Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
S. M. Stirling Conquistador

Jerry Wright

Editor: S. M. Stirling
Hardcover:March 2004
ISBN: 0451459334
Price:$7.99 (Also available in hardback)

Steve Stirling made his original impact on the world with his alternative history tales of the "Draka". These books are not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. I don't care for them. That having been said, he did a nice turn with Ann McCaffrey in The City Who Fought. Then he started writing stuff I really like. The island of Nantucket somehow gets translated in time back 3000 or so years ago. Island In The Sea Of Time was the wondrous start of a great series.

He's baaaaack, with a brand new book that COULD be the start of a new series rather easily. It begins with John Rolfe VI, newly de-mobbed from WW2 and transplanted from Virginia to California. One day, knowing nothing of electronics, and fiddling with his shortwave radio, something happens, the far wall of his basement is transformed into an upright pool of something that looks like mercury, and voila, he is transported to an alternative America, where Europeans never came, saw, or conquered.

The story then moves to a bit ahead of our time, 2009, where a California Fish and Game Warden, Tom Christiansen, is investigating some illegal activities and stumbles across a whole bunch of ivory from endangered species, as well as a live California condor, who impossibly sports the DNA of a whole different genepool from all the very few condors still left. Plus, a very bewildering picture of what seem to be Aztec priests in the midst of human sacrifice wearing Grateful Dead T-Shirts. And the chase is on.

There are many little throwaway lines in this book showing Stirling's love and knowledge of the "Sidewise in Time" concept. The heroine of the story, John Rolfe's granddaughter, talks about her aunt "The Diamond Contessa" Perdita Montevarcchi. For those who've been around, they will recognize the really really bad villain-lady from Kenneth Bulmer's many Ace Adventures, such as The Key To Irunium, The Key To Venudine or perhaps The Diamond Contessa.

The story has many flashbacks that proceed in chronological fashion as we see the growth of New Virginia, and the dangers of letting your war-buddies in on your secrets. Well, nevermind. A very good story, in fact, a romp that kept me reading until way too late at night.

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