Thinking of Poul

The-Golden-Slave-Poul-Anderson-smallI was exchanging notes with Scott Lynch about a¬†grand short story he’s got coming out soon, and he happened to mention how much he’s been enjoying some Poul Anderson. And that got me thinking just how much I sometimes like Anderson’s work. I’ve never listed him as a favorite author, but he’s written a number of books on my “keeper” list. There’s The Broken Sword, or course, a great take on some of the same mythic material that inspired Tolkien. Ryan Harvey did a great job discussing the text back in 2007 at Black Gate.

More recently Gabe Dybing covered another of my favorite Anderson novels, The Golden Slave at Black Gate (along with The High Crusade, one I haven’t read).

It wasn’t too long ago that works like these were hidden secrets. Sure, they’re not widely known anymore, but it seems like word is out about the good ones. And I’m pretty sure that they’re still fairly cheap to lay hands on if you go through a used book search site like Addall. It would be pretty swell if someone would collect Anderson’s best historicals in an omnibus. Not me, though. I have enough on my plate as it is…



9 Comments on “Thinking of Poul

  1. Thanks for the pingback, Howard! I’ve been wondering if I’m finally ready to resume the Anderson survey. My own favorite is his later _War of the Gods_. And (I’m not sure if you said this) I think he’s best at historical fiction. This may be why I like _War_ better than _The Broken Sword_. With _Hrolf Kraki’s Saga_ and others Anderson started “re-telling” Norse sagas, particularly the ones that were cryptic or fragmented. I recently heard of another promising Poul Anderson novel via the forums over at Hyperborea — _Dancer of Atlantis_. I first encountered that Minoan form of bull-dancing in Stephen Lawhead’s historical novel _Taliesin_.

    Instead of reading Anderson I’ve been reading Tolkien’s _Beowulf_, in part because I’ve been creating a Beowulf campaign for their Yggdrasill rpg. It’s been great fun (and also, unsurprisingly, Tolkien’s comments are highly illuminating!). Also, after this last election, I decided my one small rebellion could be to get smarter. So I’ve been reading Lincoln’s collected letters in the Library of America, the travel adventure _The Worst Journey in the World_ (recommended by a close friend) and struggling to get through Melville’s digressive satire _Mardi_, which I’ve been paddling about in for upwards of a year!

    • Hey Gabe — in a weird “full circle” kind of thing, Scott, who got me thinking about Anderson again in the first place, mentioned in the same letter that he, too, had been reading the Tolkien translation of Beowulf.

      After reading your note I realized I still had WAR OF THE GODS unread on my shelf. Maybe I’ll give it a read!

  2. Thanks for recommending more books I feel obligated to track down. Growing up, he was the sci-fi author I read more by than any other, but somehow I missed those. Definitely one of the Silver Age authors deserving to be remembered.

    • Yeah, he’s undeservedly overlooked. But heck, many more recent writers deserving of study are also overlooked. When I mention Zelazny to younger fantasy readers a lot of them just look back blankly. The mind boggles.

      A lot of consumers of our favorite genres really don’t have much sense of history, or interest in finding out.

  3. I’ve had a copy of The Broken Sword, The High Crusade, and a collection of his science fiction short stories on my shelf for years. I think i read the first few pages of the broken sword once. I need to move them up on the list.

    • BROKEN SWORD has a deliberately older style, a little like a Viking saga. So long as you know what to expect when you’re walking in, you may be pleased. GOLDEN SLAVE is far more approachable and may give you the impression that you should rush out and read a bunch of those ’50s sword and sandal books. Don’t fall for it. Most of them are pretty slowly paced.

  4. Anderson is one of my favorites. I need to get back to reading him. I read The Broken Sword for a Ballantine Adult Fantasy post I was going to do for Black Gate that I never got around to writing due to a computer crash. By the time I got the computer replaced, I had too many other things on my plate to resume the series.

    • I’d love to hear your take on it, Keith. Hope you still write about it someday.

      • Thanks, Howard. I intend to, but I need to give it a reread first. It’s been about 18 months, and the details have faded.

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