Monthly Archives: December 2014

Celebrating “The Season of Forgiveness”

9781451638622“The Season of Forgiveness”
Poul Anderson
A Cosmic Christmas
Hank Davis, ed.
Baen Books
paper $12.00
ebook $8.99 Baen  Kindle Nook Kobo

Poul Anderson has always been one of my favorite writers. I’m going to be starting a project involving a number of his works next month, so watch for a formal announcement soon.

I first read “The Season of Forgiveness” when I was in high school or the first year or so of college. It’s part of Anderson’s epic future history. This story takes place fairly early in the series, during the first major series-within-a-series, that of the Polesotechnic League. (The other major sub-series is that of Dominic Flandry.)

The story concerns Juan Hernandez, an apprentice at a trading post on a planet orbiting a red dwarf near the Pleiades. A plant that produces a valuable substance has been discovered on the planet, negotiations with the indigenous aliens are underway, and a ship carrying a contingent of new workers and their families is due to arrive soon. In fact, it should land just before Christmas.

The post commander isn’t thrilled with the thought of having children underfoot, so when Juan requests permission to set up a Christmas display to make the kids feel more at home, he reluctantly grants it. During the preparations, hostilities break out among rival factions of the indigenous people.

Juan is out gathering crystals for the final touch of the Christmas decorations when he finds himself surrounded by a group of natives, and they aren’t friendly. He manages to escape, and in the process he has the opportunity to kill the natives. Instead he flees back to his skimmer, literally closing the door on a volley of spears.

When the natives ask why he didn’t kill them, he explains that in his culture, it is the season of forgiveness. That opens a dialogue with leads to a resolution of the conflict between the two groups of natives.

The resolution to the problem is a little simplistic, but this story was first published in Boy’s Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America.  As such, it’s appropriate for its audience.

It’s popular in some circles to rant about how science fiction has always been about white men. Usually those doing the ranting haven’t read as much science fiction as they like to pretend.  The protagonist isn’t white; he’s Hispanic.  There are several other apprentices in the story.  They’re not white either.  And while there are no female characters, this story was written for a boy’s magazine, so I don’t see much of a problem there, {although I’m sure someone would).

I was reminded when reading “The Season of Forgiveness” of what it was I liked about Poul Anderson’s work, and what especially drew me to this particular future history.  In addition to using science to make the story work (length of planetary day, spectral classification of star, type of creatures adapted to that environment), he was able to communicate the vastness of space in just a few lines.

This isn’t one of Anderson’s major works, but it’s a solid piece of Christmas themed science fiction that works for its intended audience.  Check it out.

A Cosmic Christmas is a mix of fantasy and science fiction, all with a Christmas theme.  One of my favorite stories is included.  That would be Seabury Quinn’s “Roads”.  I looked at it in depth a few years ago.  Here’s the link to that post.

Crossing the Sea of Suns

across the sea of suns 1Across the Sea of Suns
Gregory Benford
Kindle $6.64

Some months back I reviewed In the Ocean of Night, the first volume in Gregory Benford’s Galactic Center series.  Across the Sea of Suns takes place a number of years later, and it’s just as good as the first volume in the series.

The Lancer is a deep space ram ship that scouting nearby stars for possible Earth-like planets.  The target is a nearby star with only a catalog number that has since been christened Ra.  Signals have been detected coming from that star.

Aboard is Nigel Walmsley, the protagonist from Ocean.  He’s a bit older, but more cantankerous than ever.  He doesn’t get along with Ted Landon, the bureaucrat in charge.  After the events in Ocean, Nigel doesn’t exactly think like everyone else.  This causes friction between him and Ted because Ted is very  much a bureaucrat.  It doesn’t help that Nigel is usually right.  Too bad Ted doesn’t listen very well. Continue reading

Visit The Fortress in Orion

Fortress in OrionThe Fortress in Orion
Dead Enders Book I
Mike Resnick
Pyr Books
Trade Paper $18.00, 300 p.
Ebook $11.99 Kindle Nook
Audiobook $19.95
audio clip (15 min.)

Mike Resnick is one of the most prolific and honored people in the science fiction and fantasy field.  It’s easy to understand why.  The man’s work is innovative, engaging, and one heck of a good story.

Probably his most significant body of work is the Birthright Universe, which first saw light in the 1970s in Birthright:  The Book of Man.  This was an outline of roughly 18,000 years, culminating in mankind’s extinction.  That’s a lot of room to play in.  Not surprisingly, most of Resnick’s novels and many of his short stories are set in this universe.

The Birthright Universe is divided into five periods, based on the political structure of the time:  Republic, Democracy, Oligarchy, Monarchy, and Anarchy.  The Fortress in Orion is set during the Democracy.  It’s the start of what promises to be a solid series.

Colonel Nathan Pretorious is the kind of special forces operative you turn to when it’s already too late.  He’s tasked with putting together a team to try and infiltrate the Traanskei Coalition, specifically a particular fortress in Orion.  Once there, he and his team are to replace the leader, General Michkag, with a clone.  If they can get out, they bring the original with them.  If not, they kill the original Michkag and leave the clone in his place.  The clone has been thoroughly trained to take over and will end the war within a year. Continue reading