Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Man Who Counts, Chapter V

The Flock know that the world is round because they fly long distances. The Fleet know it because astronomy is necessary for navigation. The Drak'honai of the Fleet are neolithic, with stone, glass, ceramics and some artificial resins, telescopes, astrolabes and navigational tables but no iron, therefore no chronometers or compasses. They will be a good market for the League. Already, more primitive Diomedeans exchange furs, gems and juices for metal tools and weapons.

Like Dominic Flandry, an Intelligence officer in the later Terran Empire, Eric Wace, a factor of the Polesotechnic League, has been trained to learn any language quickly:

"When properly focused, a trained mind need only be told something once."
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 364.

Diomedes, "Oceanest" to the Drak'honai, is intermediate between terrestroid and Jovoid planetary types, with greater mass but lower density than Earth. This chapter has an infodump about Diomedean planetography. I have summarized some of its contents in previous posts although I realize that I had also missed some of the details. The low density is caused by the absence of any elements heavier than calcium. Although this is explained, it remains a mystery why pressure has not collapsed the core, as in Jovoids. So far, scientists have found only a most plausible answer... Anderson knows that knowledge is never complete.

The chapter ends with the realization that there is no way to transport the three stranded human beings across the planet to the trading base at Thursday Landing before their stored food runs out - a practical problem for Nicholas van Rijn to solve. Or, rather, as "The Man who Counts," he will motivate the Diomedean and human beings around him to implement a solution.

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