Coyote: A Novel of Interstellar
(Ace, $23.95, 390 pages, hardback; November 2002. UK edition: Orbit,
£6.99, 546 pages, paperback, published February 2005.)
Coyote is one of that type of book that a reader waits a long
time to find and then devours in a single reading, as I did. A
rollicking read that steps right along, revealing good pacing and plenty
of action. The characters of the ensemble cast are likable but also
flawed: convincingly real as they take ultimate risks to escape an increasingly
oppressive society, travel for 230 years to a distant and unknown world
and freedom, and strive to make it work for them.
There is no single perspective from which the whole story unfolds,
but several -- and it actually works quite well. As a result, the reader
gets a well rounded look at what drives the refugees and their will
to survive. Not all of them are heroes, though. There are surprises
for the reader along the way, which include tragedies, deaths, births
and sore growing experiences: some characters survive the ordeal, others
are sacrificed, and finally some fail by their own flawed thinking and
inability to adapt. Some readers will find fellow feeling with some
of these incidental portrayals, in an obtuse way which is reflective
of today's society. If anything, the reader will continue to think about
the characters long after the covers of the book are closed.
The story is a simple one. There has been a revolution in the near
future United States and the new regime is a single-party government
that rounds up Dissident Intellectuals (DIs) and their families, and
interns them in "humanitarian camps" to "re-educate" them. Many are
never seen again. The absurdity of the Nazi-like regime is subtly underlined
by the "Liberty Party" members' so-called patriotic return to wearing
frock coats and crinolines. The new government bankrupts the country
by building the ultimate monument to itself: a starship to colonize
a new world 46 light years away. Coyote is that world. The scheduled
colonists are solid Liberty Party members and families. At the last
possible minute its captain and the majority of his crew hijack the
ship, the URSS Alabama, and the colonists are replaced by DIs
and a few unexpected tag-alongs. The tension created by the author is
The entr'acte occurs while the fugitives and crew reside in biostasis
for the 230 year-long trip: a crew-member is accidentally awoken from
deep sleep. Chief Communications Officer Leslie Gillis spends a lonely
and poignant vigil on the swift and silent Alabama; however,
his legacy and legend become a subtle and vibrant thread in the new
community on Coyote.
Landfall on Coyote brings its own surprises and tragedies, and follows
the usual lines of establishing colonies anywhere: food, shelter, weather,
fresh water, and strange and unusual flora and fauna. The colonists
are on Coyote long enough to withstand the elements and claim the planet
as their own, and to confront the greatest test of all, which is ...
No, I won't spoil it for you. Read the book. It's a great story of
survival and adventure, pioneering spirit and courage. Do we get a sequel?
Review by Marianne Plumridge.
See also: another review of
Coyote by Claude Lalumière.