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Coyote Rising by Allen M. Steele
Review by Ernest Lilley
Ace Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0441012051
Date: 07 December, 2004 List Price $23.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Much Colony sf starts off with the assumption that Earth isn't back there anymore, at least not in a way that's going to affect them. Stranded on an alien world with only their wits and a few irreplaceable tools colonists struggle to survive. Coyotye Rising turns some of those assumptions on their heads as a stream of faster and better armed starships continue to arrive from Earth, challenging the original settlers for their new home.

At the beginning of the first book Coyote(2002), the captain of the Starship Alabama hijacked his own ship so that it could go on its colonization mission free of the oppressive government that had taken over America. While they succeeded, they left behind political turmoil, and sparked a socialist revolution, which wasn't what they had in mind at all, but rather a return to the founding spirit of the country.

In fits and starts they survived, and even began to prosper in their new log cabin homes, though logs felled from alien trees then the Socialist government's first starship arrived. Thanks to better technology, the new ships came faster and faster, and thanks to some pessimistic foresight on the part of the new Earth government...they came loaded for bear.

The colonists slipped away into the wilds rather than be absorbed by the socialist state that their successors brought, and the new colonists found that the spirit of socialist collectivism didn't travel all that well to the stars, making the haves and have-nots separated by an increasing margin. Every now and then a few more would slip away to join the disappeared colonists, hiding in the unexplored lands beyond the island they first settled. And now and then someone bearing the name "Rigel Kent" would slip in amongst the socialist colony and wreak a bit of havoc before fading back into the woods.

With more starships arriving and population pressure building in the new colony, the socialists needed more resources from the larger island where the original colonists fled, but guerilla warfare kept them from the woods they need to harvest. The stage is set for war between asymmetric powers, but nature itself will take a hand in the outcome.

Since Allen Steele originally published the tale in short story form in Asimov's it has a different cadence than a novel that just starts at the beginning and ends at the end. It moves in discreet steps, story to story, like a walk along a path of stones, sometimes leaping over empty spaces to get to the next step. For me, this accentuated the discontinuous nature of slower than light colonization, where ships from Earth show up periodically and radio contact with the old world takes years or doesn't happen at all.

Though the book starts out grimly, with vignettes of loss and redemption, it finds its footing soon enough and sweeps you along in this story of colonial revolt. The characters are well realized, and don't get any easy choices to make if they are to win freedom for humanity on Coyote. Best of all, the story manages to finish up its major conflict while setting you out on the start of a journey that we can look forward to in the final Coyote book.

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