Thursday, 28 November 2013

The War Of Two Worlds: Concluding Remarks

Poul Anderson's The War of Two Worlds (New York, 1959) describes a war that is of two worlds, Earth and Mars, but with three sides, Earthmen, Martians and extra-Solars. Thus, the title informs us that the book has a similar theme to one by Wells but also misleads us as to its contents and the existence of the third side is revealed gradually.

The Martian, Regelin dzu Coruthan, reflecting that victory over Earth has cost his people a quarter of their small population and impoverished the rest, remarks, "Oh, a cold victory!" (p. 31) The phrase "Cold Victory," applied in a different context, is the title of a pivotal story in Anderson's Psychotechnic History.

Even in the midst of Anderson's action-adventure fiction, we enjoy his descriptions of natural scenes:

"Sunrise came in a shout of light. The long grass outside was one glitter from dew, and the lake rippled and flashed beyond a screen of spruce and beech and sumac. It smelled of growth here, green leaves, needles and forest mould, water and sunlight." (p. 90)

- a full circle from "Sunrise" to "sunlight."

"It is late as I write these final lines. Outside, there is the cool northern night, and the shimmer on the lake and the whisper of trees." (p. 103)

We have been led to believe that the narrator, Arnfeld, and his Martian ally, Regelin, die shortly after Arnfeld completes his manuscript but there is a clever surprise ending. The leader of the metamorphs thought that they were dead because he saw the bodies of two of his own people who had been tricked into masquerading as Arnfeld and Regelin and had then been killed!

At the end, Intelligence Prime "...pleaded for the life of his people." (p. 108) They should be spared and have much to teach but should have come in peace in the first place.

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