Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Endings And Beginnings

After endings, come beginnings. Poul Anderson's first published fantasy novel, The Broken Sword (1954), ends with Odin striving to delay the doom of the world while an elf-earl anticipates that:

" 'Faerie shall fade...and the gods go under.' " (p. 207)

- and the struggle to delay the inevitable "Long Night" of post-Imperial barbarism is a major theme of Anderson's longest science fiction (sf) series.

Thus, there is a focus on endings both in Anderson's fantasy and in his sf.

Forty three years after The Broken Sword, a new Anderson fantasy novel, War Of The Gods (New York, 1997), went back to the beginning. Its opening sentence:

"The gods themselves fought the first war that ever was." (p. 9)

This mythical beginning informs the action of the novel, a retelling of the myth of Hadding, by making this hero an avatar of the god Njord. Anderson's source, Saxo, places Hadding three generations before Hrolf Kraki, even making Hadding's son Hrolf's great-uncle. Since Anderson also retold Hrolf Kraki's Saga, this enables us to relate these two volumes chronologically. They are two of the five novels set between Poul and Karen Anderson's King of Ys tetralogy and Poul Anderson's Last Viking trilogy. Unfortunately, I have yet to read Mother Of Kings so I am not yet clear about all the connections.

After the Last Viking trilogy, come three novels of different genres set in the fourteenth century. These many works could indeed be presented as a single long series whose volumes alternate between historical fantasy and historical fiction - with one sf novel added in the fourteenth century.

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