Tuesday, 18 March 2014

From A Bad Novel?

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968).

Driving out of Copenhagen, Storm Darroway tells Malcolm Lockridge that they "'...are to recover and transport a treasure.'" (p. 16)

She asks, "'You find that unbelievable? Melodramatic? Something from a bad novel?'" (ibid.)

That last phrase is somewhat unfortunate. James Blish, writing sf criticism as William Atheling Jr, remarked that "It sounded like something from a bad novel" is a phrase used by bad novelists to divert attention from the fact that they are indeed bad novelists! So far, in The Corridors Of Time, we are on the third page of Chapter Two and it remains possible that the novel will turn out to be a contemporary thriller about recovering a treasure.

Of course, we probably knew before starting to read it that this was a science fiction novel and even that it was about time travel but for the moment I am considering only internal textual evidence. It would be tragic if a reader unfamiliar with the works of Poul Anderson were to be discouraged at this early stage by what could be read as a bad novelist's clumsy attempt to divert attention from the incontrovertible fact of his own badly written melodrama!

On the contrary, the novel is so full of history, speculation, imagination, description and characterization that I find it both enjoyable and illuminating to reread it in detail. Anyone checking out this blog must understand that it is highly focused and even obsessional but I hope that it conveys something of why it is good to read Poul Anderson.

No comments: