A peculiar book, throwback to the science fiction of the 20s. The first half reads exactly like an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, except that the women can fight for themselves. They don't, usually, but you as a reader are supposed to understand that they can and respect them accordingly. The characters are also prettily multicultural - a Cajun, a black woman from the Bronx, an Englishman (though there is a twist there) and a Russian - but Stirling has a tin ear for dialect and differentiates between them all by simply tossing in a word or two from those dialects for each person - Mais for the Cajun, Bro for the black woman, old boy for the Englishman, and a smattering of first-year Russian. The descriptive passages are long and not terribly interesting, and the heavy-handed hints at what the twist is had me predicting the climax events from page 20, which made the intervening 250 pages a bit of a slog. The twist itself tries to bring the novel up to date, but the stereotyping of the characters and the imperialist undertones kept the novel firmly in that 20s mold, despite the slightly updated subject matter. Still, when the action finally commenced it was fairly fast-paced, and I did eventually come around to at least liking some of the characters, though that was entirely due to the fact that Stirling had one of them tame a wolf, and I am a sucker for an animal story. Even that was undercut by the fact that Stirling seemed to forget about the wolf's existence for most of the climax, and let me tell you, a real wolf would not allow itself to be forgotten that way.
This was an enjoyable read. Stirling owes a lot to Edgar Rice Burroughs; I found myself snickering at some of the plot, thinking how much it resembled the Tarzan or John Carter of Mars books. It seemed a bit slow to start, but it was worth continuing.