Friday, 20 September 2013

Another Detail

I have known for a long time that Poul Anderson's writings are extremely rich but I keep re-surprising myself with this discovery. I had thought that The Long Way Home (St Albans, Herts, 1975) was not among his best works and was even a bit disjointed with all its disparate elements. A careful rereading shows that it all hangs together.

The means of interstellar travel used is not FTL but is unique in sf and contributes significantly to the plot, allowing the characters to cross many light years in zero subjective time.

Chapter One is unambiguous hard sf with interstellar explorers returning to the Solar System. Chapter Two begins:

"Lord Brannoch dhu Crombar, Tertiary Admiral of the Fleet, High Noble of Thor, ambassador of the League of Alpha Centauri to the Solar Technate, did not look like a dignitary of any civilized power." (p. 17)

Brannoch is six foot six, wide shouldered, yellow maned, blue eyed and scarfaced and wears jewelled ear rings. If not for the references to Alpha Centauri and Sol, we might have been reading heroic fantasy. "Thor" turns out to be a planet, not the god. Even more strangely, Brannoch talks to alien monsters concealed in the wall of his apartment.

The first three Chapters feel like mixed up information overload but I hope to have shown in earlier posts that this complicated account of future civilizations is not only coherent but also addresses fundamental issues for any organized society or intelligent life.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    I understand why you at first thought THE LONG WAY HOME not among Anderson's better works. And I also agree that a careful reading shows how it is a good book that does "hang together." Anderson himself would have agreed that this early book of his shows stylistic flaws he would have learned to avoid even a few years later. I think he might have wished the original editor, John W. Campbell, to have been tougher about the rough spots in it!


    1. Hi, Paul!

      I forgot to add in my previous note how I suspect Brannoch deliberately exaggerated his quasi barbaric exoticism to deceive at least some of the Technate agents tasked with watching him into UNDERESTIMATING Brannoch's abilities.