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In the Courts of the Crimson Kings (2008)
Fiction Review by The Gravedigger

In the Courts of the Crimson Kings (2008) Author: S.M. Stirling

This novel takes place in the same universe as Stirling's previous novel, THE SKY GODS. In that book, Earth had discovered that the planet Venus was seeded with creatures taken from Earth's past, which includes everything from dinosaurs to Neanderthals to a tribe of modern humans.

A few of the characters are mentioned from the previous novel but it's primarily a different group of people on a different planet. Mars seems to have been seeded earlier and the majority of the life forms tend to be bird-like or squid-like creatures. It's also a dying planet, as there's less water each year and the vast desert reclaims more and more of the planet. The olive-skinned humans are even a different species, though that doesn't stop anthropologist Jeremy Wainman from falling in love with a beautiful Martian princess who may hold the key to her people's survival. She discovers an ancient device, a crown, which was created by those who gave life to the planet and it allows her to magnify her mind's powers.

There's political intrigue, old fashioned adventure, desert pirates and some ferocious monsters.

Martian civilization is much older than ours and their technology is based on biological creatures. For example, their recording devices are these types of birds that mimic and repeat everything they hear. Even the engines that drive their dirigibles are living creatures that produce methane!

The ending of the book is inetersting, though it reminded me very much of Robert Charles Wilson's AXIS, as it has a similar premise. Hopefully there will be a third book which ties everything together and has humanity face whoever the mysterious "Creators" are.

Basically, this is S.M. Stirling channelling the spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs and channelling him well. IN THE COURTS OF THE CRIMSON KINGS is highly entertaining, especially if you're a John Carter of Mars aficianad

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