Thursday, 26 July 2012

Three Paperbacks II

New America by Poul Anderson collects seven items:

four stories set on the planet Rustum which had been introduced in Orbit Unlimited;
two other stories, "The Queen Of Air And Darkness" and "Home," which are also the first two stories collected in The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories;
an article on interstellar travel.

The four Rustum stories were first published in issues I-IV of Continuum, edited by Roger Elwood, 1973-'74. All are about the, now older, Dan Coffin who had been the child rescued from the Rustumite lowland in the concluding story of Orbit Unlimited. Thus, these four stories form a continuous sequence that is a sequel to the four that had been collected in Orbit Unlimited.

At the end of Orbit Unlimited, it had been discovered that Dan was a rare individual who could survive comfortably without needing a helmet in the high air pressure at Rustumite sea level and it had then seemed to be a foregone conclusion that he and his descendants would colonize all the surface of the planet that could not be reached by the majority of colonists who were confined to the plateau of High America.

However, Dan had for many years afterwards suffered from nightmares of his ordeal when lost in the lowland and threatened by a spearfowl. The new stories chronicle four further stages of his life:

first, he must be persuaded to join a mission to the lowland before he realizes that it is a place that he will return to again;

secondly, he realizes that, having settled in the lowland, he must marry a woman who shares his tolerance for the high air pressure, not Highland Mary but Eva;

thirdly, Eva and he have children and live well but need economic help, which Dan negotiates, from the more industrially developed High America;

fourthly, Dan, widowed but now a great grandfather, proposes that Rustum welcome five thousand new immigrants approaching from Earth and that their arrival be preceded by a joint research effort to find a way to enable anyone to live in the lowlands so that the new immigrants will not have to crowd the plateau.

We now know of five generations of Coffins. We first encountered Dan's father Joshua as a spaceship captain on Earth in the opening story of Orbit Unlimited where he conversed with the man who later became the first mayor of Rustum. Dan, not born until that concluding story of Orbit Unlimited, ends the first volume as a lost boy and the second as an elder statesman.

In an earlier post on Anderson's future histories, I wrote that all but one of the six stories in The Queen Of Air And Darkness and other stories were not incompatible with the Rustum History but will now reread that collection to confirm or disconfirm that statement.

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