Duffy Pratt's Reviews > In the Courts of the Crimson Kings

In the Courts of the Crimson Kings by S.M. Stirling
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Jan 04, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: science-fiction
Read from February 11 to 18, 2014

Stirling has a knack for coming up with very cool premises for his books and series. He also then does good research on his premise, and thinks through some very cool consequences.

And despite this, his books tend to be diverting, but mediocre. He writes the same badass characters into almost every book of his that I've read. And the stories tend to run over well trodden ground. So, despite the cool premises from one book to the next, there's a kind of sameness that seems to pervade what he does.

Here, he takes us to an ancient Martian civilization. Because of the lack of fuel and uranium, the Martian technology advanced very rapidly in the bio-sciences. But it lagged considerably in the area of combustibles. He also makes the presumption that the Martian society is pretty much like a Chinese dynastic society on a very grand scale. Lineage is worshipped over all else, and the Martians are both treacherous and hyper-rational.

The story involves the quasi bastard offspring of the Emperor, her ties to an Earthling, and the pursuit of them by vying political factions. The plot moves quickly, but is basically dull. There are several times when winks at the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies, but the wink doesn't change the fact that he's pretty much writing the same thing, and not doing it as well as the first movie (though way better than Temple of Doom or the Last Crusade).

The other aspect of this book I found off-putting was the constant use of a kind of translation of the Martian demotic language. It's basically stilted, hyper-academic English in translation. A better writer could have made the language fun, or interesting, or both. Stirling tries, but I never got with the program and I just don't think he's a good enough writer to pull tis sort of thing off.

Overall, I think this is a pretty decent complement to The Sky People. But it is very thin. I've read elsewhere that this is a loving homage to Burroughs' John Carter books. Maybe so, and that put's me at a disadvantage since I haven't read them. But if so, then I feel about this sort of the way I do about Austen's Northanger Abbey. Homage, and/or satire, should stand on its own legs, and they both suffer if the derivative pleasures are the primary ones.
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Reading Progress

02/11/2014 marked as: currently-reading
02/18/2014 marked as: read

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