Santiago by Mike Resnick

Santiago by Mike Resnick
Santiago by Mike Resnick

The novel “Santiago” by Mike Resnick was published for the first time in 1986.

Even for a very high-profile bounty hunter like Sebastian Cain, the 20 million credits offered by the Democracy for the capture of the legendary Santiago is a huge bounty. The problem is that no one seems to know what he looks like and there are people who even claim that he doesn’t even exist.

When Sebastian Cain discovers information that might finally allow him to find Santiago, everything changes. The collaboration with the journalist Virtue Mackenzie seems unlikely but for her, interviewing Santiago would be the scoop of her life. Their search involves meeting various unique and generally dangerous people.

Mike Resnick set most of his works in a single fictional universe that spans millennia of future history. “Santiago” is set in a time when most of humanity is ruled by a political entity known as the Democracy. However, this novel is almost all set in the so-called Inner Frontier, a group of planets outside the Democracy.

“Santiago” contains various western elements precisely because of its setting in a frontier where the law can often only be present up to a certain point. Among the characters, there’s also the Black Orpheus, who composes a ballad about the search for Santiago, and each chapter of the novel begins with a quatrain.

Despite these western connotations, there are only a few gunfights because the plot is about the search for Santiago, a legendary outlaw whose identity is covered in mystery. Some of his criminal exploits are so sensational that they prompted the Democracy to put an astronomical bounty on his head.

Despite the Democracy’s will to capture him, there are people who argue that actually, Santiago doesn’t even exist and is just a legend. The tales of his exploits often seem exaggerated making it even more difficult to understand where the truth ends and where the legend and folklore begin. It’s no accident that the novel’s subtitle is “a Myth of the Far Future”.

For decades, many bounty hunters and other outlaws eager to take his place have been looking for Santiago but no one seems to know what he looks like or where he lives when he’s not engaged in some criminal enterprise. When Sebastian Cain discovers a hint that can lead him to Santiago, that could all change.

“Santiago” is considered to be Mike Resnick’s best-known and best-selling novel. This author has written both adventurous science fiction stories and stories in which he used science fiction elements to explore profound themes. He sometimes mixed these elements, and that also happened in “Santiago”.

This novel’s adventurous side is evident in Sebastian Cain’s journey on various planets and other people who follow Santiago’s trail and meet various, generally dangerous people. Gradually, more profound issues connected to governance and justice in the Democracy start emerging. These themes become more and more important until they become central in the final part, which is also the most surprising.

The result is a novel that is enjoyable for the western and adventurous elements in general and at the same time offers food for thought. It’s understandable that “Santiago” has become the most famous novel by Mike Resnick even if he wrote many works appreciated by science fiction fans. For these reasons, I recommend reading it.

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