Reviews: Anderson, Poul

Lookin’ For Love

After Doomsday — Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson’s 1962 After Doomsday is a standalone science fiction novel.

Twenty years after first contact with galactic civilization, humanity has assimilated much off-world technology. The Americans send a mission of exploration, the USS Benjamin Franklin, to the core of the galaxy and back. The Franklin returns to an Earth scoured clean of life, orbited by alien missiles.

At least three hundred humans have survived the apocalypse: the three hundred on board the Franklin. Thanks to American views on staffing potentially dangerous missions, all three hundred are men.

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Mystery Dance

Virgin Planet — Poul Anderson

1959’s Virgin Planet is a novel-length expansion of Poul Anderson’s 1957 novella of the same name. It takes place in Anderson’s Psychotechnic League, a future history he developed from the 1940s to the late 1950s (it is in fact very nearly the final work in that setting.).

Davis Bertram, the young, proud owner of a splendid starship, is determined to make a name for himself. He sets out on a voyage of exploration to the Delta Capitis Lupi system. The system has only recently emerged from a fifty light-year-wide trepidation vortex; the system may or may not be home to an Earth-like world. What is certain is that Davis will be the first man to visit the system.

But not, as he discovers, the first human.

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I am a Merry Ploughboy

The Makeshift Rocket — Poul Anderson

1962’s standalone comic SF novel The Makeshift Rocket is an expansion of Poul Anderson’s 1958 A Bicycle Built for Brew.

The gyrogravitic generator gave humans and Martians cheap space flight and the ability to transform any dead rock in space into an acceptable facsimile of a habitable world, one with Earth-like gravity and an atmosphere. Any gang of idiots with enough money could create their own pocket nation out in the Asteroid belt. Many idiots did.

Captain Dhan Gopal Radhakrishnan and Engineer Knud Axel Syrup of Mercury Girl sense that something is wrong on the worldlette Lois. Clue: the flags.

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Too Soon Out of Sight

There Will Be Time — Poul Anderson

Today’s Because My Tears Are Delicious to You Review is a very special double review! And not because I want to bump up my stats. The two books I have selected are a pair of thematically related but very different novels that I will re-read back to back. Because There Will Be Time was on the top of the stack “Anderson” comes before “Silverberg,” I will start the re-read with Mr. Anderson’s novel.

1972’s Hugo-nominated There Will Be Time is the book that convinced teenage me that I liked his fiction. It is part of Poul Anderson’s Maurai series, which included three novelettes (1959’s The Sky People , 1962’s Progress and 1973’s Windmill) as well as a second novel, 1983’s Orion Shall Rise.

Centuries after the Judgment War, the Maurai dominated the Earth, guiding other nations away from destructive machine culture and towards more sustainable ways of life. There Will Be Time begins some time before this golden age, in 1933, with the birth of Jack Havig, an American who will play a very curious role in the history of the Maurai.

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Three by Anderson

The Worlds of Poul Anderson — Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson’s 1974 omnibus The Worlds of Poul Anderson collects three short novels: 1954’s Planet of No Return (also published as Question and Answer ), 1959’s The War of Two Worlds, and 1966’s World Without Stars.

I could have reviewed any one of the three novels, or written three reviews … but I think that these novels belong together (for reasons I will discuss later). There’s more to this than “the rights were available.”

There will be  spoilers.

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“Back to your caves and your dust!”

The Star Fox — Poul Anderson
Gunnar Heim, book 1

Poul Anderson’s 1964 fix-up The Star Fox has been on my to-review list ever since I started the Military Speculative Fiction That Doesn’t Suck series. And it took me less than a year to get to it!

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The Man Who Didn’t Learn Better

The Avatar — Poul Anderson

The man in the title is me. Way back when I was a young, easily pleased SF fan, I encountered a book by a favourite author, a book that taught me a very valuable lesson: I don’t have to finish every book I begin [1]. The year was 1980; the book was Robert A. Heinlein’s Number of the Beast [2].

I could have possibly have learned this lesson a few years earlier, in 1978, when I first read Poul Anderson’s The Avatar. This book is the “distilled essence of Bad Poul Anderson fiction of the 1970s” (to quote myself). But the book does have its strong points, which may be the reason why it was Number of the Beast and not The Avatar that taught me not to waste my time doggedly finishing tripe.

There will be spoilers.

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To Outlive Eternity

Tau Zero — Poul Anderson

1970’s Tau Zero (an expanded version of 1968’s “To Outlive Eternity”) comes almost exactly at the mid-point of Poul Anderson’s 54-year career. Someone familiar with Anderson’s oeuvre could make an educated guess about when this was written just from the female characters, something more than the trophies seen in earlier Anderson’s, combined with the absence of the libertarianism0 seen in later Anderson but such a reader could also make a pretty guess as to when this had to be written based on the device that literally drives the plot. 1970 was the apex of the heyday of the Bussard Ramjet and this novel is the Bussard Ramjet novel.

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“Because my tears are delicious to you” earns its title

Satan’s World — Poul Anderson
Polesotechnic League

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. 

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