Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson’s Worlds edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois (book review).

>I’ve read a few short stories by Poul Anderson but am not familiar with his oeuvre so to experience his fictions second hand with ‘Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson’s Worlds’ was interesting. Obviously a man with his long career who won seven Hugo awards and three Nebulas and was made a Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America should inspire good stories in his colleagues. He did.

In ‘Outmoded Things’, Nancy Kress explores the world of ‘The Queen Of Air And Darkness’. In a barren outpost on an alien world, the natives can transmit illusions which lure some children away from the human settlement. Four are recaptured but they have to be persuaded to stay. An interesting meditation on the worth of dreams and fables which is particularly relevant to us fiction readers.

‘The Fey Of Cloudmoor’ by Terry Brooks is another based on ‘The Queen Of Air And Darkness’. Jimmy Cullen was taken by the Fey as a baby but his mother eventually rescued him. However, he couldn’t cope with human civilisation and ended up as a drug addict. His girlfriend dies in the gutter and he takes their baby daughter back to the Fey for a better life. However, his mother wants to rescue them again. Brooks is a well known bestseller so I was surprised to find this slow moving and atmospheric with lots of description. It worked. It worked fine.

Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson’s Worlds edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois (book review).
Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson’s Worlds edited by Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois (book review).

Time Patrol stories commence with ‘A Slip In Time’ by S.M. Stirling. The Time Patrol wander through history making sure it all happens as it should. They were founded by the Darnellians, highly evolved humans from the distant future. I haven’t read the series but it seems very similar to Asimov’s ‘The End Of Eternity’, no plagiarism implied. Once the concept of time travel became common currency the idea of a police force to prevent misuse was a logical extension of it. In fact, both books came out in 1955. Anyway, when someone sabotages the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, World War One fails to happen and history is greatly changed. Manse Everard stumbles across the changes while on vacation in the period and has to sort it out. It’s okay as an action adventure yarn. Not so sure about the history. The assassination triggered WW1 but the great power conflicts were set to go off anyway with Germany seeking its ‘place in the sun’. I think some other trigger would have occurred but no one knows, which is why you can have such fun with alternatives.

Another ‘Time Patrol’ story with ‘Christmas In Gondwanaland’. Robert Silverberg is a contemporary of Poul Anderson in the field and probably about as prolific. Here Everard Manse and colleagues have to save the Patrol itself. The Founding Convocation which set up the organisation has been blown up by terrorists from 9999AD. In the modern Silverberg way, it’s a bit slow but thoughtful and interesting. Gondwanaland was the single continent on Earth before they drifted apart, also known as Pangaea. Funnily enough, I recently read an essay by Anderson, written in the seventies I think, in which he wondered why, given his literary talents, Silverberg didn’t just go mainstream and make a lot more money. I guess he just loves the field he started out in, luckily for us.

Manse Everard crops up again in ‘The Far End’ by Larry Niven. He’s a long way into his personal timeline now and is getting bored as there are few crises left to solve. The protagonist is a beginner in the Time Patrol. This was short and sweet.

Anderson’s hero Dominic Flandry worked to keep the Terran Empire from falling in order to hold back another dark age. In ‘Dancing On The Edge Of The Dark’ by C.J. Cherryh, his descendants undertake the same task. Dialogue driven, this was an easy read and I enjoy political stories. I also believe that empires are the shapers of history and it’s better to be in one than outside, a local debate we’re having in the UK at the moment. Surely any SF fan/Trekkie believes in world government? In another one based on the ‘Flandry’ series, a hero battles Alcan slavers. Raymond C. Feist delivers a nice action adventure yarn with an unusual long, slow but interesting conclusion.

In a sequel to Anderson’s ‘The Long Remembering’, author Stephen Baxter has a Ms. Armand visiting an ancestor’s mind by means of Temporal Psycho Displacement. She can take no control over what happens but thinks and feels, along with her early feminist ancestor, as that worthy hunts a Neanderthal man. Quite interesting with a religious undercurrent. My ginger beard apparently indicates that I might have some Neanderthal blood so I empathise with them and so will you Homo sapiens when a new race of sub-mariners takes over the flooded Earth.

Taking Anderson’s novel ‘Operation Chaos’ as his template, Eric Flint has Anibal from the Department of Infernal Affairs venture into Hell. It’s dangerous but he is a were-dinosaur, which helps. He is accompanied by the resourceful Sophia Loren from the State Department. ‘Operation Xibalba’ is an entertaining romp that keeps you interested.

David Brin’s story ‘Latecomers’ isn’t set in an Anderson world but is a tribute. Long ago, Brin showed Anderson a story called ‘Lungfish’. Poul opined that he had succeeded in achieving a haunting, elegiac tone and so forth but that it would be better with more action. Brin rewrote it thus and here it is. It features Gavin, a humaniform robot that’s more sarcastic than most humans and Tor Povlov, a lady who looks like a robot after most of her was destroyed in an accident. They are exploring a planetoid for more artefacts of an ancient alien civilisation. Featuring speculation on the nature of humanity, a great space battle and a fascinating finale, this was my favourite dramatic story in the book. Brin handles both technology and characters well.

‘Bloodpride’ by Gregory Benford is based on Poul Anderson’s ‘The People Of The Wind’. The flying Ythrians, come to the Solar System in search of an ancient artefact. The aliens are well portrayed and the story developed nicely with a librarian learning to relate to them. They are contemptuous of ground animals but this is set on the moon where the low gravity enables one to fly a bit with fitted wings, an idea originally mooted by Heinlein in his short story ‘The Menace From Earth’.

Harry Turtledove, maestro of alternative history contributes ‘The Man Who Came Late’, set in the world of ‘Three Hearts And Three Lions’. Holger the hero has been wandering the universes for thirty years doing good but finally tracks down his true love from that adventure. Unfortunately, she is now married to the village smithy and has children. Turtledove has several good turns of phrase. On sagging chins in the elderly: ‘The earth dragged you down towards it, and then dragged you down into it.’ On the hero’s dalliances with other women: ‘A knight errant spent his nights erring.’ On beer: ‘Sometimes the world needed a bit of blurring.’ The ending was good, if you’re a man. Persons identifying with the female in the story might not like it so much.

I laughed out loud frequently while reading ‘Three Lilies And Three Leopards (And a Participating Ribbon In Science)’ by Tad Williams. Quidprobe works in the Crossover Division of the Department of Fictional Universes. When a shoe shop manager, instead of a military hero, is shunted to the mediaeval France of Poul Anderson’s ‘Three Hearts And Three Lions’, it’s a major crisis. The highly entertaining plot is enlivened by similes worthy of P.G. Wodehouse. I also enjoyed Quidprobe’s exclamations: ‘By the Peerless Punctuation of Poe!’ and ‘Excrement of Ellison!’ among others. The principles of retail management can be adapted to heroic questing, it seems. This story alone is worth the price of the book, certainly if you include the dramatic one by David Brin.

There is some non-fiction here. The introduction entitled ‘My Friend Poul‘ is by Greg Bear, one of the editors of this volume, who married Anderson‘s daughter Astrid and was his son-in-law for twenty years or so. ‘Living And Working With Poul Anderson’ is an interesting memoir by his wife Karen that does what it says in the title. There are a couple of pages by Astrid Anderson Bear praising the bedtime stories she had as a child. There‘s ‘An Appreciation of Poul Anderson’ by Jerry Pournelle, another SF writer who became a friend.

Each story has an Afterword by the authors and several of them knew Anderson a little. They generally have nice things to say about him both as a major writer and a person. I’m sure he was a splendid fellow and I believe he would appreciate this worthy tribute from his peers

Eamonn Murphy

January 2016

(pub: Subterranean Press, 2014. 393 page deluxe hardback. Price: $40.00 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59606-502-4)

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If you missed this edition, Baen have also released it on the general market place.

Eamonn Murphy

Eamonn Murphy reviews books for sfcrowsnest and writes short stories for small press magazines. His eBooks are available at all good retailers or see his website:

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