Books: Venusians and Crusaders

Books: Venusians and Crusaders

I just finished reading the new book by S.M. Stirling book “The Sky People”, which looks to be the first of a new trilogy I think. The proposition in these books is this: What if the Venus and Mars of all those pulp science fiction novels of the first half of the 20th century—planets full of dinosaurs and other fantastic creatures and human civilizations—were real? What if space probes in the 1960s discovered that Mars and Venus were inhabited by a fantastic menagerie? How would that affect subsequent history and how would Earth’s nations respond to this reality? Most importantly, how could such things happen?

All the familiar Stirling elements are here. The extremely capable, yet down-to-earth (so to speak) heroes, the strong-of-mind-and-body heroines, the betrayers, the detailed description of flora and fauna, and oh yes, blimps. Stirling loves blimps.

This is enjoyable pulp, a pretty quick read that was a bit slow to get started, but then really took off. Some of the plot threads seemed to get lost, but perhaps they’re merely dormant, waiting to picked up again in the next book. I recommend this one for any fan of Stirling’s other books. It’s not quite at the level of the “Emberverse” books, but easily the equal of “Conquistador”.

Meanwhile, I’ve next started reading Thomas F. Madden’s “The New Concise History of the Crusades”. This is a survey of the Crusades written for a general audience by a well-regarded historian, using the most current scholarly research. The book was updated after 9/11 to reflect the renewed interest in the Crusades, especially with the terrorists referring to all Westerners as “crusaders” and calling the War on Terror a new crusade.

I’m only a few pages into the book, but I do have one quibble. Already Madden has said several times that “Only recently, in the aftermath of September 11, have westerners discovered that religion remains a reason to wage deadly war.” Really? I suppose for some people, but I think a lot of people have been aware of it since at least the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980. Certainly, the rhetoric used at the time was distinctly Islamist.

I don’t think this is a fatal flaw for the book. I look forward to reading what Madden has to say about this period of history that remains so relevant today.

  • let us know what you think when finished with Madden’s book.  I have it on my wish list and am interested to hear how well it is written.

  • I read Madden’s book earlier this year and it is excellent.

    I don’t think there was much interest in the Crusades after the Iran-Hostage crisis and it was 9-11 that really invoked interest.  It was really Bin Laden and other Jihadist invoking the Crusades that made it such a hot topic.  Surely this is the context which Madden refers to. The hostage crisis was not really seen as a war and historic West-Islam conflicts were not the news filler being used to explain it.

    As a side note my ship was on its way to Australia when the hostages were taken and we ended up spending the next three months at sea before we were relieved.

  • I don’t doubt that it was 9/11 that increased in interest in the Crusades, but what he said was that it showed westerners that some people still use religion as a reason to wage war. If there’s one thing we’ve known about Islamic terrorists since the 1970s is that they were motivated by a religious impulse.

  • Warren Carroll’s ‘History of Christendom’ has an excellent discussion of the Crusades and the Reconquest of Spain.