Friday, 1 November 2013

Star Ship II

In Poul Anderson's "Star Ship" (IN Anderson, Starship, New York, 1982, pp. 36-81), any exploratory faster than light interstellar spaceship on a mission of several years is crewed by married couples, in accordance with Service policy (p. 53). This is more than a century before the founding of the Coordination Service. We are not told the full name of this earlier Service, although we do gather that there are "Galactic Coordinators" (p. 55) at this early stage.

Detecting a Sol-like sun orbited by an Earth-like planet with primitive inhabitants, the five couples in a particular Star Ship descend to the planet in their gravity-controlled lifeboat only to have its atomic convertors go out of control and destroy the boat, stranding them on the surface with nothing but their clothes and a few hand weapons. Fifty years later, two human generations have been born on the planet Khazak and most have adopted the local Krakenau culture although a few have tried to remain Terrestrial.

The Khazaki are violent, predatory dwellers in early Iron Age city-states. In order both to survive and to construct a rocket for the return journey to their orbiting Star Ship, the human families have had to:

ally with Krakenau;
teach the Krakenaui military principles and how to make new weapons;
build chemical plant;
mine and refine manganese, chromium and other elements;
manufacture superalloys able to withstand the combustion of rocket fuel;
design a long obsolete rocket ship;
conduct years of research, with only a handful of sufficiently interested humans and Khazaki;
test a rocket that exploded during acceleration ten years before;
build a second, which is yet to be tested when there is a coup in Krakenau.

Could they have done that much in just fifty years?

The view point character, Dougald Anson, close friend of a Khazaki, adventuring around the planet, able to speak Krakenaui, Volgazani and several other Khazaki languages as well as spaceman's Terretrial, is yet another potential series character although he appears only in this single story.

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