Mar 19 2009 2:42pm

Newspaper phoenix: Steele & Abe

On February 27, 2009, at the ripe old age of 149+, the Rocky Mountain News was assassinated by its parent company, E.W. Scripps. Accomplices in this satanic ritual sacrifice were the Internet, the economy and The Denver Post, the Mile High City’s remaining daily newspaper. In the accompanying carnage over 200 full-time jobs were wiped out, and quite a few freelance photographers, columnists and reviewers found themselves awash in limbo.

Starting in 1977 I was a book critic for the News, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and my “Unreal Worlds” column appeared in one form or another from 1988 until that fateful black Friday. Like the phoenix rising from its ashes, this inaugural blog post is the birth of a new and different look at those unreal worlds.

Normally I avoid series books—too much of a commitment when there are so many new and different authors to read.  But every now and then, I make the accident of reading just one installment, and I get hooked.  Here are two cases in point.

djI made the mistake of reading Allen Steele’s Coyote in 2002 and hooked myself into a world I couldn’t abandon, on that first extraterrestrial planet colonized by humanity.  I can’t wait for each new book.  Steele continues the saga in as the third generation of settlers begins to expand its presence in the new world

In Coyote Horizon, the first half of a two-part story arc and the fifth book in the series, Hawk Thompson, the nephew of the former president, meets his first hjadd. The alien gives him an electronic book that reveals the spiritual philosophy most of the other races in the universe live by—not a religion, but a philosophy that has ended war and strife on distant planets, while Earth is on the brink of total collapse.

Hawk becomes a kind of messiah with the message that God is truly a part of each individual (similar to Valentine Smith’s message in Heinlein’s Stranger in an Strange Land). A religious missionary on Coyote, who sees his flock dwindling, knows Hawk must be stopped.
Meanwhile, Walking Star, one of the last Native Americans, finds a new drug that allows the ultimate spirit quest, and Morgan Goldstein, Coyote’s richest man, finances a mission to explore the rest of the planet.

Although it is early, for my money, this is the best science fiction series of the 21st century.

I have to confess to another of my series vices in the drákon series from Shana Abé. The Treasure Keeper, the fourth installment in Abé’s series of fantasy novels about a race of dragons who masquerade as human beings, but who can shift to smoke or dragon forms, is the best one so far.

In the 18th century the drákon in Darkfrith, an isolated village in England, originally thought themselves safe, but they have discovered that human hunters in an organization called the sanf inimicus are out to destroy them.

In The Treasure Keeper, Zoe Lane, a drákon seamstress discovers that, though she is unable to turn to a dragon, she has the unique power of invisibility. Zoe travels to Paris to save her fiancé and the man she truly loves from these dark forces.
In this fantasy/romance Abé again proves that she is better at the fantasy and the romance—and the adventure—than most of the other authors in the genre.

seth johnson
1. seth

I'm sorry to hear about you losing your job and Denver losing a source of good journalism. Damn you, Craigslist!

Glad to have you writing your reviews here.

Dot Lin
2. fangirl
I second that - glad to have you here, Mark!

And hey, what's a more "Unreal World" than the web these days.
3. MMouse
It is really fun to read your reviews online. I look forward to reading more!
4. RockyMourner
I'm SO glad you found a new outlet for your voice! No broadsheet pretender will ever take the place of our beloved Rocky.

Fantastic reviews! I'm glad you have found Abe's Drakon series, she has always been a favorite of mine, no matter which genre she is writing in. Big plus, she is a local girl, grown, raised and resides here in Denver!

"Rock" on and keep up the great work!!!!
Josh Graham
5. mrjoshua
Mark was the main reason I subscribed to the Rocky Mountain News and I'm glad he found a new forum to continue his work. I look forward to reading his thoughts.

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