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In the past month, I've read four books from Allen Steele's Coyote series, and so here's my reviews of each one...
COYOTE, Allen Steele, 2002 - I had read this fix-up novel previously in the form of individual stories published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, during 2001 and 2002. On this re-read, things are pretty much exactly the way I remember them from my first reads, except that I was able to move quickly from one story to the next. I think of this as a "juvenile", because while there are adult characters and plots in some of the stories, the strongest story-lines involve the maturation of teenagers. I was most engaged by "Across The Eastern Divide, from the Memoirs of Wendy Gunther", in which the teenagers set out a rebellious voyage of discovery. I began reading this book while camped at 10,000 feet in the Rockies, supervising a group of teenagers in the construction of a bridge on the Colorado Trail, and so it is possible that my setting in the real world influenced my reactions to the book. But I think the characterization and description most comes to life in that story. It also has more narrative complexity than the rest of the book, being re-told from the point of view of a more aged Wendy, rather than just scene-by-scene.
COYOTE RISING, Allen Steele, 2004 - This is the second book in the trilogy, and like the first is a fix-up novel of stories previously published in Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine in the early 2000s, where I first read them. Except for the first two, these are all stories of the armed conflict between the original settlers and the new settlers who have taken over through sheer numbers. The old settlers stand for frontier liberty and freedom, while the new settlers espouse a system of Social Collectivism that has devolved into Feudalism. Good guys vs. bad guys. Thrilling, but simplistic. My favorites are the first two stories, "The Madwoman of Shuttlefield" and "Benjamin the Unbeliever" which I feel to be more inventive, and rising out of the mileau of the slums of excess humanity brought to Coyote by the Social Collectivists.
COYOTE FRONTIER, Allen Steele, 2005 - Unlike the first two books in the series, this one is not a fix-up of separately published stories. However, it is still told in episodes. In this volume, the frontier world of Coyote faces its third adversary - the European Union which comes into contact through an instantaneous stargate. Looking forward, Earth is in a long downward spiral of climate degradation, while Coyote is running out of repairable technology artifacts. The two worlds need each other, but is any sort of trade equilibrium possible? While somewhat predictable, this conclusion to the trilogy is still engaging and highly readable.
SPINDRIFT, Allen Steele, 2007 - This is a parallel novel. That is, it tells a story that takes place in parallel with the events of the Coyote trilogy, but unknown to the characters in those stories. There is a brief mention of the passage of an alien craft in Coyote, and the arrival of the EAS Maria Celeste near the end of Coyote Frontier. This novel then, is the explanation of events leading up to that arrival. It's a first contact story, and brings the previously unused concept of alien civilizations into the Coyote universe - which is becoming a kitchen sink hodgepodge of all the tradtional sf concepts. On it's own, this book doesn't have much to recommend it. The concepts relating to exploration of a dormant intersteller colony ship have been done before, and better. The pace of this book felt unnecessarily slow to me; I found myself skimming over pages and pages of spaceship banter among crewmates reporting status to each other, when I would have been satisfied with a simple description of the EASS Galileo's maneuvers. My bottom line - this is a novella padded out to novel length, and is of interest only to those who are reading the entire Coyote series. Allen Steele should stick with shorter-form science fiction, at which he is better.
My understanding is that Allen Steele is working on a new Coyote novel at this time.
Any comments out there?