Saturday, 15 February 2014

1987 AD

There are three surprises in the brief Part One (pp. 3-8) of Poul Anderson's The Shield of Time (New York, 1991). We had got used to each new Time Patrol story beginning without any direct reference to the previous installment(s).

On p. 3, we are told that Manson Everard of the Patrol has returned to New York on the day after he had left it but we are not yet told where/when he had been away to. On p. 4, we learn that he has just returned from Hiram's Tyre, where he was in "Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks."

On p. 5, Guion is to Everard what Everard was to Carl in "The Sorrow of Odin the Goth," a colleague who might inquire too closely about his personal relationship with a younger woman of an earlier era on his last mission. The same points are made about emotionless operatives being worthless but feelings not compromising duties.

On p. 6, Guion asks not about Bronwen in Tyre but about Wanda Tamberly, the heroine of "The Year Of The Ransom." It is a surprise to learn that Wanda has been promoted to continuing character status. And to some of us, it was a surprise that she even existed because we had not yet read the juvenile short novel, "...Ransom."

Here we learn that "...Ransom" had immediately preceded "Ivory..." which, even more immediately, preceded The Shield..., which we are now reading. And this Part One is set in the spring of 1978 when Everard and Wanda were first together in San Francisco. The time travel element of the plot is drawing everything together.

Everard reflects that he needs "...a few more times in the presence of innocence." (p. 6) The loss of innocence is a major theme of the entire series. I read a review of the original Guardians Of Time which correctly identified this theme as common to all four stories but incorrectly, in my opinion, concluded that this single theme made the volume unacceptably uniform in tone.

The next surprise is that the discussion between Guion and Everard moves straight to the problem of how to capture the remaining Exaltationists. Part Two will be a direct sequel to "Ivory..." Guion summarizes Everard's three encounters with Exaltationists so far:

their attempt to subvert Simon Bolivar;
their attempt to steal Atahuallpa's ransom;
their threat to destroy Tyre.

Most, including Merau Varagan, have been captured but not all.

We read the first published reference to the "Middle Command" (p. 8) of the Patrol. I think that this has to mean that the "Middle Command" is human.

Everard, though not the alert reader, misses Guion's hint at what is to come later in the book after the arrest of the last Exaltationists. He seeks a clue to the hypermatrix of the continuum and possibly a larger meaning, direction and ending beyond the necessity of catching the Exaltationists. All very mysterious but that is as much as we can cope with yet. "...hypermatrix..." means that Guion is trying, impossibly, to anticipate changes to his current timeline although, by their very nature, there is no past or future evidence for them as yet.

The three surprises, I think, are:

that this novel follows directly from "Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks";
that Wanda Tamberly is still around;
that the Exaltationists have become continuing villains - we never saw the Neldorians again.

Guion's hints do not count as a fourth surprise because they are too vague as yet but they will become more focused in Parts Three and Five.

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