Orbit Unlimited," I summarized as much fictitious sociological information as possible in a few sentences in order to convey how much of such information Poul Anderson imparts in a few pages, in this case in the first nine pages of Orbit Unlimited. I omitted personal information on the viewpoint character Svoboda although this is also socially significant.
Sold young to a Brotherhood thiefmaster but wounded at twelve by a guard's explosive slug, Svoboda, re-apprenticed to a fence, learned to read and write, thus starting his ascent from Lowlevel to the Guardian Commission. His estimated age of sixty is ancient for Lowlevel but middle-aged for an upper-level Citizen or a Guardian. He has read Alice In Wonderland but knows that this is uncommon. Breaking out of the dead end Astronautical Department where his superiors had hoped to contain him, he has become Commissioner of Psychologics and now proposes to undermine Constitutionalism because that movement threatens radical social change.
A character with whom Anderson wanted us to sympathize fully would have stayed with Astronautics, turned it out of its dead end and encouraged gradual social change with the help of the Constitutionalists. Svoboda has the redeeming feature of a sense of humor. He is powerful, confident of his ability to break a fellow Commissioner, and able to influence the Premier.
What Anderson plausibly conveys here, as in the first Kith story and in Mirkheim, is conflict between socioeconomic classes in an imagined future society that is strongly grounded in knowledge of past societies.
Addendum, 23/7/12: By the end of Part One, it turns out that Svoboda, like an Asimovian psychohistorian, has manipulated a lot of people towards a satisfactory Andersonian conclusion. He will be dead soon but his son will go to Rustum. The idea that it would be possible to manipulate history by hiring an actor to play the role of the leader of a movement, then retire him while leaving open the possibility that he had been murdered is pretty amazing.