Friday, 7 June 2013

Tide And Twilight

Toward the end of a long biographical novel or series of novels, the reader can share the central character's nostalgia for his early days as recounted in the opening chapters. We can also feel a vicarious nostalgia for (our idea of) a historical period. Poul Anderson conveys this feeling well in A Circus Of Hells (London, 1978):

"'...Listen. Five hundred years ago, the Polesotechnic League had a base here. You've heard?'
"Flandry...nodded wistfully. He would much rather have lived in the high and spacious days of the trader princes, when no distance and no deed looked too vast for man, than in this twilight of empire." (p. 18)

We can read of those "...high and spacious days..." in earlier volumes. We can also share the traders' nostalgia not only as their careers end but also as their League declines. Meanwhile, Flandry faces the decline of empire which Anderson describes with colorful metaphors, not only as "...twilight..." but also:

"Tonight Irumclaw [a planet] lay like a piece of wreckage at the edge of the receding tide of empire." (p. 12)

Space is more than once compared to the sea. The non-humanoid Rax is said to have left its home planet and:

"...drifted about until it stranded at last on this tolerant shore." (p. 23)

And, in a later novel, the multiracial population of another colonized planet is described as:

"...drifting in and out on the tides of space." (Flandry's Legacy, New York, 2012, p. 195)

A Circus Of Hells describes three planets. Irumclaw, when enclosed by the Empire, was a centre of commerce and culture but, now that it is on the periphery, its mansions are empty or owned by oafs while the natives return to barbarism. Wayland joins Satan's World and Mirkheim as an industrially valuable and exploited planet. Talwin has a skewed orbit and two intelligent species and its characteristics were summarized in an earlier post.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

A CIRCUS OF HELLS is one of my favorite Dominic Flandry books. I remember regretting how short this and other books by PA were. It was only later that I realized that didn't matter--what mattered was how much Anderson was able to pack into relatively short books.