Book Review: The Horn of Time (collected short stories), Poul Anderson (1968)

2.5/5 (Average)

I was massively disappointed with this collection of Poul Anderson short stories from the late 50s and early 60s.  Only two were worth reading: ‘The Horn of the Time the Hunter’ and ‘Progress.’  I guess if you are a Poul Anderson completest it might be worth the purchase but otherwise, stay away.  The creepy cover is spectacular!

(3.5/5) ‘The Horn of Time the Hunter’, first published in Amazing Stories September 1963.  The Kith, evolved from the early human interstellar explorers, became the space faring links between diverse colonies.  However, the Kith fled from the humans after a series of persecutions resulting in many colonies severed from other worlds.  ‘The Horn of Time the Hunter’ is about a small group of Kith exploring one of these deserted colony worlds (a secret awaits!).  However, this is more than a simplistic “let’s explore a strange world” tale — instead, Anderson examines the loneliness, desperation, and fear of the persecuted and cast out Kith, which manifests itself when they are confronted with strange humanoids.  I’m more interested in the the dynamics of the spaceship based Kith society (facets of which are hinted at by Anderson) than planetary adventures.  There are enough themes present for a novel…

(2/5) ‘A Man to My Wounding’, first published as ‘State of Assassination’ in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine December 1959.  Post-World War III devastation, killing has evolved into the art of political assassination.  Our nameless assassin hero is on the quest to kill some Chinese.  Set in a Chinatown sort of environment in America, Poul Anderson pulls the basic sort of plot strings mixed with the basic sort of exotic local ostensibly to examine the evolution of war — in short, boring and somewhat predictable. There are some odd tidbits, for example, white women getting eye surgery to look like Asians…

(2/5) ‘The High Ones’, first published in Infinity Science Fiction, June 1958.  A mixed crew of Soviets and Americans arrive at Tau Ceti and discover an alien race with vastly superior technology.  Standard unoriginal fare — I mean, the psychological screening by the Soviet Controlled Earth authorities didn’t work at all (mutinies and hatred between the subjugated Americans and Soviets).  Oh, and how didn’t they see from orbit city which covered most of the planet?  Argh, and why are all super-intelligent cultures so culturally monolithic? I guess it fits into his main argument — Communism and totalitarianism are bad.  The “great” concluding speech…

“Their ancestors,” said Holbrook. “A very long time ago.  There were great once.  But they ended with a totalitarian government.  A place for everyone in his place.  The holy society, whose very stasis was holy. Specialized breeds for the different jobs.  Some crude attempts at it have bee made on Earth.  Egypt didn’t change for thousands of years after the pyramids had been built.  Diocletian, the Roman emperor, made every occupation hereditary.  The Hindus had their caste system.  China, Korea, Japan tried to cut themselves off from the outside world, from any challenge or alteration.  And isn’t communism supposed, by definition, to be perfect, so that new ideas must be heretical?  I doubt if many more starships will from from Earth, unless and until the Soviets are overthrown.”

Avoid this story at all costs unless you’re in the mood for some simplistic 1950s propaganda.

(2/5) ‘The Man Who Came Early’, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, June 1956.  American soldier stationed in Iceland is transported back in time to the pre-Christian Iceland of the year 1000.  There isn’t much redeemable about this stilted caper.  Well, Poul Anderson’s pessimistic theme that the modern man is unable to function in the past despite his superior technology is somewhat interesting despite the story’s poor delivery.

(1/5) ‘Marius’ first published in Astounding Science Fiction, March 1957.  Post-Soviet occupation of France and the rest of the Western Europe political maneuvering and mutinies with some tenuous Roman analogies…  Not much interest or originality here either.

(4/5) ‘Progress’, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1962.  This story almost rescues the collection — a high-tech sailboard in a post-War of Judgment future (odd names for places/peoples/languages derived from modern names) with spies (Maori) arrives off the coast of India.  Extrapolated futures about India are almost always worth reading.

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