Friday, 28 June 2013

The Game Of Empire

Two correspondents have explained how the opening and closing sentences of Poul Anderson's The Game Of Empire (IN Flandry's Legacy, New York, 2012, pp. 189-453) pay homage to Rudyard Kipling. I imagine that the title does as well?

The novel begins:

"She sat on the tower of St Barbara..." (p. 195)

The opening paragraph establishes that this tower is not on Earth by telling us that the sun is called Patricius and that two moons are in the sky. The paragraph closes by telling us that the planet is called Imhotep, that its Mt Horn is twelve kilometers high and that "her people" have modified the climate since coming here.

In the second paragraph, "she" becomes "Diana" as she looks from the old quarter towards the city center where "...the Pyramid ...housed Imperial offices and machinery..." (ibid.) Of course, we already know that this novel is part of a series. Nevertheless, we can study the text to find out how soon it informs us of its relationship, if any, to other works by the same author. Thus, we might at this stage wonder whether these "Imperial offices" indeed represent the Terran Empire of Anderson's Technic Civilization series. At the end of the second paragraph, and of the first page of the text, we learn that the old quarter has:

"...a brawling, polyglot, multiracial population, much of it transient, drifting in and out on the tides of space." (ibid.)

Space has no tides but the metaphor is apposite. We expect interesting things from a varied and variable population.

The third paragraph not only informs us that Imhotep was colonized centuries previously but also refers both to the Troubles and to the Terran Empire, thus unequivocally confirming which fictitious timeline we are in. Also, we learn more about this particular planet, Imhotep, which has not appeared in the series before:

first, there was an exploration base, sometimes threatened by stampeding ice bull herds;
secondly, the planet was threatened by marauders during the Troubles;
thirdly, "...the hand of the Terran Empire reached this far..." (p. 196).

St Barbara's, originally part of the defensive works against ice bulls and marauders, has long since been obsolete, its guns scrapped, its chambers empty, its vine-covered yellow stone crumbling, its neighboring towers demolished and a market square surrounding it. It is " Olga's Landing...," which seems to be the name of the city (ibid.).

We do not yet know who Diana is or why she sits on St Barbara but a lot more information will be imparted before she speaks for the first time in our hearing in the middle of p. 199.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    The very title of THE GAME OF EMPIRE is an allusion or homage to Kipling's novel KIM. The latter book has a "Tigery" like character who sometimes referred to the rivalry between Tsarist Russia and the British Raj in India in debatable border lands like Afghanistan as the "Great Game."


  2. Hi, Paul!

    The bit you quoted from Chapter 1 of THE GAME OF EMPIRE about a "...brawling, polyglot, multiracial population, much of it transient, drifting in and out on the tides of space," reminded me of ho Anderson used a very similar metaphor in A CIRCUS OF HELLS. This is what I found in Chapter III, "Probably Rax had had to make a hurried departure for reasons of health, and had drifted about until it stranded at last on this tolerant shore."

    Needless to say, as you recall, we later found out Rax was not exactly from some obscure planet of the Empire!