Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Planetary Engineering

Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

The Tahirians inhabit the second planet of their system but are Tahir-forming the third planet for long term racial survival. Their static civilization can continue such a process for millions of years whereas human society is so chaotic that everything is bound to change in less than a thousand years.

To obtain materials for atmosphere and hydrosphere, the Tahirians not only brought ice from comets but "...also dismembered an icy moon of a giant planet and put the pieces on a collision course." (p. 233) Centuries later, when the third planet had quietened down but not yet lost much of the newly imported gas, they roofed the planet and tapped its own buried ice. The transparent roof, supported by giant pillars, opens to admit spacecraft.

Each organismic pillar not only supports the sky but also transforms the planet by interacting with its winds and tremors. Tahirians and visiting human beings ascend and descend one of the pillars in a climbing bubble that stops for them to enter the pillar although the visitors do not understand what they see.

The awesome spectacle when they were admitted through the planetary roof:

flames, winds, black smoke and white steam;
a mountainous step pyramid with towers, battlements, portals, keeps, roads, tracks, wide kilometers-long tubes and alien forms;
other structures, many like metal trees with branches bearing an intricate mesh;
beyond the artifacts, desert;
flashing lights and scuttling machines;
red seething "...moltenness..." (p. 232) (lava?), rolling down channels, congealing and worked on by machines.

There is an enclosed headquarters with a breathable atmosphere - and a lot more information that will have to be summarized in another post.

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