TWO WORLDS OF POUL ANDERSON by Poul Anderson
ISBN: 1-55742-693-7, 66 pages, $2.99 (chapbook)
This black and white illustrated chapbook published by Wildside Press comprises a short novel, INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, and a short story, DUEL ON SYRTIS. The author’s libertarian ideology threads through both tales, but like the pen and ink drawings, serves to illustrate the stories without getting in the way. If Golden Age Science Fiction puts a gleam in your eyes, you’ll enjoy TWO WORLDS OF POUL ANDERSON. I definitely did.
The aptly titled short novel INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION, originally published in Analog Science Fact and Science Fiction, September 1963, takes place on the Sword, an asteriod mining Station, and pits the owner of the Station, Michael Blades, against the might of the North American Navy and the machinations of State corporate politics. A timely “accident” jeopardizes the asteroid colony and its operations, forcing Blades into a risky face to face showdown with the powers that be.
The short story, DUEL ON SYRTIS, happens in the harsh mountainous desert of Mars, a hunter and hunted tale. Kreega, a Martian aboriginal, is pursued with fanatical and deadly intent by the human hunter Riordan who states he came to Mars “to get me an owlie.” Both stories come with the social baggage of their time. I had to set aside my contemporary sensibilities and relax into these two Golden Age classics by a master of the genre. Okay, I tried but couldn’t quite quell my annoyance at the gentle sexism in INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION.
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION presents a strong sense of time and place, and Anderson weaves in fascinating details of how things work in the mining colony, although some of the pseudo-science peppering the dialogue lost me at times, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story. The portrayal of the women irritated me but evenso Anderson was progressive in his depiction of Navy Lieutenant Ellen Ziska, intelligent and strong-willed, and Avis, Blades’s assistant, no dummy with breasts, but both women have plenty 1960s female in them. Their behavior along with Blades’s tongue-hanging desire for Ellen had me rolling my eyes more than once. I imagine feminist readers will be equally annoyed. Still, INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION proved a fun read, presenting the classic Anderson conflict of the individual against the State.
DUEL ON SYRTIS, published in Planet Stories, 1951, is tightly written and moves at a brisk, suspenseful pace to its ironic, chilling conclusion. Strong subtext lies at the heart of the story. The conflict between a desperate Martian and a relentless human hunter is symbolic of socio-political confrontation–an indigenous people’s fight for survival against an imperialistic invader. Once again, Anderson creates a setting you can see and feel, imagining a Mars of bleak geological ruin washed in the glacial light of a hostile sun.
Available at Amazon, worth every penny.