The Sky People by S. M. Stirling

Narrator: Todd McLaren

Publisher: Tantor Audio (2007)

Length: 10 hours 38 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Lords of Creation

Author’s Page

In the 1960s, probes to Venus discovered something completely unexpected – life on Venus. Subsequent probes revealed plenty of animal life including dinosaur-like creatures and human-like people complete with civilizations. Now in the 1980s, the US and it’s allies have set up a small scientific outpost on Venus. The Soviet East Block has done the same thing. Venus comes with plenty of dangers but now it seems there might be a saboteur among the American & Allies crew.

Marc Vitrac, born in Louisiana and complete with Cajun accent, is the hero of this tale. He’s got the smarts and the muscles and the skills while also being friendly to Venusian canines and respectful of women. It’s rare to find such a man in science fiction (and even rarer to find one in real life). I really enjoyed this character partially because of all that stated above but because he’s also put in extraordinary circumstances in which he manages to keep his wits about him.

The setting was gripping. First, we know today that we are very unlikely to find Earth-like people and animals on Venus, but imagine if we had? Wouldn’t that raise all sorts of questions? That’s partially what these scientists are here to investigate. They also simply need to explore Venus, learning about it’s peoples and resources. I loved all the geeky science stuff about archaeology and paleontology.

There’s dinos! Yes! I loved seeing Terrans and Venusians interact with these beasties in all their variety. There’s also some intimidating predator mammals, like this large canine. In fact, Marc gets himself a puppy, Tyo, who becomes quite the novelty and Marc’s best wingman.

Meanwhile, the Venusians have several different cultures going on. There’s the ‘civilized’ Venusians of Kartahown city which is nearby the US outpost Jamestown. There are other cities as well. Then there’s the semi-nomadic and mostly peaceful human-like groups, such as the Cloud Mountain People lead by Teesa, a princess and shaman all rolled into one. Lastly, there’s the mostly nomadic and violent Beastmen, which are Neanderthal-like. Toss in tensions with the Soviet outpost, Cosmograd, then you’ve got some politicking as well (most of which happens behind the scenes).

The cast has a fair amount of diversity. Cynthia Whitlock is an African American geologist, and resistant to Marc’s charms. Christopher Blair is our British bloke with the RAF. Much later in the story we get a Russian woman who is doing her best to retrieve a downed Russian outpost exploration vehicle that had her husband, Captain Binkis, on it. Teesa has her moments, sometimes leading her people and sometimes playing the helpless princess.

Despite the well traveled tropes in this story, I got much enjoyment out of it. For me, the weakness is in the women. Sometimes these ladies are well drawn out with skills, brains, and opinions. Yet sometimes they fall into helpless damsels in distress that need rescuing (and I felt that was too easily done and just for drama). Still, I really enjoyed the story.

The Narration: Todd McLaren makes a really good Cajun Marc Vitrac. He kept all the characters distinct and had feminine voices for the ladies. There were some emotional moments in this book and McLaren was great at expressing those emotions through the characters. I liked his various accents (Cajun, standard American, British, Venusian, Russian, etc.).

What I Liked: Dinos and people!; Venus has much that needs exploring and much that is deadly; the variety of peoples on Venus; the political tensions between America & Allies and the Soviets; the deadly mammal predators; Tyo doggy; the very botched rescue mission; left me wanting more; great cover art.

What I Disliked: The ladies sometimes fall into helpless damsel mode.

What Others Think:

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