The splendid alternate universe Stirling invented in The Sky People (2006) has—quite justifiably—metamorphosed into a series.
Two hundred million years ago, mysterious aliens dropped by, terraformed Venus and Mars and stocked them with dinosaurs and other Mesozoic life forms from Earth. Two hundred thousand years ago, the Lords of Creation swung by again, this time conveying humans and other mammals to both planets. Now, in the year 2000, Mars’s ancient civilization—highly advanced in bioengineering, weak in physical science—is slowly dying, along with its emperor, Sajir sa-Tomond. Apparently without issue, the emperor is secretly preparing to declare his daughter, Teyud za-Zhalt, as his heir. Representing Earth’s Western powers, archaeologist Jeremy Wainman has come to Mars to locate and study the lost city Rema-Dza. His companion, intelligence agent Sally Yamashita, knows their real mission is to locate dangerously powerful ancient technology left by the Lords of Creation, one such device already having turned up on Venus, and keep it out of the hands of the Eastbloc competition. Jeremy’s guide will be Teyud, an expert and fearless warrior. But neither Teyud nor Sajir yet know that several political factions, among them ambitious Prince Heltaw, have figured out who Teyud really is and will stop at nothing to kill or control her. The pace soon heats up, while the wonders—magnificently wacky Martian biological machines; the planet’s antediluvian, fully developed and carefully crafted social system; alien technology so advanced it’s magic; the possibility that the aliens themselves are, somehow, still hanging around—never cease.
Stirling has hit an unexpectedly rich lode of creative ore, or perhaps finally plumbed a hidden reserve of talent: Either way, after years of happy somewhat-above-mediocrity, it’s a wonderful surprise.