Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Gang

In Poul Anderson's "Un-Man," who are the "gang" that want to destroy the UN world government in the early twenty first century?

An alliance of:

nationalists and militarists wanting a return to the old divisions;
industrialists, financiers and politicians wanting an end to regulation;
labor leaders wanting a return to the power and profits of the old conflicts;
religionists opposing contraception and population control;
Syndics, Neocommunists, Pilgrims, Hedonists and other fanatics wanting to impose their beliefs;
those who have lost out because of UN actions or policies.

How is the gang defeated?

Four UN secret servicemen who are also members of the Brotherhood of Rostomily clones let themselves be captured. The discovery that they are opposed by a secret army of identical men is sufficiently serious that the gang takes all four prisoners to its secret headquarters to be questioned by its head. The suspected head, Arnold Besser, flies there with his chauffeur, a disguised Brother, who has a radio tracer. Thus, end of the gang.

Where is the secret headquarters?

A sea station with staff and equipment processing sea weed while the headquarters is hidden underwater. An Un-man being taken as a prisoner to this headquarters is like an UNCLE agent being taken as a prisoner to THRUSH Central in the 1960's TV series, The Man From UNCLE, although, because that was an open-ended series, the location of "Central" receded like the end of the rainbow.

Is the destruction of the gang a happy ending?

"No. Because it was a job which never really ended. The enemy was old and strong and crafty, it took a million forms and it could never quite be slain. For it was man himself - the madness and sorrow of the human soul, the revolt of a primitive against the unnatural state called civilization and freedom. Somebody would try again. His methods would be different, he might not have the same avowed goal, but he would be the enemy..." (The Psychotechnic League, New York, 1981, pp. 125-126).

Thus, Anderson addresses issues that go much deeper than the action-adventure narrative of this particular story. He demonstrates that the gang members are psychologically unstable, unworthy of any leadership role. And, in the following story, agents of the Psychotechnic Institute and of the FBI must defeat a new political conspiracy:

"The enemy - the old and protean enemy, who had been fought down as Fascist, Nazi, Shintoist, Communist, Atomist, Americanist...had grown craftier with time." (p. 138)

So,again, we get basically a good guys-bad guys story-line but with deeper underlying issues.

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