Sunday, 29 September 2013

Mermaids And Larry Rance

"Your [Caribbean] Islandman has seen, or has heard of and accepted, many things beyond explaining. Masterman York, who has the sawmill, is known with certainty to be descended from a mermaid."

- Poul Anderson, The Devil's Game (New York, 1980), p. 57.

The phrase, "...with certainty...," is ironic, especially since the quoted passage is immediately followed by:

"On his mother's side.
"She was a Philpotts." (ibid.)

However, Anderson readers can make another connection. The same author's historical fantasy novel, The Merman's Children, ends when merpeople driven from Europe by Christian exorcists in the fourteenth century set out to cross the Atlantic...

In The Devil's Game, seven characters have gathered on a Caribbean island to play Follow the Leader for the prize of a million dollars tax free. The first of the seven, Larry Rance, wanting to build a schooner and cruise the world, decrees that he and his fellow contestants will swim two miles through water that might contain sharks or barracuda. Thus, both his ambition and his challenge are closely linked to the merman theme.

The chapter about the swimming competition, an endurance test, not a race, is headed LARRY RANCE and is unexpectedly narrated in the present tense by Larry himself. I have to read on to learn the course and outcome of this contest and also whether each of the contestants in turn narrates the chapter about his or her challenge. However, since the time here is now 12.20 am, the book will wait faithfully until some time tomorrow when my other planned activities include driving my son-in-law to his doctor and exercising in the gym.

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