Monday, 17 March 2014

Dense Texts

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

We can find this much in a text only if it is there to be found and much of what is there can be missed if the novel is read only as light entertainment although that remains its primary function.

In The Corridors Of Time, I had forgotten many details. Some are stated so briefly as to be easily missed even when reading them.

(i) Lockridge's tantalizing passage through the twenty third century when he sees only a physical tunnel between time gates.

(ii) Brann's recommendation of Bourgogne 2012. We can drink that now, Brann.

(iii) Even in seventh century Bavaria, the Warden Hu says, "'Home!'" because, "'This is the Koriach's land: an estate of hers in the future, and therefore hers throughout the whole of time.'" (p. 134) That is the Warden's concept of property but any of us would be interested to see our own land in another time.

(iv) Lockridge mentions "'...chalcolithic...'" (p. 219) which, google informs me, comes between neolithic and Bronze Age.

(v) The Koriach's immortality. This is crucial because, when Lockridge is defeating her, she offers it to him.

(vi) "...the years flew past..." (p. 211) because Lockridge and Auri lived through twenty five years in Cornwall before returning to Avildaro on the night that they left it. A passage near the climax of There Will Be Time describes years, and indeed geological epochs, flying past because Havig's group is returning by its very different means of time travel from the Pleistocene.

(vii) In order to travel a quarter century into the past, it is sufficient to enter a gate near its closure point and exit through it just after its beginning point. It is not necessary to travel along the corridor between gates.

(viii) Lockridge meets old Fledelius one last time before entering the gate. After guarding the last few days of the gate, Fledelius will return to the sixteenth century to resume his annual vigil at the Inn of the Golden Lion.

(ix) Storm knows that Lockridge is "'...the instrument of destiny...'" (p. 199). First, he was her bodyguard when she fled from the twentieth century to Avildaro. Then it was he who sent Brann to be captured by Wardens. Then he brought word from the further future. If he is destiny but has become the Wardens' enemy, should he be killed? But his death might be the event that will cause their defeat. Storm, the Goddess, knows that this is possible.

(x) "In full robe she walked over the land, big and supple and beautiful. The Wise Woman's staff was in her hand, a dozen Yuthoaz at her back...From her belt of power sprang an unseen shield off which the rain cascaded, so that she stood in a silvery torrent, water nymph and sea queen." (p. 198)


  1. Hi, Paul!

    Poul Anderson's novels and short stories were "dense" texts in the sense of how they contained so much MORE than most of us would suspect? I agree! Altho at one time I regretted how short many of his books were. But that was before I realized how MUCH is to be found in those works. Two examples being A CIRCUS OF HELLS and THE REBEL WORLDS.

    And Storm Darroway's cynical manipulation of the primitive religions of the neolithic peoples she was using reminds of how Paul Mu'ad-dib's Bene Gesserit trained mother did simiar manipulations among the Fremen of the planet Arrakis in DUNE. But I think Poul Anderson, probably because of writing a far shorter novel, depicted it more subtly.


  2. Sean,
    Yes, that is what I meant by dense texts! (Sorry if it wasn't clear.) Storm's manipulations reminded me of DUNE also and, as I never tire of saying, Anderson does it all far better.

    1. Hi, Paul!

      Oh, certainly, PA's depictions of Storm's cynical manipulations of other people's religions was better and more plausible than what we see in Frank Herbert's DUNE. But I still liked that book and may well reread it again.


  3. Sean,
    You will find or may have noticed that in some passages at least Herbert exercises no control over narrative point of view.