BooksOfTheMoon

There Will Be Time

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 4 stars

Jack Havig is a most unusual man. He is a man who can travel through time, without any artificial aid. At first content to just satisfy his own curiosity, he eventually discovers a great threat to Earth’s future and must band together with others of his kind to save the future of civilisation.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The rules of time travel are quite well defined and the author uses them effectively, for example the fact that anything touching the traveller will go with him, but he can only “lift” so much with him through time, so a piece of wire attached to a wall and looped around his ankle is enough to stop him time travelling.

The story is told through a third party, Jack’s family doctor and childhood friend to whom Jack returns every so often to relate the next part of his adventures, and the old sawbones is a likeable narrator and doctor of the Bones McCoy variety.

Jack’s emotional trauma in Constantinople is believable and well-related, making him a very human hero. His relationship with the Eyrie is interesting and the story keeps you guessing where it’s going all the way through.

A fun story of time travel, with some meat on the bones and decent characterisation.

Book details

ISBN: 9780722111482
Publisher: Sphere
Year of publication: 1972

The Boat of a Million Years

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 4 stars

In this novel, Poul Anderson tells an audacious story, spanning at least two thousand years, and forward into an unknown future. Across history, a tiny number of people are born immortal, with wounds healing quickly and never ageing beyond a vigorous early adulthood. Most of this book follows a number of these people as they flit from identity to identity, staying out of the way of history. Eventually, they are uncovered, and the Human race develops immortality for all. In the new utopia that follows, the original Survivors become more and more out of place, and they eventually take to space; even without faster than light travel, their immortal bodies mean that the time between stars is not a problem.

I really enjoyed the scale of this story, with its sweep of history and how the immortals stayed out of its way. Apart from a few encounters, the eight Survivors that eventually take to space together don’t really find each other until the twentieth century, when the globe is shrunk by technology.

Perhaps we don’t necessarily get a deep insight into the mind of these immortals, the eldest of whom was born in Tyre, about three thousand years before the twentieth century. They remain ciphers and archetypes, but that didn’t reduce my enjoyment of the story, but then, these sorts of epic stories – almost myths – often appeal to me, and being the fan of old golden age SF that I am, lack of characterisation doesn’t bother me that much.

Definitely worth reading for the scope of its history, and the vision of its future.

Book details

ISBN: 9780747406099
Publisher: ORBIT (an imprint of LITTLE, BROWN UK PAPERBACKS)
Year of publication: 1989

The Queen of Air and Darkness and Other Stories

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 4 stars

This is a small collection of short stories from the prolific Mr Anderson. There is no real unifying theme to them other than the idea that the universe is stranger than our science yet knows. All the stories are set in relativistic universes, so FTL is a no-no, and in at least one story (Time Lag) this is used to good effect.

The title story is eerily moody, evoking ancient myths on another world in the far future while most of the rest deal with colonisation in a universe where the speed of light is the absolute speed limit and how different worlds might react and change the people that went out to colonise the stars.

A very enjoyable read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780839824336
Publisher: Gregg P, US
Year of publication: 1971

The Earth Book Of Stormgate 3

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 3 stars

This three-volume story is a future history that put me in mind of Cordwainer Smith’s work, and part of the Polesotechnic League series of stories. It’s “written” by an an alien historian and details episodes in the history of the League leading up to the founding of a joint colony between his species and Humans. The first and third of the three volumes consisted of short stories while the second consists of one single story featuring the recurring character Nicholas van Rijn.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. There’s a lot of detail in the future history and the stories themselves are interesting, spanning a period of human exploration and expansion, and then consolidation and capitalism before it finally starts to collapse into an empire. It’s pretty short and easy to read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780450049262
Publisher: New English Library
Year of publication: 1978

The Earth Book of Stormgate 2

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 3 stars

This three-volume story is a future history that put me in mind of Cordwainer Smith’s work, and part of the Polesotechnic League series of stories. It’s “written” by an an alien historian and details episodes in the history of the League leading up to the founding of a joint colony between his species and Humans. The first and third of the three volumes consisted of short stories while the second consists of one single story featuring the recurring character Nicholas van Rijn.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. There’s a lot of detail in the future history and the stories themselves are interesting, spanning a period of human exploration and expansion, and then consolidation and capitalism before it finally starts to collapse into an empire. It’s pretty short and easy to read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780450048005
Publisher: New English Library.
Year of publication: 1958

A Circus of Hells (Flandry)

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 2 stars

This is a story about two empires in microcosm, seen through the eyes of Lieutenant Dominic Flandry as the empire of Man wanes and that of Merseia waxes. Flandry is on a routine survey mission (with a bit of “unofficial” work on the side for a local crime boss) when he is captured by a Merseian vessel.

The book had an odd feel to it. None of the characters were hugely sympathetic and the dry tone of the writing didn’t help make me warm to any of them. I was slightly disappointed by this, since I’ve really enjoyed Anderson’s other work.

Book details

ISBN: 9780451042507
Publisher: Roc
Year of publication: 1970

The Broken Sword

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 3 stars

Although not a big fantasy fan, I very much enjoyed this tale of swords and sorcery with its nordic gods steeped in England. It’s the contemporary of The Lord of the Rings, published in the same year as Fellowship and it has a similar feel to it, down to the use of verse, although this feels ‘harder’ than LOTR, with more of an edge to it. Anderson is certainly a versatile writer, spanning the spectrum from heroic fantasy (this book) to hard science fiction (Tau Zero, which I read a couple of months ago). Recommended.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575074255
Publisher: Gollancz / Orion
Year of publication: 1954

Time And Stars

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 4 stars

This was an excellent collection of short stories, including the Hugo-award winning No Truce with Kings, about a future feudalistic America at war with itself and dealing with an emergence of “telepathic powers” amongst some people.

The other highlight of the book was Epilogue which in some ways foreshadows Tau Zero in that a malfunctioning spaceship is knocked far into the future, but in this case returns to Earth to find it occupied by a machine civilisation.

This collection shows that Anderson is a great writer, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

Book details

ISBN: 9780586021095
Publisher: Panther
Year of publication: 1964

Tau Zero

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 5 stars

I loved this book. The starship ‘Leonara Christine’, crewed by fifty of Earth’s finest, sets of at near the speed of light for a star about thirty light years away in the hope of colonisation. Less than half-way there, an accident disables its deceleration system forcing it to continue to accelerate in order to survive. This is the story of the crew as they accelerate their way out of the galaxy and into the distant future.

This was a real hard SF book, to the point of having equations (well, one equation). I don’t know if the notion of ‘tau’ in terms of close to lightspeed travel exists in relativity but if it doesn’t, Anderson certainly made me believe it :-). The story was tightly told and the characters all sympathetic. And the conclusion took my breath away somewhat. An excellent read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575070998
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1970

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