Saturday, 31 May 2014

Flandry's Legacy: Back Cover Blurb

-Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy (New York, 2012), back cover (blurb written by compiler, Hank Davis?).

I have thought that Long Night And Dawn could make an appropriate title for a concluding volume of the History of Technic Civilization. However, my concluding volume would collect the four works set after the Terran Empire but not also the last two novels set during Flandry's lifetime.

The blurb continues:

"Sir Dominic Flandry is now an admiral but takes little joy in his new rank. He sees the rot in the Terran Empire on every hand and knows that the Long Night will inevitably fall on the galaxy."

Not on the whole galaxy: the Empire rules just some of the terrestroid planets in a four hundred light year diameter sphere near the edge of one spiral arm and it is only one interstellar power. Other powers in known space are the Roidhunate of Merseia, the Domain of Ythri and the Dispersal of Ymir. The Dispersal, based on gas giants, not on terrestroids, overlaps the Empire, Roidhunate and Domain but may be much vaster.

"His consolation is that measures he has taken while fighting to postpone the final collapse may shorten the coming galactic dark age and hasten the rise of a new interstellar civilization."

Isaac Asimov's Hari Seldon tried to shorten a dark age and to hasten a new civilization but not also to postpone the imminent collapse. This blurb makes the Flandry series sound like an alternative Foundation Trilogy but, we must add, an incomparably better Foundation Trilogy.

Flandry says:

"'I'd like to have Nyanza well populated. When the Long Night comes for Terra, somebody will have to carry on. It might as well be you.'"
-Poul Anderson, Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire (New York, 2010), p. 339. 

On Dennitza, he and his fiancee, Kossara, anticipate:

"Service...staff rather than field Intelligence...for the future, not the poor wayworn Empire but a world he too could believe in, the world of their own blood."
-Poul Anderson, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Knight Of Terra (New York, 2012), p. 543.

Later, he tells Miriam Abrams:

"'The sophont races will survive. In due course, they'll build fascinating new civilizations. Cultures of mixed species look especially promising. Consider Avalon already.'"
-Flandry's Legacy, p. 75.

Yes and, in any case, despite the human element in its population, Avalon is outside the Empire, in the Domain of Ythri. We last saw Avalon immediately after the Terran War, before Flandry's birth, so I would like to have seen it again.

"'...I'm not optimistic about this period we are in: but it can be made less terrible than it'd otherwise be. And that isn't so little, is it - buying years for billions of sentient beings, that they can live in?'" (ibid.)

Here we return to the theme of postponing collapse.

When civilization is being restored after the Long Night, we are told that the planet Atheia:

"...was supposed to have retained or regained almost as many amenities as Old Earth knew in its glory..." (p. 665)

The Long Night meant no economic basis for building spaceships:

"'That meant little trade between planets. Which meant trouble on most of 'em.'" (p. 458)

But not necessarily on all of 'em, maybe not on Atheia. Roan Tom gains power on Kraken. Vixenites found New Vixen which later becomes part of the Commonalty. Thus, Flandry sees hope in Nyanza, Dennitza and Avalon and, later, there is the realization of hope on Atheia, Kraken and Vixen.

To return to the Flandry's Legacy blurb:

"In the meantime, he'll always be ready for one more battle against the Empire's enemies."

We return from Flandry's future to his present, where he is still fighting.

"A Stone In Heaven - When the daughter of Flandry's mentor asks for help, he intervenes to thwart a would-be dictator's plans to seize control of the Empire."

Flandry does indeed intervene but there is much more than that in this novel:

life on Ramnu;
the sense of Hermes as a complex society and economy within the Empire;
Flandry's exposition of the decline of the Empire;
his autumnal affair with Miriam - "They walked on into the autumn." (p. 188)

"The Game Of Empire - Flandry's daughter, Diana, and her felinelike alien friend have discovered a Merseian conspiracy against the Empire. Even with the help of her illustrious father, can they stop it in time?"

Yes. We know, unless we are reading the Technic History for the very first time and in chronological order of fictitious events, that the Empire will not be incorporated into the Roidhunate but will simply fall, bequeathing not Merseian rule but interstellar barbarism. Anderson's texts do not tell us what became of the Roidhunate but Sandra Miesel reasonably guesses in her Chronology of Technic Civilization that, in the early fourth millennium:

"The Empire and Merseia wear each other out." (p. 803)

Again, there is more in this last Flandry era novel than interstellar intrigue, mainly the fascinating planets, Imhotep and Daedalus, and some new perspectives on the earlier history.

"Plus four novellas, all in this seventh volume of the first complete edition of Poul Anderson's Technic Civilization saga."

Those four novellas are the only works set during the Long Night and its aftermath so they deserved a bit more discussion in the blurb!

While googling for Technic Civilization covers, I learned that, whereas Captain Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire is Volume 5 of The Technic Civilization Saga, Flandry: Defender Of The Terran Empire is a separate edition, collecting A Circus Of Hells and The Rebel Worlds.

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