Poul Anderson was a prolific science fiction and fantasy author whose career ran from the 1940s to the opening years of the 21st century. Awards include the Hugo and the Nebula, and he was named a “A Grand Master” by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America shortly before his death. Unlike many prolific authors, his work was generally of a consistent quality, although I think it’s safe to say he never produced the masterpiece people might have expected from him. In science fiction, one of his fortes was world-building, about which I say more later. The combination of dependability, verisimilitude and prodigious output made him an almost ideal author for me and between the time I purchased this, my first Anderson, and when his various quirks and tics alienated me, I read the better part of a hundred of his works. I think it is safe to say that between 1977 and 1980, he was my favourite SF author.
I think Heinlein worked on his technique all through the juveniles but to my eye 1950’s Farmer in the Sky, while introducing themes that would persist through the rest of his career, is a half step back, filled with pacing issues and the decision to highlight aspects of his world-building that he probably should have tried very hard to distract people from.
I’ve read this author’s Brave Story and The Book of Heroes and what I noticed then was that I preferred the shorter book of the two, because it was more focused and had fewer unnecessary digressions. Logically I should prefer a collection of short stories to the novels and indeed that is the case.
The Earth of the near-future has faster-than-light travel of a particularly powerful sort; the entire Milky Way is just 90 days from Earth. Habitable worlds are common enough1 and much to the Dominion of Earth ‘s surprise generally inhabited. How to adapt when there are millions of alien civilizations on the Dominion’s doorstep?