Monday, 11 August 2014

The Richness of "Star Of The Sea"

Poul Anderson's short novel, "Star Of The Sea," is extremely rich in diverse kinds of writing. Its opening three sections, numbered I, 1 and 2, are respectively:

mythological writing about a goddess and a god at the beginning of time;
historical fiction about first century Romans and barbarians;
science fiction about time travelers in contemporary Amsterdam -

- while its concluding section, numbered IV, is a devout prayer to the Virgin Mary. Thus this single text contains:

historical fiction;
science fiction;
in some passages, a contemporary setting equally suitable for mainstream fiction and for genres like romance or detective;
a prayer.

The strands interweave as the time travelers meet an anti-Roman barbarian prophetess who changes the mythology and influences the iconography of the Virgin Mary, hence the title.

In "Star Of The Sea," we find:

powerful mythological writing;
colorful descriptions of contemporary Amsterdam;
vivid descriptions of first century forests and seasons;
ingenious discussion of time travel paradoxes;
concise summaries of historical events;
brilliant characterization, in particular of the prophetess, Veleda, whose personal crisis could change history.

It has recently occurred to me that there is also a moral question, to be addressed in a further post.

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