Friday, January 08, 2010

Forgotten Books: Three Worlds to Conquer - Poul Anderson

While I’ve never considered Poul Anderson one of my absolute favorite science fiction authors, I realized the other day that I’ve been reading his books off and on for more than forty years, starting with his Flandry series back in the mid-Sixties. I don’t recall ever reading a book of his that I didn’t like, either.

THREE WORLDS TO CONQUER is a non-series novel from 1964 that I’d never read before. It’s set in the Jovian system, on Jupiter itself and on the moon Ganymede, where there’s a mining colony from Earth. Humanity doesn’t have interstellar space travel yet, but there are colonies scattered throughout the solar system. Somewhat to the surprise of the colonists, they’ve made radio contact with a fairly primitive, centaur-like species native to Jupiter’s surface. One of these beings is smart enough to have mastered the radio on one of the scientific instruments sent down to the planet’s surface from Ganymede, and a friendship has sprung up between him and one of the scientists at the mining colony on the moon.

Then things go to hell for both of them. Civil war breaks out back on Earth, and a warship with a captain that’s still loyal to the losing side shows up on Ganymede, where most of the colonists backed the winners. The spaceship captain takes over the moon and plans to use it as a base to launch a counter-revolution. Down on Jupiter, a horde of barbarians have invaded the country of the native being who’s in contact with the mining colony. It’s no surprise that these two storylines intersect, and the two friends from different species wind up helping each other out.

Anderson makes it believable that sentient beings could live on Jupiter’s surface, and those chapters of the book are my favorites because they read almost like a sword-and-planet yarn, what with all the barbarians and fighting with swords and axes and such. Anderson handles all that very well. The political intrigue in the scenes set on Ganymede aren’t as compelling, but at least Anderson keeps the pace moving along swiftly and the reader can’t help but wonder how he’s going to tie everything together . . . which he does, quite neatly.

THREE WORLDS TO CONQUER is a prime example of the sort of adventure science fiction I grew up reading. If you haven’t tried Poul Anderson’s work before, it wouldn’t be a bad place to start. If you’ve read and enjoyed Anderson’s novels but not this one, it’s worth seeking out. Plus it has a decent Jack Gaughan cover.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember reading something by him-but in the days before I thought it necessary to keep records. Alas.

Bill Crider said...

One of my favorites from the old days, too. If you haven't read Three Hearts and Three Lions, give it a shot.

George said...

NESFA is reprinting Poul Anderson's stories in wonderful hardcover volumes. Great stuff!

Charles Gramlich said...

I actually like Anderson's fantasy better than his SF but like his SF a lot. I read this book a long time ago and remember it fondly. Have you read his Broken Sword? I consider it a masterpiece.

James Reasoner said...

I've read THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS (on your recommendation, as I recall) and remember liking it quite a bit.

I haven't read THE BROKEN SWORD, but I plan to get around to it eventually. Morgan Holmes always recommends reading the original edition, rather than the revised one, but I may not be able to find it.

Evan Lewis said...

Ooo. Ensign Flandry. I'd forgotten how much I liked those.

Richard Robinson said...

Great choice, James.

Poul Anderson is a favorite of mine, not to say everything he wrote is great, but a lot of it is. My favorites are the Technic Civilization books, with Nicholas Van Rijn, interstellar trader and capitalist extraordinaire, and David Falkayn. I have The Earthbook of Stormgate which has most of those stories in it.

I first discovered these when I read "War of the Wing-Men" in Astounding Science Fiction many years ago and have liked them since.

The Flandary books are great too, and I'll add my vote for Three Hearts and Three Lions.

Baen is currently reprinting the Tecnic and Flandry volumes in handsome trade editions, well worth a look.

George is right, so far there are two thick volumes in the NESFA Collected Short Works of Poul Anderson with another to come. I may have more overlap (same story in 2 or more books) with Poul Anderson than any other SF author.

Meanwhile, THIS book is one I haven't read and don't own. I'll have to look for it at the L.A. Paperback show (Lessercon) in a month or two!

Richard Robinson said...

I found a 1971 edition of BROKEN SWORD. It was the earliest one available. Would that be the original edition?

Richard Robinson said...

Not to be a pest, but speakingof Anderson, here's a favorite of mine:

James Reasoner said...

The original edition of THE BROKEN SWORD was published by Abelard-Schuman in 1954. Evidently it was heavily revised for the 1971 paperback. After saying I probably wouldn't be able to find a copy of the original, I checked around and found one on-line for a reasonable price, so I went ahead and ordered it. Now the question is, will I pick up the paperback edition, too, and compare them? Depends on how ambitious I feel, I guess.