by Poul Anderson 

World Science Fiction Library


66pp/$12.00/February 2010

Two Worlds of Poul Anderson

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Two Worlds is a thin collection of two stories by Poul Anderson. There is no connection between the tales, which were originally published in 1963 and 1951, nor is there an explanation for the reason for collecting them together. The first, "Industrial Revolution," first appeared in Analog in 1963 and has since been collected several times, including in NESFA Press's Queen of Air and Darkness. The second story, "Duel on Syrtis," initially saw print in the March 1951 issue of Planet Stories and has not been reprinted since 1993. Two Worlds provides these two stories in an inexpensive volume perfect for a quick read.

The first story in this two-story collection is "Industrial Revolution," originally published under Anderson's "Winston P. Sanders" pseudonym. It tells the story of a small mining concern on an asteroid, about the make a massive breakthrough when the space navy appears for repairs. The story is told as a flashback, but the framing mechanism of a bunch of old-timer spacers sitting around in a bar, is not necessary to the story, which would have been stronger without it.

The story proper focuses on Michael Blades, who is given the task of showing a group from the spaceship Altair around while their ship is being fixed. Among the group is the ravishing Lieutenant Ellen Ziska, with whom Blades is immediately smitten. Anderson uses the stereotypes common at the time to show her as a not-too bright member of the crew, although the fact that Blades is willing to answer all the pointed questions asked by her comrades, Gilbertson and Warburton, seem to indicate that she is being uses by the troops to distract Blades and may be brighter and more down to earth than she appears. While the reader can see this, Blades is too caught up in being around an unfamiliar woman to consider anything could be going on around him.

Although the miners are perfectly content to continue with the status quo, the commander of the Altair is under orders to make sure that they don't splinter off to form their own collective. Of course, his actions spur on the very activity he is supposed to be trying to avoid. Anderson allows his miners to react appropriately in the situation, using the tools they have at hand to force a solution to their liking. Whether the situation would wrap up as neatly as Anderson describes is up to the imagination of the reader.

The second, unrelated, story in the book is "Duel on Syrtis," which tells the tale of Riordan, a wealthy human who has hunted game on all the planets in the solar system, from Mercury to Pluto. He has come to Mars to bag the Martian owlie, a sentient being who is protected from hunters. However, the law is no more an obstacle to Riordan than the hostile environment through which he must move in order to match wits with a wily owlie. Anderson switches back and forth between the two characters, showing the ever-more-confident Riordan and the clever, and occasionally frightened, Kreega. The outcome of the hunt is never really in question, although the way it happens is a nice twist. "Duel on Syrtis" forms an interesting counter to Robert Sheckley's "The Seventh Victim," although while Sheckley focused more on the hunted's point of view, Anderson tends to tell his story from Riordan's perspective.

Industrial Revolution Duel on Syrtis

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