Monday, 4 February 2013

Flandry And Foundation And Van Rijn

Of the first eight stories in Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, Nicholas van Rijn appears in only one, "Margin Of Profit," which I think should be read as no 5, at the approximate midpoint. Of the following eleven works, eight stories and three novels, he appears in all but two! The works that come after that are set after his life time.

Thus, he dominates the Polesotechnic League period even when the series has changed its main focus from van Rijn himself to his trader team led by David Falkayn. Nevertheless, van Rijn is absent from nine of these nineteen works so that we are given plenty of information both about pre-League events and about other aspects of the society that is contemporary with van Rijn.

The theme of the collapse of a civilization occurs twice in the History. First, the League decays. Later, the Empire that has replaced it falls. But Anderson shows us in sufficient detail what goes wrong in each case. The Fall leading to the Long Night is no mere rerun of the decline of the League leading to the Time of Troubles and both are far more convincing than Asimov's Fall of the Galactic Empire.

In Anderson's History, civilization is gradually rebuilt by the efforts of people and their governments to form an alliance of planets whereas Asimov instead gives us the implausible behind the scenes machinations of psychohistorians, mental supermen and telepathic Robots.

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