A fanciful, politically tinged tale from Stirling (The Ship Avenged, 1997, etc.), set on the frontier of Venus circa 1988 as the Eastern Bloc rivals the US Sky People in the great space race.
The Sky People have established a stronghold on the Gargarin continent of Venus, at the settlement called Jamestown, directed by Ranger Lieutenant Marc Vitrac, formerly of Louisiana Cajun country. He welcomes the arrival of fresh reserves on the spaceship Carson, including an attractive young geologist, Lieutenant Cynthia Whitlock, and RAF Wing Commander Christopher Blair. Together they comprise “explorers at the cutting edge of the human story.” However, there are other settlements entrenched in the strange land habitable by both dinosaurs and mammals: the small community of Kartahown, made up of numerous Earthlings and local tribespeople, traders and pilgrims; rank, savage tribes of marauding Neanderthals of the Wergu tribe; and the blond-haired, ethereal Cloud Mountain People of the Far West, in fur loincloths and bearing blowguns. And all kinds of curious beasts flourish here, such as giant mountable reptiles called ceratopsians and strong, scary raptor-like Quetzas. While the Sky People explore the geography of Venus, Blinkis, captain of the low-hovering Eastern Bloc space shuttle Riga, crashes into Wergu territory and is captured and brainwashed by the hairy brutes, who nonetheless shelter and heal him. Among the superior Cloud Mountain People, young female warrior Teesa has visions of invaders, who turn out to be Marc Vitrac and his gang in pursuit of the Russians. In fact, Blinkis's own pilot wife, Jadviga, arrives with blimp and crew to find her husband, and all of them end up confronting the nasty, smelly Wergus. Stirling offers an easygoing, atmospheric tale airbrushed with fuzzy political overtones, along with a good bit of humor and lively characterization.
The adventures of these nutty space dudes will surely set off a series of its own.