Coyote Destiny: Allen Steele’s great space colonization series continues

Good news / bad news. First the good news: Coyote Destiny, the fifth book in perhaps the best space-colonization series ever (just my opinion; feel free to chime in) and the seventh book in the Coyote universe, is terrific like all the rest. Now the bad news: according to the author, two-time Hugo Award winner Allen Steele, “This is the end of the series, I think. I’m writing one more (episode) in the universe, HEX, and then I’m putting everything on the shelf and going off to tackle another subject. Maybe I’ll eventually come back to Coyote, but after 10 years, I think the time has come to move on.” Alas!

The rest of this review won’t mean a lot to those who have not read the previous novels. If you are one of those, go to your nearest book seller or library immediately and get a copy of Coyote and get started. By the time you get to Coyote Destiny, you will feel like you are on a first-name basis with the colonists and their extended families. There are definitely some characters you will wish you could join at Lew’s Cantina for a shot of bearshine and a mug of sourgrass ale…and just a few you would avoid at all costs.

At the end of Coyote Horizon, Hawk Thompson, who has become the chaaz’maha, a kind of unwilling messiah on Coyote, and several other characters we know are headed to Earth. As they enter the starbridge, a terrorist sets off a bomb that explodes the Robert E. Lee and the starbridge, isolating Coyote once again.

In Coyote Destiny’s “Prologue” we discover that at Starbridge Earth, where several ships loaded with colonists are waiting to make the jump to Coyote, a lone lifeboat from the Robert E. Lee has made it through. On board is only one survivor, the chaaz’maha, himself.

Skip forward nearly two decades. The Coyote Starbridge has been rebuilt, but no travel or trade with Earth is allowed. To everyone’s surprise a ship from Earth arrives. Sergio Vargas has stolen a decommissioned freighter and made it to a forgotten starbridge in the Kuiper belt. Vargas comes with information that sets off the rest of the book.

First is the fact that the chaaz’maha is still alive and that he has a legion of followers on Earth, much of which is politically, economically and ecologically in tatters. Second, the suicide bomber on the Robert E. Lee was not acting alone. The man who made the bomb is in hiding under an assumed name on Coyote.

The chapters of the novel alternate between these two plots. Jorge Montrero, grandson of Wendy Gunther, the former president and one of the original colonists, and Inez Sanchez, Hawk Thompson’s daughter, head back to Earth to bring the chaaz’maha home. This mission is fraught with danger from several sources.

Meanwhile, General Sawyer Lee sets off to the tiny outpost of Manuelito to apprehend the maker of the bomb, a man who may now be actually a follower of the chaaz’maha’s teachings.

Eventually the two plotlines converge. But before they do, expect murder, mayhem, political intrigue, forbidden romance and some other surprises, before a satisfying, if not totally happy, conclusion.

While it will be hard not to anticipate the upcoming chapters in the Coyote saga, Steele’s next project should be something to look forward to.

Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper since 1988. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. You will find one of those blurbs on the back of the dustjacket of Coyote Destiny. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.


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