Sunday, 17 February 2013


How alien are the Jovians in Poul Anderson's Three Worlds To Conquer (London, 1966)?

(i) Beneath the hydrogen-helium atmosphere, the only humanly visible illumination is frequent lightning flashes revealing mile-high cloud banks but Jovian eyes, three times as wide as a man's, see by infrared and the longest red wavelengths.

(ii) Reeves are primarily not priests, magicians, judges or generals but master engineers protecting civilisation from wind, rain, hail, lightning, quake, flood, geyser, firespout and stone-crush.

(iii) The Reeveling Theor stands on the back of a flying/swimming, mantis-like forgar, his four feet held by stirrups.

(iv) Theor, male, is fifty inches high, naked, hairless, red, tailed, striped, three-toed, four-fingered, with a comb, a mouth for eating and drinking, a pouch of vibrating muscles for speech, slits for breathing hydrogen and chemo-sensor antennae.

(v) A demimale has physical differences and wears gaudy clothes.

(vi) The three sexes are equal in Nyarr but not among the Ulunt-Khazul.

(vii) Increased genetic diversity compensates for lower irradiation.

(viii) A Jovian ocean is thousands of miles of storm-swept liquid ammonia.

(ix) Jovians can see neither their moons nor the sun.

(x) Houses are pits with thin inner walls that will not crush dwellers during quakes, with roofs of living plants dense enough to resist weather but yielding to wind and "...lit by phosphorescent blossoms..." (p. 27)

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