Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
S.M. Stirling
Roc Books, 448 pages

S.M. Stirling

"There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author.
The term is 'idiot'. " -- Larry Niven, from the introduction

About the novel, S.M. Stirling says:
"I've had Conquistador bubbling at the back of my mind for a long time; since the early 80s, in fact.

It's a different book than it would have been if I'd written it then, of course; I like to think my technique has improved, and I've mellowed out a bit.

On the other hand, it's also not quite the same book that I would have written if the idea for it had come to me recently. Large chunks have been 'around' since its genesis.

That made writing it an interesting experience; sort of like a collaboration with myself."
[Conquistador] "right now it's a stand-alone, although there's potential for sequels.

I'm planning on a couple of alternate-history space-and-planet operas next, though, involving alien-induced differences in the solar system which only become known on earth in the early 1960's."

S.M. Stirling Website
ISFDB Bibliography
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
Sample Chapters
Usenet Discussion

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

Conquistador It's 1946. The white man is about to discover America....

Bottom line: Steve Stirling's writing just keeps getting better. This parallel-world thriller incorporates the best features of his popular Draka and Island in the Sea of Time series. Enthusiastically recommended.

1946: John Rolfe, recuperating from his war wounds, is tinkering with a war-surplus shortwave radio. !!CRACK!! The end of his basement is GONE, replaced with a sheet of rippling silver....

2009: Tom Christiansen, game warden, is on a bust of wildlife-smugglers. The smuggler's warehouse is destroyed by incendiaries, but he find a fresh-killed man -- and a fresh-killed dodo...

And Steve Stirling is off and running with another of his patented reinventions of SF/F classics, here the 'virgin world next door.' As always, his research is deep, and impeccable. Details matter. His major characters come alive, and the minor ones carry their spears smoothly.

The structure of the book is a police-procedural in 2009 -- Christiansen & a buddy work through an increasingly-weird wildlife-parts smuggling case -- with explanatory flashbacks in "New Virginia", as John Rolfe has tagged his virgin California. Once the wardens have twigged to the Rolfe's secret, they're abducted to New Virginia, and the book morphs to a political thriller -- Draka-like Elements are intent on subverting the (mostly) benevolent oligarchy that rules the new New World. One of the strengths of Conquistador is that all sides are drawn warts and all -- no shining heroes or dastardly villains here (well, a couple of the latter) -- just people playing with the hands they're dealt. And the new New World is a fabulous wish-fulfillment fantasy, that almost everyone who's gotten a bellyful of the downside of civilization has had -- but here worked out thoughtfully and carefully. Very nice.

So, are there warts on this terrific book? Pretty minor ones: the secret-gate-between-worlds shtick is overdone. The food is better than I'd expect in white-boy heaven -- compare the Canadian/Northern US 'land of the bland', and the big, bland, indifferently-prepared meals in old White South Africa, to the lovingly-described feasts in New Virginia.... OK, so I'm reaching for something to complain about1 . This is Stirling's best-written book yet. It's (probably) the first of a series, but comes to a stirring resolution, with a wonderful trick teaser for the next. If you've liked previous Stirling books, you'll love this one. And if you've put off trying him -- wait no longer. This is a winner.

1 but it's a sensitive subject, because I just recently moved away from Northern Arizona, another Aryan Paradise, partly because there was so little good food....

Copyright © 2003 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Usenet, "Under the Covers", Infinity-Plus, Dark Planet, and SF Site. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. More of his reviews are posted at .

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide