Tuesday, 28 April 2015

In The City Of Steel

Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991), Chapter XVII.

"...we hold fast in the City of Steel." (p. 362)

Stalin, like Superman, was the "Man of Steel." Thus, Stalingrad becomes "...the City of Steel..." (p. 362), an evocative phrase - although I prefer to imagine a city dedicated to Superman. (There is a Tarzana.)

Chapter XVIII features only one immortal who converses with only one other person and does not divulge her immortality to him so how does that immortality impact the narrative? Quite a lot. When Kulikov's surname prompts Katya to mention the Battle of Kulikovo, he comments that that was nearly six hundred years ago and she remembers it - although she does not tell him that. She inwardly recalls centuries of horrific conflicts, then invokes both gods and saints. Some of us would, if we had lived that long.

Chapter I had also featured just a single immortal, Hanno, in conversation with the explorer Pytheas, but, at that early stage, the reader was not yet sure what was going on and was only just beginning to guess at Hanno's longevity. The novel has moved forward through history bringing each of the immortals a very long way from his or her origins.

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