Saturday, 9 April 2016

Amidst Lightnings

The passage that I am about to quote displays two features that we have found more than once in works by Poul Anderson. Regular blog readers should recognize both.

"Agony: And I am helpless, helpless.
"Revelation: No!
"Through a time beyond time, Nordbo stood amidst lightnings. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse -"
-Poul Anderson, "Inconstant Star" IN Larry Niven, Ed., Man-Kzin Wars III (New York, 1990), p. 251.

The most obvious feature is a Biblical reference. See here. Less obvious, but also far more frequent in Anderson's works, is a character who (i) has a problem, (ii) suddenly realizes the solution, (iii) stands thunderstruck or, in this case, "amidst lightnings," (iv) does not immediately divulge the solution - although, in this case, we need only turn the page.

Nordbo's problem is that, although the kzinti have lost their First War Against Men, he is the lone human being among a remnant kzinti crew bearing intelligence that might enable them to win the Second. When he realizes the solution, he thinks, "Revelation..." The solution is that he can kill this remnant with his concealed knife. And, appropriately, he remembers a passage from the Book of Revelation about a remnant being killed with a sword. Thus, the Biblical reference is fully integrated with the Andersonian moment of realization. That is neat, even for Anderson.

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