Review: Red Sky, Blue Moon

By Eric Alexander

Golden, Bruce. Red Sky, Blue Moon. Shaman Press Trade (May 12, 2013). Paperback: USD $15.99; ebook: USD $4.99. ISBN: 9781484133224.

While the plot may seem well-worn, the setting and the circumstances surrounding Bruce Golden’s new book aren’t. Red Sky, Blue Moon is about as far from the satire of Better Than Chocolate or the mysterious forests of Evergreen (his last two novels) as you can get.

Aliens who may have seeded the first life on Earth return eons later, collect humans in massive groups from various societies (along with animals from their environs), and transplant them on another world as a sort of science experiment. More than a millennium later, these transplanted cultures have evolved differently than their forbearers who were left behind.

One of these cultures grew from the barbaric roots of Scandinavian Vikings, circa 10th-century Earth. They have developed into a cutthroat corporate society in an early industrial stage. The political machinations and corporate maneuvering combine to create an intriguing socio-cultural dynamic. In addition, they’re racial purists to whom even the slightest birth defect or genetic disease is a social stigma. Despite this, they are plagued by a cancer-like disease they call the “blight,” though few publicly acknowledge it when they find they’re stricken, because it’s a social blight, as well.

When one corporation’s chief discovers the savages living on another continent have no trace of the disease, and also seem to have longer lifespans, he plots to learn their secret – a secret which could bring him both wealth and power.

These “savages,” as the “corporatocracy” thinks of them, were culled from various Native American Sioux tribes sometime in the early 18th century. They’ve only been on this world a few hundred years and haven’t changed that much from the people of the plains most readers are familiar with. It’s the juxtaposition of these two societies, and the conflict between them, which forms the heart of this book (though the corporate Aesir are also in conflict with their lower-class Vanir workers).

As for the aliens who brought the humans to this world, their story is more of a footnote, told in journal-like excerpts in the prologue and at the beginning of some of the chapters. Their eventual fate is a bit of a surprise.

The storyline of this book is somewhat predictable, but it’s the journey more than the destination that will enthrall readers. Like Alexander’s novel Evergreen, this book is so rich in characters and detail that you won’t want to let it sit idle for too long, or you’ll forget who’s who and what’s what. But it’s the attention to detail and the marvelous worldbuilding that make Red Sky, Blue Moon a completely enjoyable read. That, and the fact that, like Golden’s other works, this book is fast-paced, moving through relatively short chapters and keeping the reader hooked. If you enjoy pages and pages of prosaic description, this book probably isn’t for you. Golden is known more for his dialogue and authentic, memorable characters. He doesn’t get bogged down with purple prose. His scenes have more of a cinematic feel.

However, if you love worldbuilding, this is the book for you. Golden has taken the history, traditions, and cultures of the Sioux and the Vikings and woven them into a completely new world, much the way Frank Herbert used Islamic culture in Dune (not to say this book ranks with Dune). And, a surprise at the end reveals they’re not the only Earth cultures kidnapped by an alien intelligence.

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