Monday, 16 December 2013

The Horn Of Time The Hunter And Other Matters

It is possible to get completely blown off course when blogging. I have not yet started to read the recently acquired Star Prince Charlie by Poul Anderson because I needed first to finish rereading his The Makeshift Rocket but that has been interrupted by illness, by other reading, by posting on another blog and by the arrival of Anderson's The Horn Of Time, containing six stories of which I had not read two and wanted to reread a third. Meanwhile, Yule, Christmas, New Year and my birthday bear down upon us.

One previously unread story, "The High Ones," addressing major issues and evoking other stories not only by Anderson but even also by Wells, merited considerable discussion.

The story that was to be reread, "The Horn of Time the Hunter," is, like the other works mentioned here, hard sf but one of its several interesting features is psychological, mysterious or even, potentially, fantasy: an unexplained sound like a hunter's horn, heard by only one of the characters, on a briefly visited planet. Was it just the wind? The story was originally entitled "Homo Aquaticus" but that gives away the surprise discovery that the sea-dwelling inhabitants of the visited planet are descended from human colonists. The second title is far superior and extremely evocative.

When the interstellar traders called the Kith were persecuted in the Star Empire, they scattered and fled. One of their ships now returns from a twenty thousand year relativistic round trip towards the galactic center. This ship's crew did not find the Elder Race that they sought and do not yet know whether the Empire, the Kith or even humanity still exist. They find that one human colony has undergone a sea change. One of their number is killed by the aquatics and another hears the horn of time blowing on the wind...

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