Visions of Paradise

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The High Crusade

Last weekend we went to Orlando, Florida to visit our son who is interning at Disney World. I wanted some lighter reading for the plane flight to, so I selected Poul Anderson’s classic novel The High Crusade, which I have not read in thirty+ years. The opening scene could have been straight out of Star Trek (although the novel preceded the tv series by about 6 years):

A spacecraft lands on a world inhabited by intelligent beings living in a feudal society. As the ship descends, thousands of natives gather around the ship. A door in the side of the ship opens, and a landing crew descends the ramp, each member holding a ray-gun in their hand.

With their superior technology and firepower, the spacemen feel absolutely no threat from the natives, so much so that one of them casually shoots a threatening native. Immediately the thousands of natives, who are actually members of a well-trained army, let fly a volley of thousands of arrows which immediately riddle and kill each member of the landing party.

The native army quickly enter the ship through the ramp and destroy the entire crew of the ship.

The planet is Earth, and the native army is led by Sir Roger de Tourneville who was bringing them into battle. Instead the ship leads them to the intergalactic empire of the Wersgorix where they prove that a highly-advanced technology is not necessarily safe against the warriors of a considerably less-advanced culture, a fact which has been illustrated in countries such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq over the past half-century, all wars which occurred after The High Crusade was written. One of Anderson’s tenets here is that simpler does not necessarily mean stupid.

Much of the book is tongue-in-cheek, and the reader certainly needs to suspend his or her disbelief at how easily the feudal warriors succeed in many instances. But the book is never boring, and never so outrageous as to be frustrating. It was very good light reading.


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