I mentioned this book way back in January 2006 and finally have read it:
Paragaea by Chris Roberson
Another Planetary Romance like Stirling’s the Sky People, Paragaea is a bold, action-adventure look at what happens when a 60’s female cosmonaut winds up in a world as amazingly diverse as Burroughs’ Mars, Vance’s Tschai or Big Planet, or Mongo.
Leena, aboard Vostok 7 in orbit, passes through a portal, and finds her capsule coming to ground not on Earth, but a far stranger world. Within a few pages, she is captured by jaguar men, and rescued by Hieronymous “Hero” Bonaventure and his companion Balam.
And so they are off on a whirlwind adventure and grand tour to find a way to get Leena back to Earth. What they and the reader explore is a fabulous world. From pterosaur riding pirates, to a variety of metamen, Roberson knows to focus on the action and adventure. The dull portions of the adventure are explained in a few sentences, keeping a tight focus on the good stuff. We meet a variety of characters whose journeys, at least for a time, intersect with the trio. Some of their stories and fates work better than others, but those are small complaints.
Roberson knows the cool stuff is why you are reading the novel, and isn’t afraid to have his characters get in on it. Be it fending off pirates on an airship, or escaping from prison, to daring the city of powerful beings who might be responsible for Paragaea itself, Roberson doesn’t hold back. The characterization of the three main characters is better than the secondary characters. Leena’s sense of duty, Balam’s honor and Hero’s sense of adventure keep the novel going and the characters in motion.
And the references. Roberson admits at the end of the novel that the novel is replete with references, easter eggs, allusions and borrowings from planetary romances and related works. I am *sure* I missed many of them, but I recognized a bunch of them. One could consider this novel an homage to Burroughs, Vance, De Camp and even Land of the Lost and you wouldn’t be far wrong.
And I think that’s the audience for this novel. If that’s the sort of stuff you like, or remember, or wish was written for a modern day audience (such as Stirling’s The Sky People), then go and get yourself a copy of Paragaea. It’s not the mind blowing SF of, say, Stross or Vinge or Watts that uncorks your brain, but it is entertaining. Since I am running a game at TBR this year that fits within the genre, Paragaea only fed me ideas and inspiration.