Paragaea: A Planetary Romance by Chris Roberson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Science Fantasy at its finest. Chris Roberson crafts a Planetary Romance clearly influenced by Burroughs, Moorcock, and others.
Leena Chirikov, a Russian cosmonaut from the 1960's, is the heroine of the tale. Her ship is pulled through a vortex shortly after takeoff and she ends up in Paragaea, a very Earth-like world. Leena's a resourceful lady and manages to escape drowning with her survival pack intact, complete with pistol and medical supplies.
Shortly afterwards, she runs afoul of the first band of humanoids (meta-men) she'll encounter, a party of jaguar men. After some tense moments, she's rescued by a heroic duo reminiscent of the much revered Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Balam's an exiled jaguar man and clearly the Fafhrd of the group while Hieronymus Bonaventure, an earthman from the 19th century fills the Mouser role nicely. After helping Leena, the duo offers to help her find her way back to earth. Along the way, the meet up with a warrior woman, a centuries old robot, Balan's estranged daughter, a lost race with great technological power, and meta-men of every shape and size.
This book could easily fall into rip off territory but Roberson manages to keep it fresh. Although he uses all the staples of planetary romance, he gives them all his own twist. He has a heroine instead of a hero and she's not a superhuman, the technology and even the meta-men are explained, and he works Easter eggs into the story for people as into the genre as he is to find.
If you're looking for pulp cheese with a new flavor, Paragaea is the way to go.
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