Friday, 22 February 2013

Neat Ending

I just finished rereading Poul Anderson's Three Worlds To Conquer (London, 1966). The ending is a neat solution to two problems. On Ganymede, a space battleship loyal to an overthrown Terrestrial dictatorship has secretly taken over the colony where its commander plans to manufacture weapons before re-attacking Earth. On Jupiter, Theor, friend of the Ganymedean colonists, leads an army that is about to be overwhelmed by invaders.

How to solve both problems? Mark Fraser, Ganymedean colonist, hijacks an as yet unflown ship designed to land on Jupiter. Chased by a missile, he descends into the Jovian atmosphere and bounces along a denser atmospheric layer that destroys the missile. Then he simply lands on the invaders.

Next, he returns to Ganymede, pretending to surrender, and exits the hijacked ship, having set the autopilot to fly the ship, its hold now full of dense and explosive Jovian atmosphere, straight at the battleship. Solution to second problem and end of novel. As I say, neat.

Ironically, Mark had thought, "Life isn't a story book...There are no happy endings. It just goes on." (p. 136) For the reader, the story does end happily. For Mark, life goes on. He returns to his wife and family while the woman with whom he has shared the Jovian adventure feels it is better that she return to Earth.

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