Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The War Of Two Worlds II

Rereading Poul Anderson's The War Of Two Worlds (New York, 1959) is slowed by other activities. For example, we have just watched a BBC program about the life of CS Lewis. However, it is alright for rereading to be slowed. There is no hurry to find out how the story ends and there is time to appreciate descriptive passages. Chapter I begins:

"Sundown was brief, night came swiftly out of the Atlantic and flowed across the world. A few lamps blinked on in the city, but most of it lay in darkness; there was more light overhead, as the stars came out." (p. 5)

I have realized only now that I should have asked: why is the city dark? This is explained later.

Many works of fiction describe Terrestrial sunsets but science fiction also describes scenes elsewhere in the Solar System:

"The asteroid spun swiftly through a great cold dark, between a million frosty stars and the glittering belt of the Milky Way. The sun was remote, a tiny heartless disc whose light was pale on the cruel jagged rocks." (p. 10)

Two very different views of the Sun.

A third quotation indirectly links the first two as a spaceman returned from the asteroid looks across a city:

"They'd told me New York had had it bad, but I never realized it would be like this.

"The haughty skyline of Manhattan was a jumble of steel skeletons, stripped, snapped off, and stark against the sky." (p. 15)

(Some of the buildings had also melted.) Quoting this single sentence, I have just noticed its alliteration: sky, steel, skeletons, stripped, snapped, stark, sky - and listing the "s" words highlights the sky "sandwich".

That third quotation answers the question raised by the first. Cities are dark because Earth has been hit hard in a space war. The first time reader reads on to find out what happens next...

A straightforward pulp sf plot but with well-observed details elevating Anderson's writing above the pulp level.

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