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Return to SF from the Golden Age
Poul Anderson was once one of the greatest SF authors in America, and those who read Rise of the Terran Empire will see why. He could write swashbuckling space opera that had a second layer of deep thinking and honest-to-gosh philosophy without being didactic or anvilicious.
This collection has some of the last of his 'Polesotechnic League' stories (classic space merchant tales) with the fall of Terran civilization -- and the rise of a new Empire in its place. But this lacks the hamfistedness of Lucas and his fellows; Anderson shows us people who do the wrong things for the right reasons and who then willingly live with the consequences. Both the heroes and the villains are fully realized and well drawn, with few if any simplistic judgements on either side. He also gives us deeply thought-out and realistically presented worlds that are scientifically valid, regardless of how bizarre they and their inhabitants may seem to the reader.
Especially in the crowning piece of this collection, People of the Wind. One of THE great Anderson novels, covering a war between an independent planet occupied by humans and aliens and the Terran Empire. Lesser writers would make it a struggle between good and evil, probably drawing on whoever they dislike the most in modern politics, probably with a schmaltzy moral sermon that "War is bad, mmmmmkay?" thrown in for spice.
Anderson shows us good and evil on either side, illustrates that good people can do some terrible things and that even the worst of people, human and alien alike, can display nobility and even heroism under pressure, and illustrates the horrors of war without going into badly-done sentimentality.
And he tells a rollicking good story too!
These are some of the best stories from one of the best authors in the history of science fiction. Give them a try. You will not be disappointed.
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Posted May 23, 2011
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