Bewildering Stories

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Allen Steele's Coyote

Title: "Coyote"
Author: Allen Steele
Paperback, December 2003 431 pages
ISBN: 0-380-97902-0
Price: $6.99

Coyote just came out in paperback. This is good, because I haven't seen the hardbound version in my local bookstores, and I've been wanting to read these stories. Yeah, stories. Coyote has been called a "fixup" novel, because it is composed of miscellaneous short stories and novelettes appearing primarily in Asimov's SF magazine. However according to Mr. Steele, Coyote was originally conceived as a novel, but Gardner Dozois of Asimov's and Martin Greenberg of the anthology Star Colonies allowed him to create an early version of this novel.

The acknowledgements in the front of the book state that the stories herein are either slightly or in some cases massively revised to form this novel. And it is episodic. But very well done.

Steele posits a trend in government in the US where around the middle of the 21st century the right-wing "conservative" elements have taken over and formed the United Republic of America, modifying the Constitution and somewhat balkanizing the original USA. If you have any independent thoughts of your own, well be prepared to be "re-educated".

In a grab for more glory, and to send the tenets of the URA to the stars, the government has practically bankrupted the country to create a starship capable of travelling (thanks to the miracle of suspended animation) to a (relatively) nearby star-system known to have planets. Thus the scene is set for the first story "Stealing Alabama".

Steele has been considered to be one of the heirs of Robert Heinlein, and his writing is crisp, realistic and occasionally chilling. Coyote is subtitled "A novel of Interstellar Exploration", but in reality, is a novel of "planetary exploration" and a well-written look into the minds and hearts of people basically just like us, thrust into a new world.

This first book of Coyote (the planet, or more accurately, moon, named after the Indian Trickster God) grabbed me up, and I read it in a rather brief period of time, and it left me wanting more. There are more Coyote stories that have appeared in Asimov's, and each one is a gem of first water or perhaps more accurately a skein of threads filling in the tapestry that is Coyote.

I could tell you a lot about this book, like for example, the sad, and yet fulfilling story of Les Gillis, alone on a sleeping starship for over 30 years, or Carlos, the self-centered boy who finally became a man, or R.E. Lee, the captain who stole a starship, or Wendy, who runs away in brand new world... But I won't. Read the stories yourself. You won't regret it.

The story is choppy, and moves WAY too fast, but despite what some have seen as flaws, I recommend Coyote highly.

Copyright © 2004 by Jerry Wright