Visions of Paradise

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Rebel Worlds

The second novel in Young Flandry was A Circus of Hells, which was a fairly routine adventure novel, enjoyable reading but not up to Anderson’s highest standards. However, the last novel in the book, The Rebel Worlds, is as good as Ensign Flandry, exploring some of the philosophical implications of rebellion: when the emperor and his regional governor are both incapable of enlightened leadership, the former being totally incompetent, the latter being equally amoral, do their highest-ranking military leaders have the right, or even the obligation, to rebel against them, knowing that their leadership might ultimately serve the sprawling Terran Empire better?

The story opens as Governor Snelund, for his own greedy purposes, arrests Admiral McCormac and kidnaps his wife for his own sexual pleasure. But he underestimated McCormac’s popularity; the admiral is soon freed and encouraged by many of his supporters to declare himself emperor. After much consideration, he does so, thus beginning a space war in one region of the sprawling Terran Empire.

Meanwhile, Dominic Flandry is now a special investigator with the rank of commander and captain of his own vessel. He travels to the troubled area and, of his own volition, successfully frees the kidnapped Kathryn McCormac, then travels with her to the would-be emperor’s home planet. But since he is traveling in an imperial war vessel, McCormac’s barbarian mercenaries shoot him down. Thus begins a journey cross-planet where Flandry encounters one of the most original and thought-provoking alien races Anderson ever produced, a tripod creature which consists of three beings, one resembling a rhinoceros, a second avian, a third monkey-like. Individually, they are basically dumb animals, but when they join together they form a highly-intelligent hive mind.

While the novel is primarily plot-driven, much of it concerns the emotional and philosophical concerns of McCormac (does he really want to become emperor? Are all the deaths in the rebellion really his responsibility?) and Flandry (should he be trying to end the rebellion, or support McCormac himself? Because Snelund, besides being thoroughly evil, is the closest advisor to the emperor and striving to become the power behind the throne). There is also considerable emphasis on the changing relationship between Flandry and Kathryn as they travel across her home world.

In the background of the novel is the impending space battle between McCormac’s forces and those of his former underling, but Anderson manages to bring the novel to a suitable climax without a single battle or weapon being fired, mostly due to the machinations of Dominic Flandry (totally against his official orders, of course!).

In his career- spanning collection Going For Infinity, Poul Anderson discussed how much he was influenced by the New Wave in the late 1960s. The Rebel Worlds, first published in 1969, certainly shows that influence, as it is a strong, enthralling space opera which holds up well even forty years later. I recommend both the novel The Rebel Worlds and the entire book Young Flandry.

2 Comments:

  • Along with "A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows", this is one of my favorite Flandry novels.

    By Blogger Jim Black, At 9:35 PM  

  • I am wanting to read the Flandry books at some point. I actually picked up a nice used copy of Ensign Flandry last year because I had heard interesting things about the series and enjoyed the Michael Whelan cover. I actually came "this" close to buying the recently released Poul Anderson Flandry collections yesterday while I was bookstore shopping because of this post, but I couldn't screw up the courage (or the stubborn refusal to feel shame) to take the sexy naked girl covers up to the register to hand them to the incredibly attractive woman behind the counter. :) May have to order these from Amazon. Ha!

    By Blogger Carl V., At 11:00 AM  

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