Sunday, 15 July 2012

Rooted In The Past

Poul Anderson's Orion Shall Rise (London, 1988) is set many centuries in our future. We do not know how many centuries because (it seems that) the old style of dating ended with the (nuclear) War of Judgement, almost certainly to be replaced by many different local dating systems but we are not told about those either.

Despite being set so far in the future, the events of the novel are firmly rooted in our common past. In the first place, the devastation of the War had thrown entire continents back into earlier ways of living from which they then advanced in new directions both scientifically and culturally, generating a rich fictitious history as we often observe when commenting on Anderson's works.

Secondly, there are several historical references. Printed texts had been dispersed too widely to allow a loss of knowledge. There are new religions and new forms of Christianity but one character is able to identify himself as a Nicene Christian. There is a Cathedral dedicated to St Corentin who was a character in Poul and Karen Anderson's King Of Ys tetralogy set during an earlier social collapse, the Fall of the Roman Empire (as opposed to the larger scale Fall of the Terran Empire chronicled by Anderson in another series and in an alternative fictitious timeline).

Not only was the Christian Corentin canonised. The atheist Lenin has been deified! Mong gods include "...Oktai, Erlik, Lenin..." (p. 267) That deification of Lenin combines in a single word Anderson's treatment of social evolution, including his concerns about social revolutions, and his interest in the historical development of mythology - two themes addressed fully in his Time Patrol series.

Readers have a privileged relationship to characters. We can compare the Maurai Federation and the Time Patrol although they cannot know about each other. A subsequent volume, There Will be Time, informs us that, unknown to the Maurai and to us when reading about the Maurai, time travellers do move through the history of the Federation but their form of time travel differs from that used by the Patrol. The historical dimension is emphasised further when a man from the twentieth century visits both the Constantinople of his past and the Maurai in his future.


Anonymous said...

That image is much too big and out of focus. Better to have them smaller.

Paul Shackley said...

Thanks. The image was out of focus when I found it! There are several images of covers for ORION SHALL RISE on the 'net so I have tried to use as many different images as possible although this one is out of focus. I thought it was a cover of a translated edition but now I am wondering if it is not a different novel? The title seems to be THE SOMETHING OF SPACE...

Paul Shackley said...

Now I think it is THE CURRENTS OF SPACE which is by Isaac Asimov! I had better change it.