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Coyote Rising (Coyote Trilogy) Mass Market Paperback – November 29, 2005
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Though the characters in COYOTE RISING are generally well drawn and believable, a few (i.e. Zoltan Shirow), while certainly intriguing, are a bit "over the top" and hard to swallow. There are also, as another reviewer has pointed out, inconsistencies in the planetscape presented here (i.e. a waterfall that a river has to flow uphill to make possible). These were relatively minor problems as far as I was concerned, however.
I liked COYOTE RISING. It has some shortcomings, hence the four star rating instead of five, but I think the overall story arc is a good one and Steele generally handles it well. I also think this book is a solid improvement over its predecessor. If you made it through COYOTE, you won't want to miss COYOTE RISING.
Shuttlefield is where the story, which is actually a series of short stories, begins. Recent arrival Allegra DiSilvio just wants to find a speck of land to park her secondhand tent and winds up making new friends and reawakening her talent. Ben, a man who's been content to drift along doing odd jobs, finds himself in a nightmare when he agrees to guide a religious cult from Shuttlefield to Midland. During these stories, the original colonists seem mostly like a myth, a dream of freedom removed from the squalor of Shuttlefield, with their own Robin Hood-type character in the form of Rigil Kent, a shadowy figure who conducts raids on the government in Liberty and Shuttlefield. When Ben finally manages to reach the original colonists, the story then opens up to include adventures with the first settlers of Coyote. Underlying it all is the foreboding presence of Matriarch Luisa Hernandez, who ruthlessly uses her political power to build a bridge from New Florida to Midland in an effort to exploit its resources, and to oust the original colonists from their freedom and return them to social collectivism, an ugly blend of imperialism and communism. She does not count on the resourcefulness of those who oppose her, or on the forces of nature, and it isn't long before Coyote faces full-scale war.
Allen Steele's best writing has been on his Coyote novels, proving he earned those Hugos. He manages to smoothly interconnect a series of stories from different points of view into one cohesive story with rich texture. We have small personal dramas playing out against a backdrop of an entire foundling society's biggest dilemma that affects them all. Though not as tense and gripping as the first "Coyote," this book is an excellent follow-up that put me right back on that planet so many light years away. I don't read a lot of sci fi, but I will always read Allen Steele.
The book continues the story Steele began in "Coyote." The series (now three volumes) tracks the early history of Earth's first interstellar colony, located on a moon of a gas giant in 27 Ursae Majoris. In the first book, a handful of settlers from late-21st century America make the 230 year trip in biostasis, and set about building a frontier society. Now, the original pioneers are joined by thousands of 23rd century colonists from the "Western Hemispheric Union." Due to improvements in starship design, the newcomers arrive only a few years after the first group. Politics, language and culture have changed considerably during the intervening centuries, leading to a rift between the groups and eventual revolution.
Steele does a masterful job of world-building. The geography, characters, and social arrangements are effortlessly convincing - you feel like you are there, on a real world among real people. To me, that's about the highest compliment one can give a science fiction writer, that he or she made the speculative seem real.
The book originated as a series of short stories, and reads that way. The stories tie together well enough, though, to give a cohesive flow to the book. It helps to know the backstory, so you'll probably want to read "Coyote" first to orient yourself.
My one complaint about "Coyote" was that it lacked depth. I didn't think Steele fully explored his world or characters. Coyote Rising fills in the blank spaces nicely. It's not wildly inventive, but it is well-crafted and believable. Together, the books present one of the most satisfying story arcs in years.