Monday, 8 June 2015

Poul Anderson's Martians: Shield And Un-Man

Albeit without rereading Poul Anderson's Shield (New York, 1970) from cover to cover, I now think that I cannot find a physical description of the Martians in this novel because there is no such description. The entire action of the novel is on Earth. On p. 11, Koskinen, who has just returned from Mars, reminisces...

The Martian, Elkor, has a "huge form" and communicates with Koskinen with coded vibrations transmitted through a "palp" laid from behind on the Earthman's neck. That is all - and it is enough. As I said in the previous post, I usually forget details of a description of an alien form given once early in a text but, on rereading, these enigmatic hints about Elkor are preferable to the graphic stork-like bipedal form of "The Martian Crown Jewels."

(To touch base with SM Stirling's In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings, which is being read meanwhile, in "The Martian Crown Jewels," the Martian Syaloch's apartment is illuminated by "...glowsnakes..." (Call Me Joe, p. 429). Thus, these two races of Martians use biotech. ...Crimson Kings also features the very high tech of the Lords of Creation. This tech, concealed underground but glowing and affecting brains and minds when approached, reminds me of the Kryptonian tech in the Smallville TV series.)

Rereading part of Chapter III of "Un-Man" (New York, 1962) confirms that there are a few surviving native Martians, "...shy and secretive..." (p. 19), in Anderson's Psychotechnic History. Again, I do not think that there is any description. They are mentioned because it has been discovered that they can sleep through the winter or a drought. Although their blood freezes:

the freezing point is much lower than for human blood;
when freezing does occur, released enzymes prevent cell rupturing;
a process comparable to ion exchange circulates oxygen and nutrients even through the ice;
returning heat revives the organism.

I never knew that.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Interesting, what you said about how the Martions mentioned in "UN-Man" survived thru winters or droughts. If something like that could be or was developed for use by humans, that might be one way humans could reach the planets of other stars using STL technology. Hmmm, but we do see hibernation like methods being used in ORBIT UNLIMITED, collecting the first stories of the "History of Rustum."