Fans of Mr. Steele will enjoy this collection. The stories vary dramatically in tone and theme, but the quality is characteristically solid. The author’s affection for American mid-20th Century culture helps bring colour to the collection, and a hint of nostalgia.
This is yet another novel set in the Coyote universe. It is about a defector from the Western Hemisphere Union who makes his way to Coyote. He is then hired/drafted for a trade mission to the aliens discovered in Spindrift.
This is a lightweight tale of adventure and redemption. Very plain vanilla in concept. Competent but nothing more.
Spindrift is a spinoff of the Coyote series, dealing with first contact. The ending, where the survivors of the Galileo expedition arrive in Coyote, is already predetermined, if you will, by the epilogue of Coyote Frontier and the prologue of Spindrift itself. To arrive at this conclusion, Steele sends the Galileo and its crew on a voyage to a rogue asteroid hurtling far outside the solar system. This asteroid, dubbed Spindrift, has responded to signals from a SETI search program.
The novel is quite short, and not very much happens. What is worse, it is all very predictable. The characters are taken straight from Central Casting and the spaceship scenes are unsurprising. Even the enigmatic alien artifact is filled with stock puzzles. Setting it within the Coyote backstory is a pretty neat trick if you’ve read the other books. As a standalone, however, the novel is inadequate, far too predictable and sadly formulaic. The only redeeming quality is the way Steele manages to make the reader care for the characters. I genuinely wanted to know what would happen next, and thus reading the book was not a complete loss.
Book three in the Coyote series, this novel takes us once more to the colony planet Coyote. But there’s a new twist. Earth has developed a technology for instantaneous travel between stars, meaning close contact with Earth is possible once more. Coyote seems like paradise to inhabitants of Earth wracked with overcrowding and catastrophic climate change. Will the budding Coyote Federation be able to withstand the onslaught? The original colonists have grown middle aged and responsible, but now their children rebel. It is a classic dichotomy. The old and wise versus the young and energetic. Steele plays to his strength in character creation and development, making this perhaps the most enjoyable of the Coyote books.
Unlike the two previous books, this one is not a collection of previously written short stories with interlude pieces. However, Steele has still kept some of that feel. The narrative changes pace, viewpoint and even style between sections. But the episodes are less self contained than before. This effect still takes some getting used to, but it works well.
The epilogue, after the action proper has been concluded and loose ends tied up, is a bit surprising. We are left dangling after a momentous first contact. Said first contact is described in Steele’s novel Spindrift. Blatant plug? Perhaps. But it also reminds us that the story of the colony is still unfolding.
The sequel to Coyote, picks up where the previous one left off, thus mitigating some of my annoyance with the ending of the previous book. Coyote has been invaded by the Western Hemisphere Union, a major power on Earth, and the original colonists have to fight a guerilla war against an increasingly despotic post-socialist regime. As before, the story is episodic in nature, with the whole derived from eight short stories. This has both advantages and disadvantages. While the thing feels cobbled together, the shifting viewpoints keep things interesting, and Steele is certainly a master of the short story.
Even more than before, though, Coyote feels like Steele’s “Big Caucasian Sandbox”. I don’t think the author has given it conscious thought, but everyone seems to be Caucasian and with a North American outlook on life. It’s really quite comical. And while Steele will sometimes make a token effort at exploring cultural differences between the the older generation of original colonists and the new one, he is mainly concerned with differences in political outlook. In the end, it’s not so bad, since the theme of the story is revolution.
This novel goes beyond Steele’s typical near-future, near-Earth fare and describes the creation of the first interstellar colony.
The novel has previously been published in the form of a series of short stories, and suffers from it, feeling cobbled together.
The characters are interesting and I was drawn in by the narrative. Steele readily manages to convey the sense of wonder inherent in traveling for almost two hundred and fifty years, and then arriving at an alien world.
I was disappointed with three things. The first is the apparent lack of proof reading and sloppy science. For example, on one page a pilot is gripping a stick, and on the facing page this changes into a yoke. The second is the less than perfect orbital mechanics and the lack of biological diversity on the new world, In Steele’s defense, it is clear that he is more focused on interpersonal interaction, and he pulls off this part very well. The third and last thing is the ending. I don’t have a problem with endings that leave a lot to the imagination, but this simply left you hanging. I don’t want to give it away here, but the whole last part of the book was simply too implausible and just plain annoying. With just a very little change, Steele could have written a classic.