"Coyote" by Allen Steele (2002)
"The sudden roar of engines from the opposite side of the camp draws Jorge's attention. He looks up from the tent stake he's driving into the soft ground just in time to see the Wallace - rechristened the Mayflower - ascending into the afternoon sky on its VTOL jets. A hot blast rips across the meadow; everywhere around him, colonists pause in their labors to cup their hands over their ears and watch the shuttle as it lifts off for its final rendezvous with the Alabama."
Allen Steel lives, surprisingly enough, in Massachusetts. He's won the Hugo for one of his short stories and has written dozens of books.
In this book he follows a group of conspirators as they hijack a spaceship bound for another solar system. The leaders of the conspiracy are intent on rescuing several intellectual dissidents from the clutches of an authoritarian government. More than 200 (Sol) years later, they find themselves confronted by the challenge of colonizing a new world with limited resources at their disposal.
The first part of this novel is good. It sets up its characters well and the author has a good grasp of the science involved. I found the overall theme of the book ("The South will rise again!") gratingly obvious, but the author does a nice job of setting the characters on their journey.
But after the conspirators/colonists arrive on Coyote, this novel really loses a lot of its momentum. It's here that the fact that this book was cobbled together from several short stories becomes increasingly plain, and certain details are unnecessarily repeated between different parts of the book. A better editor would have eliminated these unnecessary details, but apparently the person in charge of editing Coyote couldn't be bothered to do so.
Where this novel really drops the ball is the ending. I can't go into too much detail without giving this ending away, but let's just say that the colonists are faced with a very real, very technologically superior threat which they overcome in the most ridiculous way. It's as if the author got to that point, decided he was tired of writing, and then tried to wrap up a 400+ page book in the most half-assed manner possible. There are SO many questions left unanswered in the last section, and the colonists' ability to outwit their rivals defies understanding.
In stylistic terms Allen Steele is a good writer, but the plot of this book needs a lot of work.
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