Visions of Paradise

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Going For Infinity

My “Golden Age” of science fiction was the mid-1960s, when the iconic Big Three of Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein were no longer at their peaks. So the writers I considered Grand Masters were Clifford D. Simak–whose peak lasted much longer than his more-acclaimed peers–newcomers such as Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, and veteran Poul Anderson.

Anderson did a lot of good stuff in Galaxy (his best being “To Outlive Eternity,” the novella which later expanded into Tau Zero) and Worlds of IF (I recall most fondly the serial Three Worlds to Conquer). I only read Analog occasionally when it was edited by John W. Campbell, Jr, but still there was some memorable Poul Anderson stuff (the novella “Starfog” jumping to memory).

Over the decades I have bought a lot of Poul Anderson books, including novels such as The Day of Their Return, The Byworlder, the aforementioned Tau Zero and the collection The Earth Book of Stormgate (which contained most of his Polesotechnic League stories). About a year ago I bought his posthumous collection To Outlive Eternity, which contained several very good long stories, such as the title novella, “[The Day] After Doomsday” and “The Big Rain.” Probably my favorite Anderson series though was Time Patrol, nearly all of which were collected in the two books The Time Patrol and The Shield of Time.

The book I never read though was his “career retrospective” Going For Infinity. The book was worth the wait though, since it contains several classic Anderson award-winners (“The Saturn Game,” “The Problem of Pain,” “The Queen of Air and Darkness”), as well as a mixture of other well-known stories and some lesser-known ones. The biographical material wrapped around the stories seems to indicate that Anderson selected them himself; if so, he has good taste in his own fiction, since the collection is superb reading.

My favorite stories in the collection include the Time Patrol story, “Death and the Knight,” set in medieval France at the time Philip II was battling the Knights Templar who had gotten very rich and powerful since their creation during the Crusades; “Kyrie,” an evocative story rich in sense of wonder; and a self-contained novelette excerpt from the novel Three Hearts and Three Lions.

Poul Anderson was one of the finest, perhaps the finest storyteller in sf, and his range was incredible, ranging from “hard science” to medieval fantasy to alternate history long before the genre even had a name. His overall quality is amazingly high, and while characterization is not his strongest suit, he does it better than a lot of other traditional writers of space opera and planetary adventures. I have 20+ books by Poul Anderson in my collection, a mere drop in the bucket since I also have another 30 of his books on my Recommended Reading list (including most of the Dominick Flandry books and the Psychotechnic League and Harvest of Stars series). There’s still a lot of great reading awaiting me. If you haven’t read Going For Infinity or, perhaps, not much Poul Anderson at all, then this book is highly-recommended reading.


  • First off I want to thank you for the article on Paperback Swap. I love that exchange program.

    This was one Anderson book that I missed. I am filling in the gaps in my collection. I will definitely be picking this up from the Paperback Swap.

    By Blogger Jim Black, At 6:18 AM  

  • Isn't that a great program? I am replacing lots of unwanted books with others which I have been wanting to read for a long time. Who knows when I'll have time to read them though, haha?

    By Blogger adamosf, At 2:21 PM  

  • Mostly what I am getting are older books that are shorter. I probably will never get around to reading all the books I want to.

    By Blogger Jim Black, At 5:01 PM  

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