Sunday, 24 February 2013

Ramble With A Gamblin' Man

Two surprises in the fourth of the seven stories in Poul Anderson's Tales Of The Flying Mountains (New York, 1984):

for the first time in the series, there is a second appearance by a character who had first appeared in an earlier story - the woman who did not get the man in the second story returns, now married to someone else and with a ten year old son but living in another part of the Belt;

unexpectedly to the reader, this part of the Belt, one of the Jovian Trojan clusters, stayed with Earth instead of going to the new Asteroid Republic after the war and therefore is still subject to unwelcome governmental attention from the mother planet - which will be dealt with how? By another revolution or by some other clever outwitting of the bureaucrats?

I will read on to find out and will probably realise at the end of the story that the nature of the solution had been implied from the beginning. The preceding Interlude had ended by implying that the characters in the story will turn out not to have been in control of events, thus that their solution had been fortuitous, and secondly that the outcome whatever it is had led to the first interstellar expedition which is the setting of the Interludes where the historical events described in the stories are discussed and analysed.

We have already come a long way from the beginning of the first story, set on Earth, in which gyrogravitics had been nothing more than a crank theory but we are still merely at the half way point with Earth-Belt issues not yet entirely resolved and the launching of the interstellar expedition as yet three stories in the future.

For the first time in the series, we see the surface of a gyrogravitically terraformed asteroid: there is Earth gravity and atmosphere with plants and water but the horizon remains close; in addition, the Sun is remote and the atmosphere, although dense enough at the surface, is too shallow to prevent the sky from being dark with some stars visible. Would you like to live there? Anderson's characters like it because it gives them freedoms that they can no longer have on Earth. 

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