too, while not inspiringly artistic, were always clear, and I liked how it employed every sense instead of just sight and sound as often happens. There's nearly as much emphasis on smell as on sight in this book. Even though it faithfully reproduced all the elements of an ERB story (manly man, tamed animal companion, princess love interest, despicable ape-men), it wasn't just slavishly copying them. The story was in a specific alternate historical context, rather than being totally cut off from society, and the characters weren't total blank slates (though they were mostly shallow stereotypes, but that doesn't need to be a problem). It built up a bit of science-fictional mystery and menace to the world rather than being purely about killing dinosaurs and banging Venusian hotties.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mouldy Squid

    The Sky People is the first of a duology by S. M. Stirling (best known for his Change series). The premise of the novel is rather attractive for fans of the old pulpy days of Science Fiction: that both Mars and Venus are discovered to be just what those old pulpsters envisioned them to be. Anyone familiar with early Science Fiction will know exactly what this means. In The Sky People a tropical Venus is settled by the competing Soviet and American space programs, set in the late 1980s. There the The Sky People is the first of a duology by S. M. Stirling (best known for his Change series). The premise of the novel is rather attractive for fans of the old pulpy days of Science Fiction: that both Mars and Venus are discovered to be just what those old pulpsters envisioned them to be. Anyone familiar with early Science Fiction will know exactly what this means. In The Sky People a tropical Venus is settled by the competing Soviet and American space programs, set in the late 1980s. There they contend not just with each other, but with dinosaurs, Neanderthals and Bronze Age humans. How all this came about is the central mystery of the novel, which is wrapped in an adventure story. So far, so good, yes? Too bad that the setup is the most interesting aspect of the novel. The adventure story is quaint, well within the bounds of the pulp tradition Stirling draws on, the characters are stock and the plot is telegraphed from the start. Once all the pieces are on the board, anyone with an ounce of sense can see exactly where the story is going and exactly how it will get there. In other hands, this might not be a problem; the story could be told in an entertaining enough way so that the obviousness of the plot doesn't matter. Stirling does not have those hands. It's far too simple for my tastes, and if I didn't know better, I would say that this was aimed at pre-teen readers. This is the first Stirling I have read, and if it is typical of his writing, I won't be reading any more. Other than the sequel to The Sky People, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings that is. One of my first loves were the Barsoom novels and I am sufficiently intrigued by the central mystery of the novels to continue.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Phoenixfalls

    A peculiar book, throwback to the science fiction of the 20s. The first half reads exactly like an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, except that the women can fight for themselves. They don't, usually, but you as a reader are supposed to understand that they can and respect them accordingly. The characters are also prettily multicultural - a Cajun, a black woman from the Bronx, an Englishman (though there is a twist there) and a Russian - but Stirling has a tin ear for dialect and differentiates betwe A peculiar book, throwback to the science fiction of the 20s. The first half reads exactly like an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, except that the women can fight for themselves. They don't, usually, but you as a reader are supposed to understand that they can and respect them accordingly. The characters are also prettily multicultural - a Cajun, a black woman from the Bronx, an Englishman (though there is a twist there) and a Russian - but Stirling has a tin ear for dialect and differentiates between them all by simply tossing in a word or two from those dialects for each person - Mais for the Cajun, Bro for the black woman, old boy for the Englishman, and a smattering of first-year Russian. The descriptive passages are long and not terribly interesting, and the heavy-handed hints at what the twist is had me predicting the climax events from page 20, which made the intervening 250 pages a bit of a slog. The twist itself tries to bring the novel up to date, but the stereotyping of the characters and the imperialist undertones kept the novel firmly in that 20s mold, despite the slightly updated subject matter. Still, when the action finally commenced it was fairly fast-paced, and I did eventually come around to at least liking some of the characters, though that was entirely due to the fact that Stirling had one of them tame a wolf, and I am a sucker for an animal story. Even that was undercut by the fact that Stirling seemed to forget about the wolf's existence for most of the climax, and let me tell you, a real wolf would not allow itself to be forgotten that way.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andreas

    This series is set in an alternate history where Mars and Venus were found teeming with life by spaceprobes in the 1960s. A space race ensued to set up bases on the planets. Interestingly, the superpowers spent so much on space that no major wars were fought on Earth after the Korean War. The action starts on Venus in 1988. Marc Vitrac is one of the researchers living there. It is very much a frontier life among the lush and extremely varied flora and fauna. After some initial setup, Marc and a This series is set in an alternate history where Mars and Venus were found teeming with life by spaceprobes in the 1960s. A space race ensued to set up bases on the planets. Interestingly, the superpowers spent so much on space that no major wars were fought on Earth after the Korean War. The action starts on Venus in 1988. Marc Vitrac is one of the researchers living there. It is very much a frontier life among the lush and extremely varied flora and fauna. After some initial setup, Marc and a few others set off on a long journey of adventure. They find answers as to why Venus’ life forms seem so similar to Earth ones, and those answers are unsettling. Along the way, they befriend some natives and, in that inevitable manner of colonization, they are assimilated into their adopted land. Diehard “outdoor Stirling” fans need not worry. There is plenty of camping, hunting and bowmaking. The characters are. as usual with Stirling, engaging and “real”, as is the backdrop. It is easy to see that Stirling had a lot of fun writing this. It’s as if he woke up one morning and decided to throw a whole bunch of elements (dinosaurs, giant mammals, modern humans, neanderthals, giant bugs and on and on) into a pot just to see what would come out. The result is a fun read but not Stirling’s best. The setting is very rich and complex and more could have been fleshed out, if only to satisfy the reader’s curiosity. An appendix discussing background history and societal aspects would have been very welcome.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hotspur

    Imagine the Cold War transposed over Edgar Rice Burroughs, Larry Niven and a little bit H.G. Wells, and you have the milieu of the SKY PEOPLE. I'll be honest, I have never been very impressed with Stirling's work in the past-- they start off well, for the most part, but he has (historically, in my experience) dove into some fairly cheesy directions, possibly because he thought that was what his (mostly male) audience wanted (start a Draka novel some time, you'll see.. you'lllll seeeeeeeee). Stil Imagine the Cold War transposed over Edgar Rice Burroughs, Larry Niven and a little bit H.G. Wells, and you have the milieu of the SKY PEOPLE. I'll be honest, I have never been very impressed with Stirling's work in the past-- they start off well, for the most part, but he has (historically, in my experience) dove into some fairly cheesy directions, possibly because he thought that was what his (mostly male) audience wanted (start a Draka novel some time, you'll see.. you'lllll seeeeeeeee). Still, SKY PEOPLE was on my book club list for the Secret Library, so I found it and read it. And was pleasantly surprised. Stirling delivered a pretty good setting and a pretty good story here-- NOT laden with tons of surprises. The Sky People reads like a good fantasy/SF crossover written in the 80s, and that's not such a bad thing. In the 1980s The Soviets and the American "bloc" have discovered life on Venus AND on Mars, and it's (suspiciously) human looking. Venus, where this novel takes place, is a riot of mixed biology that would give an anthropologist and biologist fits-- mammals coexisting with dinosaurs, suspiciously Human looking Homo Sapiens existing with Neanderthals, and a lot more. The setting is grand, the plot, decent. In my humble opinion, it's Stirling's best novel yet (although my sample data is somewhat limited).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    The premise of this book is great: In this alternate timeline, Soviet space probes to Venus in the 1960's discover a teeming ecosystem swarming with a strange mish-mash of earthlike animal life from prehistoric and modern times, along with primitive human societies. The US and the USSR race to be the first nation to explore (and exploit) the newly discovered world. Unfortunately, the execution of the story does not do the premise justice. The characters are flat and cliched (including the colorfu The premise of this book is great: In this alternate timeline, Soviet space probes to Venus in the 1960's discover a teeming ecosystem swarming with a strange mish-mash of earthlike animal life from prehistoric and modern times, along with primitive human societies. The US and the USSR race to be the first nation to explore (and exploit) the newly discovered world. Unfortunately, the execution of the story does not do the premise justice. The characters are flat and cliched (including the colorful Cajun rogue, the tough African-American from the 'hood, the exotic and beautiful alien priestess). The first half of the story moves very slowly, with a lot of dry exposition and unnecessarily long digressions in the plot. Once the adventure finally gets going, the plot twists are extremely predictable and formulaic. This series is meant as an homage to the pulp science fiction like E.R. Burrough's Mars and Venus stories. This really could have been a clever, modern re-thinking of those classic books, but Stirling's attempt has no spark. Plodding, lifeless and by the numbers, it doesn't live up the idea's full potential.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Re-read in early 2021. Better book than I recalled. He did his homework on world-building his fictitious inhabitable Venus, and I 'm pretty sure I've seen a planetologist or two speculating that Venus could have been Earth-2, given a slightly different hand dealt. Plus, it's a cracking good yarn! I'm surprised I gave it just 3 stars. About a third in, 3/26/21 -- & headed for 4 0r 5 stars if he keeps it up.... A prime Stirling yarn so far! Plus: house-cats on Venus! ITO that cats adapted quite wel Re-read in early 2021. Better book than I recalled. He did his homework on world-building his fictitious inhabitable Venus, and I 'm pretty sure I've seen a planetologist or two speculating that Venus could have been Earth-2, given a slightly different hand dealt. Plus, it's a cracking good yarn! I'm surprised I gave it just 3 stars. About a third in, 3/26/21 -- & headed for 4 0r 5 stars if he keeps it up.... A prime Stirling yarn so far! Plus: house-cats on Venus! ITO that cats adapted quite well to zero-G. Their coping mechanism: 1) Swim in the air to the nearest human 2) Latch on to their head with all 4 paws, claws extended 3) Yowl their heads off! OK, as others have noted, the book gets formulaic as it goes on. But Stirling had a good formula, at least back then, and I have a weakness for well-done planetary romance. The book comes to a rousing climax, and ends with a hook for the next, "In the Courts of the Crimson Kings." Which I liked back then, too, and also plan to reread. This one gets bumped up a bit, to 3.5 stars, rounded up for fun. Plus, it's short!

  18. 4 out of 5

    CV Rick

    This is a serviceable pulp sci-fi adventure book in the golden age mold of the genre. It reads like Burroughs or Hubbard with a cookie-cutter cast of interplanetary colonizers discovering a new and vibrant world within our own solar system. Dangers are avoided, challenges met, and secrets revealed. The good guy wins, gets the girl, and extends the grand designs of American expansion beyond our shores - beyond our atmosphere - for the good of all mankind. There's a bit of sarcasm in what I wrote, This is a serviceable pulp sci-fi adventure book in the golden age mold of the genre. It reads like Burroughs or Hubbard with a cookie-cutter cast of interplanetary colonizers discovering a new and vibrant world within our own solar system. Dangers are avoided, challenges met, and secrets revealed. The good guy wins, gets the girl, and extends the grand designs of American expansion beyond our shores - beyond our atmosphere - for the good of all mankind. There's a bit of sarcasm in what I wrote, but the fact remains that I read the whole book because it's smartly written with a plot that easily brings you along on a ride. Don't look for deep meanings or well-drawn characters, but instead a Hollywood-style adventure ripe for adolescent adventure dreams. To criticize that more would be unfair because that's exactly the book I believe the author intended and we should all be so lucky to be able to write the book we want to write.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Allen McDonnell

    First half of a two volume set This novel is written in the Burroughs style of narration so if you like classic novels of that style you should like this as well. In the alternate universe where these novels take place an extremely advanced alien species terraformed Venus and Mars millions of years ago. From time to time as life evolved on Earth they collected samples and seeded them on both terraformed planets. When Earth developed space technology they discovered life on Venus and Mars setting First half of a two volume set This novel is written in the Burroughs style of narration so if you like classic novels of that style you should like this as well. In the alternate universe where these novels take place an extremely advanced alien species terraformed Venus and Mars millions of years ago. From time to time as life evolved on Earth they collected samples and seeded them on both terraformed planets. When Earth developed space technology they discovered life on Venus and Mars setting off a colonization competition between the USSR and USA with a few European nations making independent efforts to plant their own colonies as well. At the time the novels are set space travel is still very expensive which means the colonies are small and mostly self sufficient. Looking forward to reading the second novel set on terraformed Mars, the first is set on terraformed Venus.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

    Great premise, blah execution. The idea of extending the space race in an alternative future in which Mars and Venus are habitable, pulp-style worlds is a great one, but the book lacked the sense of adventure and wonder I was hoping for. The book seemed to struggle to adjust to its own premise, not sure if it wanted to embrace pulp or hard sf, and ended up failing at both. It was an ok read, but not an inspired one.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Clay Davis

    A pretty good space opera story

  22. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    This is good without being great. Shorter than expected. I'll judge it more harshly if Book 2 isn't more expansive and interesting. But a good read. This is good without being great. Shorter than expected. I'll judge it more harshly if Book 2 isn't more expansive and interesting. But a good read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David Pyle

    For anyone who has read what is popularly known as “The Space Trilogy” by C.S. Lewis, you will find this novel an interesting read. Lewis didn’t care for that appellation, preferring, as I understand it, “The Cosmic Trilogy”. Either way, of particular comparison would be Lewis’s novel “Perelandra”, which is set on Venus, as this tale is. Of note, Lewis published his stories in 1938, 1943 and 1945, before we had any solid evidence of the composition of either Martian or Venusian surfaces. His para For anyone who has read what is popularly known as “The Space Trilogy” by C.S. Lewis, you will find this novel an interesting read. Lewis didn’t care for that appellation, preferring, as I understand it, “The Cosmic Trilogy”. Either way, of particular comparison would be Lewis’s novel “Perelandra”, which is set on Venus, as this tale is. Of note, Lewis published his stories in 1938, 1943 and 1945, before we had any solid evidence of the composition of either Martian or Venusian surfaces. His parables were allegorical, using his fantastic conceptions of Mars and Venus to set up a perhaps prophetic third book about Earth in the future. The genre of science fiction was really ushered in by books such as these and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”. Interestingly, both that title and Lewis’s “That Hideous Strength” presage totalitarian governments in earth’s future. George Orwell read from the same script in the well-known novel, “1984”. Back to this novel, however. A 2006 publication, it posits an alternative timeline to our own, similar to the concept behind the “Man in the High Castle” series. One’s disbelief is cleverly suspended via seemingly genuine Encyclopedia Brittanica entries at the opening of most chapters. That technic was, to me, one of the novel’s strengths. Foreshadowing aplenty drives the reader forward to find out the what and why behind several mysteries, with the obligatory love interest thrown in for good measure. It is an engaging tale which suffers primarily in its brevity. It seemed like things were rushed at the end. A bit more tying up of loose ends would have been appropriate. Give it a go; it is worth the time to read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    *Spoiler alert* I had very high hopes when starting The Sky People. The premise sounded interesting and different from the usual tropes. As I began to read, the descriptions were vivid and beautiful; the detail Stirling went into when setting the scene is fantastic. But, unfortunately, this almost immediately went in some very cliche directions. I realized by about a third of the way into the novel that this was basically going to play out like the book version of any movie on the SyFy Channel s *Spoiler alert* I had very high hopes when starting The Sky People. The premise sounded interesting and different from the usual tropes. As I began to read, the descriptions were vivid and beautiful; the detail Stirling went into when setting the scene is fantastic. But, unfortunately, this almost immediately went in some very cliche directions. I realized by about a third of the way into the novel that this was basically going to play out like the book version of any movie on the SyFy Channel starring Casper Van Dein. Muscle bound hero? Check! Hot native girl who's obviously going to end up with him? Check! Messy alien subplot miraculously tied up at the end with one heroic move? We have that too! Once I realized that was the journey I was going on, I sat back and just enjoyed the ride. It's a fun book if you're not looking for anything deep or unpredictable.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jason Bloom

    As a Stirling fan, I have read a ton of his alternate history work, and this one felt a bit phoned-in. A clear paint-by-numbers set up that you can see a mile away, there wasn't much here to get invested in, and so the stakes were low for me. I didn't really root for anyone, I was mostly here for the alien flora and fauna, and that was cool, but again, a bit pulp-y and a bit trope-y, although those are two staples of MOST alternate history novels/series. To me it just didn't feel very inspired, As a Stirling fan, I have read a ton of his alternate history work, and this one felt a bit phoned-in. A clear paint-by-numbers set up that you can see a mile away, there wasn't much here to get invested in, and so the stakes were low for me. I didn't really root for anyone, I was mostly here for the alien flora and fauna, and that was cool, but again, a bit pulp-y and a bit trope-y, although those are two staples of MOST alternate history novels/series. To me it just didn't feel very inspired, and I would say this book would be for someone who, like me, was working their way through Stirling's bibliography. There are better books to read ahead of this one. I would definitely stay away if this was to be your first foray into Stirling's work OR alternate history novels, his Nantucket series or his Dies the Fire series are STREETS AHEAD. You've been warned.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marsha Valance

    On 1988 Venus, Teesa of the Cloud Mountain People leads her tribe in a conflict with the Neanderthal-like beastmen who have seized her folk's sacred caves. Then an EastBloc shuttle crashes nearby, and the beastmen acquire new knowledge… and AK47's. The Jamestown colony sends its long-range blimp to rescue the downed EastBloc cosmonauts, little suspecting that the answer to the jungle planet's mysteries may lie there, among tribal conflicts and traces of a power that made Earth's vaunted science On 1988 Venus, Teesa of the Cloud Mountain People leads her tribe in a conflict with the Neanderthal-like beastmen who have seized her folk's sacred caves. Then an EastBloc shuttle crashes nearby, and the beastmen acquire new knowledge… and AK47's. The Jamestown colony sends its long-range blimp to rescue the downed EastBloc cosmonauts, little suspecting that the answer to the jungle planet's mysteries may lie there, among tribal conflicts and traces of a power that made Earth's vaunted science seem as primitive as the tribesfolk's blowguns. As if that weren't enough, there's an enemy agent on board the airship…

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tony Manning

    This was an alternative history science fiction novel which while very simple the plot was interesting. I normally don't care much for alternative history books, but this one was okay. I just looked at it as a science fiction novel. For such a simple book it got you to where you cared about the characters. I really enjoyed Teesa. I'm a bit interested to see how the story continues, but I think it may move to Mars and be a whole new set of characters which would probably mean it wouldn't be as co This was an alternative history science fiction novel which while very simple the plot was interesting. I normally don't care much for alternative history books, but this one was okay. I just looked at it as a science fiction novel. For such a simple book it got you to where you cared about the characters. I really enjoyed Teesa. I'm a bit interested to see how the story continues, but I think it may move to Mars and be a whole new set of characters which would probably mean it wouldn't be as compelling, though I would have to read it to find out.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Abram

    An interesting sci-fi. When life a discovered on Venus and mars the Cold War takes a turn in this kind of alternate history sci-fi. But the life on Venus is mostly mismatched creatures from different periods in earths history (dinosaurs, mammals, humans and Neanderthals mostly) it’s an interesting premise. I guess I’m the second one they’ll hopefully discover who populated Venus. Like most of stirling’s book it’s a good premise and an exciting story. I had to take a point away though for Neander An interesting sci-fi. When life a discovered on Venus and mars the Cold War takes a turn in this kind of alternate history sci-fi. But the life on Venus is mostly mismatched creatures from different periods in earths history (dinosaurs, mammals, humans and Neanderthals mostly) it’s an interesting premise. I guess I’m the second one they’ll hopefully discover who populated Venus. Like most of stirling’s book it’s a good premise and an exciting story. I had to take a point away though for Neanderthals with AK47s though.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie Adee

    Not nearly as good as Dies the Fire. I had a little trouble with the narrator. Wasn't the best. Maybe it just wasn't what I was looking for. Still, solid story telling. Reasonably developed characters. Good world building. Pacing is on par for S.M. Stirling -- slow and steady rising to a fever pitch. Not nearly as good as Dies the Fire. I had a little trouble with the narrator. Wasn't the best. Maybe it just wasn't what I was looking for. Still, solid story telling. Reasonably developed characters. Good world building. Pacing is on par for S.M. Stirling -- slow and steady rising to a fever pitch.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kyla Anderson

    It was a cool idea, the writing wasn’t anything special. There were many inconsistencies and it felt like it never got edited. The plot fell pretty flat and it had this air of trying way too hard. One thing I liked was the alternate history, each chapter began with an entry from the encyclopedia of Brittanica explaining events in “history.”

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