Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Jovian Epic

In Poul Anderson's Three Worlds To Conquer (London, 1966), the Jovian Theor makes an epic journey. Fleeing from enemies who are of a different species, he climbs a mountain, attaches himself to a parachute-like plant and flies a mile up, above the clouds, not only seeing the sun for the first time ever but also encountering, also for the first time, the legendary Hidden Folk.

Winged, bipedal, beaked, tool-using, dwelling only in the upper atmosphere and absorbing ammonia either from food or from clouds, this very different but also intelligent branch of Jovian evolution with only animalcules as common ancestors has built a town of nests on a vast mass of bubbles that are probably plant bladders.

With linguistic communication impossible, Theor negotiates by signs passage to the top of a volcano in exchange for his knife. The encounter begins and ends in only one of the nineteen chapters of the novel. I have tried to summarise the essential points briefly here in order to convey something of the economy with which Anderson describes this imaginative odyssey. 

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