Thursday, 19 July 2012

Orion Risen

I am quite certain that orbiting astronauts radioing an appeal for international cooperation would not affect terrestrial politics in the slightest, unless, of course, those politics were already moving in that direction, as Anderson tries to show. For one thing, the conflict has killed its own chief architects. Further, nuclear missiles and laser beams fired from the stratosphere are not weapons but instruments of genocide. The War of Judgement had left a deep disquiet at the idea of destruction on such a scale. That destruction has started again precisely because of Maurai attempts to suppress it so now it is easy to argue that Federation policies must change. (This cover makes the (spherical) aerostat resemble an attacking flying saucer but accurately conveys its capacity for destruction.)

Also, in the interests of realism, the character Plik, a sort of auctorial spokesman within the text, reminds his friends and thus us that all will not be sweetness and light despite the popular revulsion against continued hostilities. Anderson, as always, shows us every point of view. A scientist helping to design a spaceship is idealistic about how resources from the Solar System will transform the Earth, poorer countries included, whereas the Intelligence chief protecting the project expects space traveling human beings to continue polluting their environments but wants the military applications of spacecraft for his country in particular.

Designing spacecraft secretly without the benefit of a large scale ground control system, the Norrmen must build from scratch a ship that is more maneuverable than the old NASA capsules. Thus, this ship carries a crew and supplies, can be controlled from within, can orbit Earth indefinitely, fly once round the Moon and land back on Earth to be reused - kind of like an experimental spaceship in an old sf novel!

The behavior of a Gaean teacher confirms my earlier characterization of this future philosophy as "green fascism." When it is suggested that lasering entire territories will damage Gaea, he responds:

"We are Gaea." (Orion Shall Rise, London, 1988, p. 459)

Indiscriminate destruction of life in the name of all life: the reader is relieved when this character is among the fatalities.

Although I wrote earlier that the Pey d'Or tavern becomes a familiar venue in the novel (and it does), closer reading reveals that it appears only three times - and the surviving characters do not rendezvous there again at the end. Nevertheless, Anderson's writing makes the setting familiar to the reader. Iern tells Plik:

"I used to carouse in Kemper, on furloughs while a Cadet, often in this very den..." (p. 45)

- so the place has a history for the characters even though we are, in that passage, seeing it for the first time. As I remarked before, Anderson combines wealth of imagination with economy of writing.

Anderson's vocabulary continues to be broad. I googled "maintruck" (p. 466) only to be informed that there is no definition recorded. Blogging about a novel while rereading it is slower but more meaningful. I retain more of the details and can refresh my memory on the blog.

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