Tuesday, 25 February 2014

To Arrange A Disaster II

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006).

Everard continues:

"'And we'll have set them on that trip at precisely that time! If we didn't interfere, they'd start off later, the circumstances of the voyage would be different...Why should we take the guilt?'" (p. 146)

Uncharacteristically, Everard is groping. When the Exaltationists hired a ship in "Ivory, and Apes, and Peacocks," they knew in advance that it would sail into a storm, from which they would be rescued by co-conspirators on timecycles, but Everard does not know for sure that, if the Mongols start home early because of his interference, they will hit difficulties that they would miss later.

What he does know is that he and Sandoval have been ordered to prevent the Mongols from returning home. Some as yet unspecified Patrol intervention is necessary. Knowing this, they intervene as minimally as possible in the hope that this will be enough. But, of course, if they bungle and make a mess but then set things right, then their superiors will have known all along that that was what was going to happen.

Sandoval points out that the Mongol leader, the Noyon Toktai, probably plans to return on horse across the Bering Strait. In this story, Anderson's characters do not experience but do describe and discuss an alternative history, in this case the Mongol invasion of North America. Sandoval comments:

"'I don't care about the Aztecs; if you study them, you'll agree that Cortez did Mexico a favor.' (!)" (p. 148) (my exclamation mark)

Mongols resemble Romans:

depopulation of resistant areas;
but respect for those who submit;
armed protection;
competent government;
respect for civilization.


herders, not farmers, so no reason to destroy the Indians;
not racially prejudiced.

Tribes, outnumbering the invaders, would submit, gaining horses, sheep, cattle, textiles, metallurgy and Chinese civilization.

When Sandoval describes "'The Sachem Khan of the greatest nation on Earth!'" (p. 149)

- "Everard listened to the gallows creak of branches in the wind." (ibid.)

Is that a gallows for Western and Danellian civilization? All that Sandoval, who remembers an impoverished childhood and his mother dying of TB, and Everard need to do is to remain in the thirteenth century "'...till the crucial point was past.'" (ibid.)

They resent being told to interfere and begin to think that the alternative timeline might be better.

Two days later, probably because Everard has challenged their courage, the Mongols are advancing even faster. Trying to get them to turn back was not such a good idea.

"It occurred to [Everard] that he had been rushed into this job, all the way down the line, with never a pause to plan it as it should have been done. Hence this botch. But how much blame must fall on the subconscious reluctance of John Sandoval?" (p. 151)

We understand about John's reluctance but how can a time traveler, let alone a trained and experienced Time Patrol Unattached Agent, be rushed? He can make all his plans in the twentieth century with as many pauses as necessary before traveling back to intervene in the thirteenth.

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