Sunday, 29 May 2016

Big SF Sagas

When a book is published, some people say good things about it. For example, on the front cover of Gregory Benford and Larry Niven, Bowl Of Heaven (New York, 2013):

"Bowl of Heaven is the first installment of what will be the bigget sci-fi saga since - well, since ever."
-The Wall Street Journal

No. Such statements are not even meant to be believed. We make our own judgments about whether to buy or read a book and rarely check afterwards whether we agree with such extravagant reviews. Benford and Niven have each written at least one bigger sf saga and Poul Anderson wrote several.

Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years spans history before it tackles slower than light interstellar exploration and First Contact. Bowl... gives us a big artifact but so did Niven's Ringworld and there are some other examples. Big Artifacts could become a sub-genre.

If we turn from unhelpful comparisons to the book's contents, we find that Bowl... contains a by now familiar kind of speculative fiction:

the Bowl is profusely populated;
dinosaurs were imported from Earth;
parallel and convergent evolution operates;
avian forms fare better and grow bigger in lower gravity;
a grazer has ears turned upward to detect flying predators and is more vulnerable to human hunters;
some plants have D-amino instead of L-amino so they can be eaten but not digested;
some human explorers are captured by and communicate with the dominant species;
others run free and explore the environment.

This is fertile material for yet another multi-author anthology to which Poul Anderson could readily have contributed.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Benford and Niven's THE BOWL OF HEAVEN does seem interesting. I'll look out for it.

I agree with what you said about blurbs. Many of them are simply not believable or not even meant to be believed. But, a blurb contributed by Poul Anderson to S.M. Stirling's UNDER THE YOKE was what got me to look hard at that book and buy a copy (the very first Stirling book I read). I don't think PA contributed blurbs to books he had not read.

Recently finished GO TELL THE SPARTANS, a really good page turner by Pournelle/Stirling. And I noticed how the name of the leader of the Mejiian technoninjas working for the terrorist Skilly Thibodeau was "Murasaki," the same surname of the Wang Dynasty Emperors in Anderson's Terran Empire. A small Andersonian allusion?