Friday, 6 September 2013

No Truce With Kings

As of 1981, Poul Anderson had won five Hugo awards for works of sf or fantasy, which were collected that year in Winners (New York, 1981), although, according to Wikipedia, his total eventual score for Hugos was seven so that Winners, if republished, could have two additions.

Another of the five in Winners is "No Truce With Kings" which, at 84 pages, must count as a "novella" or a "novelette" rather than a short story? (I tend to divide prose fiction just into "novels" (over 100 pages) and "short stories" (less)).

My memory from an earlier reading of "No Truce With Kings" is that it was rather disjointed with too many changes of perspective and also some sf cliches like taken for granted psychic powers. However, I am now giving it a second chance.

In the opening pages of a Poul Anderson work, we pick up clues as to the setting and nature of the narrative. Thus, in this one, there is a Pacific States of America which has existed long enough for an Army unit to acquire a story that its "...dead came out of the cemetery every September Nineteenth night..." (p. 11) Is this just a story? Then why does the unit have a "...hex major"? Are we reading a fantasy in which the dead literally return?

My memory tells me not but the point is to be tuned in to the nuances and implications of the text while reading it afresh and I still have 82 pages ahead of me.

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