Sunday, 16 June 2013

Know Your Enemy

Flandry and Aycharaych are like Holmes and Moriarty or Bond and Blofeld. However, Poul Anderson does more than merely reproduce this perennial hero-villain conflict. He cleverly motivates Aycharaych. The latter is neither a master criminal nor a loyal agent of Flandry's enemies, the Merseians. He works with them but entirely for his own purposes.

Flandry prolongs Technic civilization. Aycharaych preserves the Chereionite heritage. Both succeed, for a while. Flandry succeeds to the extent that the Terran Empire does not, we think, fall in his lifetime, which is the most that he can hope for. Aycharaych, unfortunately, lives to see Chereion destroyed and probably dies with it.

Aycharaych's exalted and exemplary end in no way justifies his manipulative and murderous means. What he does to living beings and planetary populations is inexcusable. I think that this character's tragedy is that he did not find any better way to achieve his aims.

But it gets worse. Perhaps he did not want to find a better way? I have not got the passage to hand but I am fairly certain that, in A Knight Of Ghosts And Shadows, Flandry suspects that Aycharaych regards the fomenting of discord not as a necessary evil but as a work of art from which he derives aesthetic pleasure. This, if true, sounds like a refined form of sadism.

I would have liked to have read a novel in which Aycharaych, surviving the destruction of Chereion and without any input from Flandry, decided what to do next. Undoing some of the damage that he himself had caused would have been a good start.

Flandry has another recurring opponent who is closer to being an opposite number and, indeed, whose career exactly parallels Sir Dominic's. Further, Nicholas van Rijn has a "nemesis" although we have to reread carefully to extract this character from the texts of the trader team novels. Thus, there might be further "Know Your Enemy" posts.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Very interesting note. Yes, I too recall the refined, subtly sadistic pleasure Aycharaych took in his work. Whereas, it should have been done only from regrettable necessity. And, yes, Aycharach was not so much working for Merseia as, at most, working with her for his own ends. Last, this comment by Chunderban Desai about Aycharaych from Chapter III of A KNIGHT OF GHOSTES AND SHADOWS may be what you had in mind: "An artist of espionage and sabotage, whose materials are living beings? Well, conceivbly, if that's all, he is no more to be envied than you or I."

And Flandry did hope his toils and struggles would help prolong the lifespan of the Empire, so that its many races and peoples might have peace for a while. This is what he said in Chapter 23 of THE GAME OF EMPIRE, while discussing the Magnusson revolt: "Pardons, amnesties, and limited penalties are going to be the order of the day. They must, if we want to shore up this social structure [the Empire] of ours so it might last another century or two." This was actually optimistic for Sir Dominic, hoping the Empire would last as much as two more centuries.

Hmmm, I think you meant Vice Admiral Fenross was another recurring opponent of him whose career parallelled his own? Or did you mean his natural son Dominic Hazeltine?

I think Edward Garver, the Director of the Federal Centrum of Security and Law Enforcement for the Lunar Federation, was the nemesis of Nicholas van Rijn you had in mind.


Paul Shackley said...

Yes, so it seems it was Desai, not Flandry, who said that about Aycharaych.

Yes also, Garver for van Rijn, but you are forgetting Tachwyr the Dark for Flandry.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Darn! I did forget about Tachwyr the Dark. I did not see the analogy with Flandry, probably because Tachwyr rose to be the Protector or Prime Minister of Merseia, while Flandry only became a Vice Admiral and Imperial advisor.