Thursday, 27 February 2014

Gibraltar Falls II

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006).

The viewpoint character of Poul Anderson's "Gibraltar Falls" is Tom Nomura, recruited to the Time Patrol in San Francisco 1972, assistant to Feliz a Rach, aristocrat and artist of the fortieth century First Matriarchy making a full-sensory recording of the Atlantic filling the Mediterranean basin for the many Patrol members wanting to experience that event but unable to crowd into the narrow long ago time-slot.

One paragraph describes looming banks of upflung mist and cold salt fog so thick that it is "...unsafe to breathe for more than a few minutes." (p. 116) Other paragraphs describe currents sucked from Atlantic immensity toward the new inter-continental gap, violently clashing and recoiling before becoming a single white and emerald stream and an eight mile wide waterfall that makes clouds with wheeling rainbows and fills the former desert with an expanding blue lake and canyon-carving rivers.

It is difficult to visualize what Anderson describes and easy to hurry on to the human events. Water many miles wide must fall ten thousand feet. Nomura sees the headland that will be worn down to become Gibraltar. He and Feliz use their timecycles, vehicles capable of space-time travel, as flying machines for a bird's eye view and many close-ups of the cataract. I have tried to summarize Anderson's account in order to identify the stages of this massive material process before proceeding to the human story that follows.

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