Sunday, 22 September 2013

Planet Of No Return

The "CAST OF CHARACTERS" of Poul Anderson's Planet Of No Return (London, 1971) presents seven members of the crew of the spaceship Henry Hudson, each identified by name, nationality and profession.

The four pages of Chapter 1 introduce the first, Kemal Gummus-Lugil, Turkish rocket engineer. The eight and a half pages of Chapter 2 introduce the next three in conversation with each other:

John Lorenzen, Lunarian astronomer;
Ed Avery, North American psychomed;
Joab Thornton, Martian physicist.

As always, Anderson addresses profound issues with apparently casual confidence. When Thornton has left, Lorenzen comments on the apparent contradiction between the former's scientific brilliance and his religious beliefs. Avery replies that they are "'...finally getting a science of man...'" (p. 17) but that, for the time being, most people remain irrational:

believing contradictions;
not really learning how to think;
thinking "'...only with the surface of their minds...'" (p. 16);
responding with conditioned reflex;
rationalizing fears and hates.

This novel is not only about space travel but also about sanity and whether a science of man is possible.  

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