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In the Courts of the Crimson Kings Hardcover – March 18, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Lords of Creation Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stirling's charming second pastiche of 1930s planetary romances (after 2006's The Sky People) moves from Venus to Mars, where different Terran factions vie to pick up the pieces of the Tollamune emperor's shattered realm. Archeologist Jeremy Wainman, sent by the U.S. Aerospace Force to explore the lost city of Rema-Dza, promptly falls in love with Martian mercenary Teyud za-Zhalt; no surprise that she turns out to be heir to the long-vanished Crimson Dynasty, or that they rush off to thwart an attempt to usurp the Ruby Throne. Soon they find themselves fighting a pack of feral airship engines and questing after the invisible crown of the first emperor. Stirling successfully creates a truly alien environment (Rugs crawled to envelop the feet), and his flair for the dramatic and obvious affection for the Mars of Burroughs, Brackett and Bradbury almost make up for his inclusion of pirates with eye patches, heavily armored guards riding fat-tired, self-propelled unicycles and other moments of near-parody. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Rollicking…. A terrific premise.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The Sky People


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765314894
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765314895
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #842,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel S. Palter on March 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Second volumes in series are often a disappointment. This is actually MUCH better than the five star first one. Then again it is less a second volume than another story set in the same universe and somewhat later in time [think Cherryh's Company Wars where the books are clearly stand alone]. Stirling's world builidng was always one of his major assets and it just gets better with time and practice. This is a Mars that never was but you wish could be. The world is beautifully thought out and conveyed without annoying data dumps. The characters are great, the action non-stop [think the best dungeon crawl you ever saw but without the boring on the road parts]. This is what adventure fiction should be and very seldom is. In an era of door stopping books on often mind numbing lengths this book actually leaves you wishing the author had taken 200 more pages to reach the end. Once can only hope the series continues.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a clever updating of Burroughs' A Princess of Mars. The basic plot is identical; athletic, intelligent Earthman is transported to Mars, meets beautiful and talented Martian princess in exile, romance and adventure ensue, they end up on the throne. The background of the story, used also in Stirling's entertaining The Sky People, is a solar system in which Venus and Mars were seeded with life, including humans, from Earth after considerable planetary engineering. Mysterious forces (The Lords of Creation) are responsible for the large scale manipulation of the Solar System. Stirling has done a nice job of imagining Mars and Martian society, though his Mars owes more to Leigh Brackett's superior planetary romances than to Burroughs. Stirling's Mars has a longstanding Imperial tradition, a highly stratified society, and impressive technology based on genetic manipulation. His fleshing out of Martian society and biology is systematic and imaginative. Plotting in this book is solid, and character development is significantly better than The Sky People.
For experienced SF readers, a particularly enjoyable dimension is Stirling's frequent references to quite a bit of prior SF work.
The book concludes with a parallel worlds theme that sets the stage for the sequel.
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Format: Hardcover
If you like Ray Bradbury, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Arthur C. Clarke, Larry Niven and or Jerry Pournelle then you want to own, In the Courts of the Crimson Kings. If I read more of the science fiction greats besides Burroughs I would list there names too.

This is the squeal to, The Sky People, but you do not need to have read that book first. As they take place on different worlds and years apart, there are some references to the earlier book but it's not critical.
The Lords of Creation series like most books has a central "what if" so to speak. What if magic was real, what if humanity had faster than light travel, etc. The what if of this series is what if an alien race had been manipulating our solar system and human destiny for 100's of millions of years? Venus is a hot steaming jungle world filled with fantastic creatures from Dinosaurs, Neanderthals, creatures of the Megafauna period, modern humans and many other terrain native creatures all seeded from earth by the aliens. Mars while a dry, harsh and unforgiving world supports life, but strange and alien life. Between the pressures of trying to survive a slowly drying and freezing world and massive genetic manipulation by the human derived Martians Mars is populated by strange and alien creatures.

The technology of Mars is almost totally based on organics. The Martian Humans have guns, vehicles and binoculars but they are all living organisms. This is the result of culture that is 10's of thousands of years old. And while the Martians ability to manipulate the building blocks of life is almost without limitless they have nothing like our electronics or metallurgy. So you have a strange combination of bows, swords and deadly beyond belief creatures.
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Format: Hardcover
The Sky People

This is more than a sequel to The Sky People. It is a completion of the story that manages to be even more original than the first volume.

Stirling manages to tip his hat to the grand masters of romantic science fiction who wrote in the early decades of the 20th Century, and at the same time bring some of the best elements of alternate history and science fiction to the fore.

What if our neighboring worlds had turned out to be what Edgar Rice Burroughs, Otis Adelbert Kline, Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore and Robert A. Heinlein wrote about from about 1912 until the mid 1950's?

What if the reason for it was terra-forming by unknown aliens beginning at least 200 million years ago? Terra forming that included transporting humans or pre-humans to Mars and Venus beginning about 200 thousand years ago and extending up to much more recently in the case of Venus?

How would that have affected national and international politics from, say, 1950 to the present? How would it have affected science, religion, and philosophy?

These manage to be serious questions, and Stirling tackles them seriously, just as he tackles equally challenging questions in the "Dies the Fire" series and in stand-alone volumes like "Conquistador".

But Stirling is not a dry lecturer. There is always plenty of action, and a good if unusual love story, in his yarns. Those who have fond memories of their first tastes of Burroughs, Kline, Brackett, and Moore will delight in the subtle cribs Stirling fondly takes from each of them.

I wonder what Stirling will try next. Perhaps something Lovecraftian, but with a Robert E. Howard-esque hero or heroine?

He would do it well.
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