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Ice, Iron and Gold
S.M. Stirling
Night Shade Books, 280 pages

Ice, Iron and Gold
S.M. Stirling
S.M. Stirling was born in Metz, France in 1953. He has lived in several countries and currently resides in New Mexico with his wife Jan. His series include the Fifth Millennium, the Draka and the General with David Drake. Single novels include The Rose Sea (1994) with Holly Lisle and The Chosen (1996) with David Drake.

S.M. Stirling Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Conquistador
SF Site Review: Conquistador
SF Site Review: T2: Infiltrator
SF Site Review: The Peshawar Lancers
SF Site Review: Against the Tide of Years
SF Site Review: Island In the Sea of Time

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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'"So, we are part of a secret service," she was saying. "The Imperial Directorate of Security, loyal servants of His Royal and Imperial Majesty, Huon II, King-Emperor of Greater Britain."'
Ice, Iron and Gold is a collection of thirteen -- lucky for some -- short stories, drawn from across Steve Stirling's career as a professional writer. It's a diverse introduction for readers who have heard of his alternate history works, but have baulked at committing to an entire series. Helpfully, there are two stories included which afford a taste of the author's best known works; an original Emberverse novella, and an Islands In the Sea of Time story. Anyone who has wondered if they'd like the style and substance of those series should try what's on offer here. Themes covered include alternate histories, apocalyptic futures, skewed contemporary settings, traditional fantasy fare, and a large dollop of Stirling's speciality, military based science fiction.

Taking up a fair chunk of this quite slim collection are "Lost Legion," "Ancestral Voices" and "The Sixth Sun" a trilogy about a semi-autonomous American military detachment, set in an alternate future and centred around a Bolo. For those not familiar with the term, a Bolo is a fictional type of artificially intelligent super-heavy tank. This sequence was well drawn, as are all the stories in the collection, but dragged on a bit for me. Much more interesting, was "Roachstompers" a slightly anachronistic work, written back in 1986, and set ten years into the future from that perspective. In that alternate 1996, the Cold War becomes very hot, leaving a small, well armed and supplied military group, who realise the grim possibilities open to them as the best equipped survivors. But the story which really sparked my imagination the most was a work called "Cops and Robbers." This was only six and a half pages long, but brilliantly illustrates what a good ideas man Stirling can be. The premise combines inter-dimensional travel with alternate history, and is clearly a precursor to the author's Draka series. However, the sheer inventiveness of this rather dark, alternate British Empire, and the possibilities it presented was enticing enough to make me want to read a full novel version. Whether Stirling would ever be willing to explore what is an alternate version of his established alternate history, is another matter. Stranger things have happened, though, and I think this one would be a winner.

Most of the stories presented here were written for magazines, with the earliest originally published around twenty years ago. All of them are at least entertaining, and once or twice go a step beyond. My only criticisms are that with a single exception there are no forgotten, previously unpublished gems. All authors who have been writing for as long as Stirling collect a drawer full of abandoned, half finished works. It would've been nice to see a few more here, along with some insight from the author detailing the origin of his works, and his creative processes. However, as light collections go, Ice, Iron and Gold provides a good showcase for Stirling's imagineering, research and attention to detail. Long time fans may have read almost everything here, but those who have discovered Stirling's works in more recent years will find this book a welcome addition to their collections.

Copyright © 2008 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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