Saturday, 25 July 2015

Desert Island Book

There is a radio program called Desert Island Discs. Do they have it in the States? A guest says which ten or so pieces of music s/he would want on a desert island, plus one book other than the Bible or Shakespeare. My book would have to be Time Patrol. I would reread this omnibus volume from cover to cover, looking for previously unnoticed details on each page, like:

the admirable economy and skill with which Anderson introduces the doubly complex concept of a time travel organization in a mutable timeline;

physical descriptions of locations in diverse periods;

discussions of divergent timelines and the creation of such a timeline in "Delenda Est;"

the increasing subtlety, sophistication and complexity of the series when the author returns to it after a decade-long interval (I am additionally thinking of The Shield Of Time which, by the rules of Desert Island Discs, I would not also have on the island);

comparisons and contrasts with The Time Machine, which ideally I would also have smuggled onto the island.

It is invidious to ask which is the "best" of an author's works. Tau Zero is a classic of hard sf but A Midsummer Tempest is equally excellent in the very different category of literary fantasy. If I were to be allowed not just one volume but two entire series, then they would have to be the Time Patrol and the Technic History, totaling nine long volumes. Each series contains several individual works of extremely high quality. In the Time Patrol, Manson Everard has a protege, Wanda Tamberly. In the Technic History, Nicholas van Rijn has a protege, David Falkayn, and Dominic Flandry is succeeded by his daughter, Diana Crowfeather. And there are others. Two series give us many characters.

Returning to SM Stirling whom I have been reading as a worthy successor of Anderson and in any case worth reading in his own right, I can rank the four novels that I have read so far in order of preference:

The Peshawar Lancers
Conquistador
The Sky People
In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings

And Marching Through Georgia is in the trans-Atlantic post.

1 comment:

  1. Kaor, Paul!

    I agree with your comments about Poul Anderson's Time Patrol stories. They became more subtle, sophisticated, and complex as the series advanced. Yes, a complete collection of the shorter Time Patrol works would be a very good choice to have as the one other book besides the Bible/Shakespeare if you were stranded on a desert island. Or a desert planet for that matter! (Smiles)

    Of Poul Anderson's hard SF, I think both STARFARERS and GENESIS is better than TAU ZERO (which is also excellent!).

    And I look forward to knowing what you think of Stirling's MARCHING THROUGH GEORGIA. Just hope the garish cover doesn't put you off!

    Sean

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