Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Man Who Counts, Chapter VI

Nicholas van Rijn will end the War of the Wing-Men so that the Wing-Men can help him to get home! (War Of The Wing-Men is an editorial, not an auctorial, title for Poul Anderson's The Man Who Counts.) Van Rijn proposes to help not the side that has captured him but the other side, which is losing, because they will be more grateful. Never do anything easy.

Van Rijn learns two Diomedean languages simultaneously and surreptitiously, pretending ignorance while accurately reading the conflicts among his captors:

"'I know a little something about politics. It is needful for an honest businessman seeking to make him a little hard-earned profit, else some louse-bound politician comes and taxes it from him for some idiot school [!] or old-age pension.'"
-Poul Anderson, The Van Rijn Method (New York, 2009), p. 370.

(An educated population is an abler work force. Pensioners with purchasing power are a market.)

"'The politics here is not so different from what we do out in the galaxy.'" (ibid.)

Maybe not, but everything else is so different that it takes a genius to discern the politics. Van Rijn discerns:

the throne, in the Fleet, called "the Admiralty";
an old admiral with a disliked crown prince...

He even avails of the thick atmosphere to eavesdrop on gossip when most human beings would be simply overwhelmed by alienness and danger. Anderson's heroes are always able and resourceful but Nick van Rijn exceptionally so.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

One point we need to keep in mind about Nicholas van Rijn is that he was created to be in many ways an ANTI hero. That is, fat, aging, comical, uncouth, loudly devout, ostenatiously "greedy," etc. Nevertheless, we find out Old Nick really was the man who counted.

Also, the Drak'honai were not much interested in helping the marooned humans get rescued because they did not feel in any strong need to do, being as they we re in the middle of a difficult war with the Flock. The Flock, were as desperate as the humans because they were losing the war and, hence, were more willing to listen to advice on how they might still win.