Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Book Review: Coyote Frontier

The third book in the Coyote trilogy by Allen Steele brings us back to the sparsely-settled world. After successfully defending itself from the predations of the Western Hemisphere Union, which had absorbed the United Republic of America, the citizens of Coyote begin to develop their own culture. Carlos Montero, the former rebel known as Rigel Kent, is now President. Much of the technology brought to Coyote on board the Alabama is wearing out. The citizens of Coyote realize that while they are pioneers and Coyote is the frontier, technology is nice to have.

Fortunately, one of the original Dissident Intellectuals who did not make it to the Alabama was frozen on Earth and has just been thawed. Conveniently, this scientist was working on a "starbridge"--also known as "Faster Than Light" travel. It also means that instead of the hundreds of years it took Alabama to get to Coyote or the decades it took the WHU vessels and settlers, travel will now take hours.

Which means the neat toys and gadgets of Earth will become available to Coyote. As will the problems.

However, not everyone thinks this is a Good Thing. One of the indigenous species on Coyote, the chireep, are sentinent. They have language. They have social structure. They have art. And there is a group on Coyote who feel the development of chireep culture is threatened by the invasion of humans from Earth.

Coyote also becomes a pawn in the political struggles on Earth, mostly between the WHU and the European Alliance. (There is also a Pacific Coalition, which I'm guessing is primarily Asian, although this is not as well-drawn.) Global warming has caused the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps to melt, flooding the coastal towns of North America, and changing global weather patterns, pushing the Northern Hemisphere towards an Ice Age (wait--how can that be? Wouldn't the Ice Age freeze some of the water flooding the coasts and cause the ocean levels to drop again? Or am I just not following the argument here?).

Anyway, because Manhattan is flooded, the UN has moved its headquarters to London, which is managing to remain fairly dry only because they had the foresight to build dikes.

The EA seems like the Good Guys in all of this, but this is politics. And there is an Evil Industrial Filthy Rich North American Capitalist who has managed to save several breeds of horses from extinction. He has his own reasons for wanting to negotiate with the government of Coyote.

And, of course, there are those who want to protect the chireep and protect Coyote from the ecological devastation suffered by Earth. There are those who see dollar signs as well. There is the inevitable clash between the two.

Guess who wins?


This is probably the weakest of the three books in the trilogy. Too much jumping around. Too much PC science. Too much gee-whiz technology as deus ex machina. Not enough character development!!! (Which is also my biggest complaint about Lucas and Spielberg.)

The best science fiction, for me, literally transports me to another time, place, and culture. The world the author presents becomes real. Doesn't happen here, although I really want to like the characters. But just when I'm getting into their thought processes, their way of thinking, Steele changes viewpoints.

And just when you think the series has ended...

And--please, please, please!-- can't we have the world end some way other than by Global Warming? A nice pandemic, perhaps? Biological warfare? Dirty bomb that eliminates some, but not all? Blasted by Martians with ray guns? C'mon--writers are supposed to be imaginative. Show some ingenuity! Show some individuality!

Coyote Frontier won't make much sense if you haven't read the previous two: Coyote and Coyote Rising. I borrowed them from the local public library and they are available in paperback. They're good vacation/beach/airplane books.

On the March Hare scale: 2.5 out 5 Golden Bookmarks.