Tuesday, 19 June 2012
The Winter of the World
The main puzzle of the novel is the eccentric behaviour of the Rogaviki people. Hunters, not herders, capable both of civilised discourse and of berserk rage, they fanatically resist invasion but never invade, not even to counterattack, and resume friendly relations with former invaders as soon as the latter have been expelled.
In other works by Anderson, his characters must fathom the initially incomprehensible motivations either of extraterrestrials or of isolated extrasolar colonists but these mysterious beings are fellow terrestrials. However, like some of the societies that Anderson imagines as isolated on other planets, the Rogaviki have diverged evolutionarily. The explanation offered at the end of the novel is that they are a new fundamentally individualistic species with no social organisation larger than single families but with a very strong territorial imperative because each of them needs to be surrounded by open spaces, not by other people. They are adapted to post-Ice scarcity on the plains. As in a detective novel, earlier mysteries make sense when explained at the end.
A question not asked in the novel but unavoidable for readers of science fiction is whether pre-Ice space travel left any colonies on other planets. It is stated that there was flight to the Moon but, since the novel was published in 1976, this was not then a science fictional proposition. Having so far reread to page 96 of 190, I have found only one clue. A character regards the "...bluish brilliance..." of Mars. (1) The reader thinks: Mars blue? We are immediately told that an astrologer had found ancient records of a red Mars so the author has not just got the colour of a planet wrong.
Has Mars been terraformed? Is the blue oceans? Are there people there now? We cannot help asking. The character who has looked at the blue Mars remarks that it was red before the Ice but quotes this only as evidence that "...nothing endures forever..." (2) He does not suspect colonisation.
Is the novel set in the timeline of Anderson's Technic History or any other series? During the League and Empire periods of the Technic History, Mars was red, inhabited by extrasolar aliens, but it could have been changed since then.
(1) Anderson, Poul, The Winter Of The World, New York, 1976, p. 78.
(2) ibid., p. 80.