Saturday, July 16, 2005

Book Review: Coyote

Coyote is subtitled: A Novel of Interstellar Exploration. And it is, but like most good science fiction, it’s more about the people than the science.

Allen Steele begins the book on Earth in the “near” future: 2075. One hundred people are scheduled to lift off to explore and colonize the moon of a jovian-type planet in a distant star system. However, the Captain and several of his crew conspire to steal the starship. The original passengers are replaced by “Dissident Intellectuals” who have been persecuted by the government for disagreeing with various government policies. (As it turns out, many of these are scientists who helped design and build the starship.)

They are successful and once they are on their way, they are placed in biostasis for the next 240 years until the reach their destination. One event happens during that time. The significance of that event is hinted at, but not completely explained.

The rest of the novel is about the settlers of this new world learning about the planet, themselves, and others, as they build a civilization from scratch. Mr. Steele has done an excellent job creating a world that seems alien, but plausible, based on current scientific theories. He does this without being heavy-handed: no math, no long-winded scientist expounding on Why Things Are The Way They Are. Mr. Steele also explores the interpersonal relationships among the colonists. The major characters are complex. They make decisions, some good and some bad, suffer the consequences, learn something, and alter their future behavior accordingly. The characters seem very real.

Many of the stories in the book have been published as short stories in magazines and anthologies. In fact, since I subscribe to one of them, reading this book was almost like re-reading it.

WARNING: This book is the first of two (at least—I have my suspicions that there will be more). One of the reasons I read it was because I found the second book, Coyote Rising, in the new book section of the library. I figured I’d read them in order.

March Hare Rating Scale: 4 bookmarks out of 5.