Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Maurai In Orion Shall Rise

In Poul Anderson's Orion Shall Rise, the Maurai Federation comes on-stage in Chapter Two, still powerful enough to enforce on nearby nations its policies of ecological balance and no nuclear power, now engaging in a series of wars (a Whale War, a Power War) with the Northwest Union, to the north of the Mericans, where government is minimal and society is mainly organized around Lodges (Wolf, Fish Hawk, Polaris):

"A local Lodgemaster could field a regiment overnight, and disperse it to anonymity when its mission was completed." (1)

It seems that the Mong are still in North America (maybe that is one of the inconsistencies mentioned in the Author's Note?) and we learn that their ancestors had crossed from "Sberya" over a channel frozen for several months each year because

"...nuclear detonations had filled the upper air with dust." (1)

I think the idea of the nuclear winter is that radioactive dust would fill the entire upper atmosphere causing endless winter and night everywhere on Earth?

Again, Anderson presents a detailed account of how different countries might recover from a limited nuclear exchange and of how they would understandably and plausibly disagree about international policies for centuries afterwards.

"...mostly, those who survived kept going by creating new versions of savagery or barbarism. Few of them have yet climbed any further back. Few, if any, ever will, unless-" (2)

But some have climbed further, in different directions from different starting points, and we are bound to reflect that even savagery and barbarism are preferable to extinction. The world is in nowhere near as bad a state as it might have been. The Maurai impose their policies but are nevertheless benign, not imperialistic. A qualitatively different culture has emerged from the lessons taught by the War of Judgement.

We learn that the Maurai pantheon of Tanaroa the Creator with Lesu Haristi the Saviour on his right and shark-toothed Nan the Destroyer on his left is called the Triad. In the Prologue and Chapter One, we had learned that:

European peasants call the Aerogens "saints" and believe that they are endlessly reborn in Skyholm;
many believed that Deu Himself placed Skyholm in heaven to prevent a new Judgement;
Aerogens believe that the present generation carry their "ancestral anims";
the agnostic Iern attends services as a Clansman but shrugs at the blessing "Zhesu ward you";
there is a new philosophy called Gaeanism;
the name of the Aerogens' First Captain, "Great Charles," can be used as an oath.

Thus, almost subliminally, we are taught more than we might realize about European and Maurai religion.

Finally, a Maurai visiting the Northwest Union hears without understanding a defiant slogan cried by a child:

"Orion shall rise!" (3)

1. Anderson, Poul, Orion Shall Rise, London, 1988, p. 38.
2. ibid., p. 34.
3. ibid., p. 41.

No comments: