Friday, 20 July 2012

There Will Be Time

What have Poul Anderson's Orion Shall Rise and There Will Be Time got in common? Each has a title that is a full sentence in the future tense (one refers to space; the other to time) and the Foreword to There Will Be Time refers to the Maurai, one of the future nationalities in Orion Shall Rise.

In this very strange Foreword, the author, Poul Anderson, directly addresses the reader. He convincingly describes a relative, Dr Robert Anderson, who, we come to realise, must be fictitious. This fictitious Anderson (fictitiously) inspired both the Maurai series and the present novel. Could this fictitious inspiration, Robert Anderson, partly represent a real inspiration, Robert Anson Heinlein? (I don't know.)

Robert addresses the narrator of the Foreword as "Poul" and refers to "Karen" so we are in no doubt that, in this case, narrator and author are identical, but, for the rest of the novel, Robert is the narrator though not the central character. He mediates between Poul and Jack Havig, a time traveller. In fact, there are perhaps five layers here:

you and me reading the novel;
Poul Anderson, the author of the novel;
Poul Anderson, the narrator of the Foreword;
Robert Anderson, the narrator of the rest of the novel;
Jack Havig, the central character of the novel.

Poul Anderson the narrator is a strong link between reality and fiction.

There Will be Time is a very good time travel novel of which there are few. I used to think that Poul Anderson's two volume Time Patrol series, considered as a unit, and Jack Finney's two Time novels, also considered as a unit, were the two culminations of the time travel fiction that had been initiated by The Time Machine and wondered if there could be a third. Later, I accepted that Audrey Niffeneger's The Time Traveler's Wife was a third. However, a few other novels, like The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers and this one by Anderson, are certainly comparable.

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