Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Van Rijn Show

In Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization, the Nicholas van Rijn series is followed by a trader team series. However, the latter is almost entirely subsumed in a continuing van Rijn series. The first trader team story, "The Trouble Twisters," contains a flashback in which van Rijn explains his trade pioneer crew idea to the team leader, David Falkayn. The second trader team story, "Day of Burning," unusually contains no van Rijn. However, the remaining three works about the team are equally about van Rijn.

Also set in this period according to Sandra Miesel's Chronology of Technic Civilization, is one last van Rijn story, "The Master Key." Van Rijn stories divide into those in which van Rijn is out in space and those in which he receives an employee's report back on Earth - and one in which both happen. Here, he is on Earth and the narration is complicated. Two earlier Technic History stories had featured first person narrators who were not the main protagonists. In "The Master Key," there are:

the narrator;
the narrator's friend;
the friend's son;
the son's ensign;
the son's and ensign's employer, van Rijn.

The son and the ensign recount their experience on a problem planet, Cain, to the other three who discuss the problem until van Rijn solves it. He discusses Cainite psychology and pronounces on human nature, a fitting conclusion both to this story and to the van Rijn series.

The narrator refers to three other planets previously "conquered" by van Rijn, thus alluding to three of the five previous installments of the van Rijn series. Van Rijn himself refers to the planet Tametha which will become problematic in the later trader team/van Rijn story, "Lodestar." Thus, the stories function as a "future history," cross-referring and providing background for each other.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

Your notes are certainly making me eager to reread the van Rijn stories. I'm currently reading Greg Bear's novel QUANTICO. And I had been thinking of reading a collection of HG Wells works. Now you are tempting me to read THE EARTHBOOK OF STORMGATE instead!

Your mentioning of "The Master Key," featuring the planet Cain, reminds of how that world was inhabited by a naturally anarchic species called the Yildivans. They are so psychologically configured that any social organization larger than the family is inconceivable to them. And how that caused tragic misunderstanding and conflict with human visitors.


Paul Shackley said...

The new Baen volumes are the best way to read it. They preserve all the Earth Book Introductions so they are effectively an Expanded Earth Book.