Friday, August 27, 2010

The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, Volume 2: The Queen of Air and Darkness by Poul Anderson – Part 2

NOTE: The Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson, Volume 2: The Queen of Air and Darkness was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by NESFA Press.

It is part 2 of my review of The Collected Works of Poul Anderson, Volume 2: The Queen of Air and Darkness out from NESFA Press. For those interested in a prelude to the review, as well as the reviews of the stories from the first section, please see Part 1 of this review.

“Brake”: After a spaceship mutiny, the ship’s captain must stop a group of fanatics from either taking over or destroying the ship, and put a stopping block in front of a much larger conspiracy. This story showcases Anderson’s ability to write near-perfect hard science fiction action/adventure stories. Completely wonderful in both its action and its characterization.

“The Burning Bridge”: Another tale of space, this one is a bit quieter, yet with deep ethical considerations, as a ship on the brink of reaching a new world has received a message from their old one saying they can come back home. Another very strong story, this one rooted in character as well as ethical drama that reaches new extremes in the world of space exploration.

“A World Called Maanerek”: A man living on a planet, among a more primitive society, knows that he is not the same as everyone else. However, after a victorious hunt, it takes a UFO to show him just how different he is, and what destiny awaits him. At first, this story felt a little slow, but once I got into it, the plot fell into place beautifully, working in the twists and turns, the losses, and yet creating a satisfying ending. A strong piece.

“The Pirate”: When a less-than-honorable man claims to have come clean, a galactic police force of sorts isn’t quite so sure, and what they find when they begin to dig is far more than anyone expected. Another tautly written story, that unwraps perfectly as you read along.

“To Build a World”: After a disaster on the moon as the terraforming project seems to flounder, a plot begins to unfold that might reveal a conspiracy against making the moon into a new Earth. Another well-thought-out future, with strong characters, and plenty of grey characters, rather than black and white.

“Say It with Flowers”: A fun story of a man who is captured while trying to deliver a message in war time, and how he manages to find a way to get the message out. Flowers is a fun character, and his adventure was quick-paced and engaging.

There are also two essays:

“Science Fiction and Science: The Hardness of Hard Science Fiction”: An interesting look at both the hard science fiction out there, as well as Anderson’s own thought processes as he sets out to create a believable, science-based world.

“Science Fiction and History”: A look at history’s lessons, and what they may mean for the future, and also a critique on both well-envisioned futures and those that skimp on thoughtful analysis. An interesting essay, an intriguing point of view, and well-written. This one would find fans outside of the genre for what it has to say about humanity’s time.

And the following poems: “Jennifer’s Song” and “Veleda Speaks.”

The second part of the collection was simply brilliant. Anderson displays his versatility at writing quieter stories of introspection, and following them up with tales of action and hard science. He displays a knowledge of societal interworkings and thoughtful explorations of science and humanity that make for top notch reading. The more I delve into Anderson’s work, the more I find to like. Truly, he is revealing himself to be a literary and genre treasure, and I cannot wait to finish this collection.

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