Poul Anderson

nixie

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I've just purchased an omnibus edition of Three Hearts & Three Lions/Broken Sword by Poul Anderson from my book club.Can anyone tell me what sort of fantasy it is and if its any good?
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Well, the two novels are about as different as two fantasy novels in medieval settings written by the same author could possibly be.

Three Hearts and Three Lions is a light-hearted adventure. The sort of thing Poul Anderson himself felt he did best. The Broken Sword, on the other hand, is a book he described as "headlong, prolix, and unrelievedly savage."

The only thing is, while Three Hearts was clever enough and original enough in its time, it's the sort of thing that has been done many times since. Meanwhile, The Broken Sword is a classic, and although it does deal with certain themes familiar to fantasy readers, even after all these years his treatment of those themes comes across as fresh and original.

But not quite so unrelievedly savage as it appeared back in the 1970's when he made that particular remark. There are dark things, there are terrible things, but the violence is neither gratuitous nor especially graphic by the standards of 2006.
 

steve12553

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I've read several of Poul Anderson's novels over the last 30 years including Three Hearts and Three Lions and always enjoyed his writing. One of my favorites was called Operation Chaos and was almost an alternative reality science fiction where fantasy and magic were real instead of physics. I don't think you can go wrong.
 

GOLLUM

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Ditto on what other members are saying here.

Both Three Hearts & Three Lions and Broken Sword are part of the Masterwork series. They're both considered classics but Broken Sword is possibly Anderson's most famous fantasy work and IMHO his finest.

You've done very well Nixie, well done to you.
 

Jay

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Other have told you what you want to know. I just think that although there are many underrated authors, Anderson is one that may be an underrated master, of both Science Fiction and Fantasy. He was incredibly prolific (thus has some misses), but Anderson in top form is a joy.

I think Harvest of the Stars is decpetively simple, but raise some wonderful questions about humanit's destiny.Books like Tao Zero, and The Boat of A Million Years especially belong on all shelves. Andrson in may ways is a bridge between different thoughts that held precedence in the genre. He, and much of his work serve as a very interesting foil between extremes.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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When people say that Poul Anderson is underrated I always wonder to whom they've been talking. He was popular with readers, his peers held him in the highest regard, and he won numerous awards. (All of which he deserved.)
 

Jay

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When people say that Poul Anderson is underrated I always wonder to whom they've been talking. He was popular with readers, his peers held him in the highest regard, and he won numerous awards. (All of which he deserved.)
I wonder if anyone else would have posted what I did if you would have even replied :D My name is Jay, you can call me by name when directing something at me.

Poul Anderson is underrated because he is undermentioned in the overwhelming majority of discussions that pertain to outstanding SF writers, or discussions I have seen detailing outstanding SF works. We can see how many responses this thread has received, and see his overwhemling popularity. I don't know where you frequent, but I assure you I frequent a lot of discussion areas, and in none of them is the mention of Poul Anderson exactly a common site compared to many authors whose stature he probably equals. How many times is Frank Herbert mentioned in comaprison to Anderson? Zelazny? An innocent statement, 'trolled' away.
 
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Brys

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I think Anderson is under-read rather than under-rated. He's got a lot of respect amongst those who've read him, but unfortunately that number is very low. Personally I think he managed the Norse themes excellently, and he was very influential - but still remains almost unheard of amongst the average fantasy reader.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Jay said:
I wonder if anyone else would have posted what I did if you would have even replied :D
Absolutely, because I'd read something similar said on these forums at least one other time recently and I felt it was time to say something.

So I didn't mention you by name, Jay, because a) coming right after your post that would have been redundant, and b) I wasn't replying to you alone.

Perhaps it's a generational thing, or a Europe vs. America thing, or an online discussion vs going to SFF conventions thing, or some other sort of thing, but I am continually surprised by the writers who are treated as relative unknowns here and on sff.world when I know them to be well-known and highly esteemed elsewhere. Sometimes I can't help saying so. In this case, I feel slightly protective, because I was acquainted with the gentleman.

He won seven Hugos and three Nebulas and a number of lifetime achievement awards from different organizations. How my alluding to these facts could be regarded as trolling escapes me.
 

Jay

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Perhaps it's a generational thing, or a Europe vs. America thing, or an online discussion vs going to SFF conventions thing, or some other sort of thing, but I am continually surprised by the writers who are treated as relative unknowns here and on sff.world when I know them to be well-known and highly esteemed elsewhere.
Because the casual fan (however one wants to define that) rarely knows beyond the dozen to 20 authors they have read, and make up the bulk of fans (in my experience). While would think it's ludicrous somebody doesn't know who a Lucius Shepard or Stepan Chapman is (respected writers by writers), of Ted Chiang, or even names like Kate Wilhelm (who is nothing less than a legend and fixture at workshops) - and would think they would be common names, I think one would find that the casual fan may know 1 out of 4 at best, or likely none of them.

I run into authors like this myself (for instance Edward Whittemore in all his glory was discovered by me through Vandermeer's praise) - I had no idea he existed, much less was briliant, and while sometimes I forget not everyone indulges in there hobby (or jobs) as some do, ultimately that's what I think venues like forums are for.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I suppose that's where we differ, then, in taking the casual fan into consideration when deciding who is underrated and who is not. If you gauge by the people who could only name 12-20 authors in the field if pressed, hundreds of writers are underrated. Darn it, I think I'm underrated, but I wouldn't have the nerve to put myself into any category (other than published fantasy writer) that included Poul Anderson.

All I can say is, he published over 70 novels and 100 short stories. Many if not most of those novels have seen numerous reprints. Tens of thousands of readers have read and enjoyed his books. Publishers don't keep publishing your novels for decade after decade unless the sales are good. Also, he won seven Hugo awards (and was nominated more times than that I think), which are voted on by the fans.

(So to leave off splitting hairs with Jay, and to answer your original question, nixie: I think you should read some of Poul Anderson's books. He was a very important and influential author. Since you have two of his novels in your possession already, I see no reason why you shouldn't start with those. Particularly as The Broken Sword is, in my opinion at least, one of the greatest fantasy novels written in the 20th century.)
 

Jay

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ou gauge by the people who could only name 12-20 authors in the field if pressed, hundreds of writers are underrated.
There are plenty of underrated authors, the distinction I made was:

Anderson is one that may be an underrated master,
That group is much smaller, and without question, I thinK Anderson is a name not as commonly seen associated with that term. You're much more commonly going to see names like Moorcock, Clarke, Bradbury, Asimov, Heinlein, Dick, Wolfe, Ballard, Le Guin, Zelazny, Pohl, Vance, or even a Farmer or Aldiss (all of which who are unquestionably derseving) - but if someobody would ask me if Poul Andersons gets as much credit as he probably deseves or on par with equal authors I would say no. If I wanted to limit that equation, and hypothetical vote to author's and editors I communcate with, then I agree, I'm pretty sure 95% of all authors SF/F authors I know recognize Anderson and his stature). It's not a question of whether or not he is recognized, or an unknown, it's a matter of is he valued as highly as I would think be attributed to someone with his body of work. Again, absolutely not. For every 50 times I see Vance mentioned, I may see Anderson mentioned once, multiply that several times if compare to Zelazny or Herbert.

I offer a quote from a discussion I had with author John C. Wright that kind of echoes my thoughts (not his opinion on the other authors, except perhaps Heinlein - but in terms of Anderson):

"I am a great admirer of the work of Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe, and I filch ideas from Poul Anderson, whose body of work remains unmatched in science fiction. I know that partisans of Heinlein, Asimov and Bradbury will scoff if I promote Poul Anderson above the claims of these giants: but Asimov is too dry and intellectual for my tastes, Bradbury too romantic and lyrical, and Heinlein descended into pervertarian polemics in his post-juvenile works. "
He clearly names the all too familair names found on everyone's favorite list that I think Anderson belongs with, but is not considered among by a great many people- and that is what I mean by being underrated. If Anderson is considered even second rung in regards to all time SF giants, then he is underated IMHO - you don't have to be an unknown to be underrated, hell you could be the best and be underrated.
 

Winters_Sorrow

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Kind of an aside to this conversation, but would you credit/blame the relative sparsity of Poul Anderson novels given decent coverage in libraries and bookstores as reasons for his 'underratedness' (yes, I'm aware that isn't a real word... :p ).

I ask this because, speaking for myself at least, I tended to read everything in the sci-fi section of my local library when I were a young 'un, and I struggle to remember Poul Anderson even being on the shelves. Although I remember one called Twilight World, because of the rather striking blue cover and I also have The Trouble Twisters.

oh, and p.s. you can add 'casual fan' to me then, because as I've mentioned, I've read virtually none of his work, though I felt you placed a somewhat derogatory emphasis on 'casual fan' as if it's some kind of criminal offense...better that than no fan at all, surely?

Not that I feel bad about it - I've read books by authors I admire highly, which are probably 'underrated' in my eyes too. It's just one of those things.
 

Jay

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Kind of an aside to this conversation, but would you credit/blame the relative sparsity of Poul Anderson novels given decent coverage in libraries and bookstores as reasons for his 'underratedness' (yes, I'm aware that isn't a real word...
I honestly can't comment on that issue with any sense of authority or knowledge. I'm not aware of at what level Anderson is or isn't situated in libraries, and truth be told, I haven't stepped foot in a library since I graduated (like 5 years ago).

oh, and p.s. you can add 'casual fan' to me then, because as I've mentioned, I've read virtually none of his work, though I felt you placed a somewhat derogatory emphasis on 'casual fan' as if it's some kind of criminal offense...better that than no fan at all, surely?
No emphasis was made (if you're directing this at me) and if you felt some was, I apologize, afterall, I'm not the one who says the causal fan's opinion or knowledge base doesn't count. Truth be told, I'm rather indifferent if someone is fan or not in any form.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I have nothing against the casual fan, WS. I just think they aren't the people to consult when figuring out who is underrated and who isn't, mainly because I don't believe they spend much time rating (under or otherwise) authors to begin with. Why would they? The business of rating SFF writers and books is usually done by those who have great enthusiasm for the genre, or a passion for arranging everything they read into hierarchies. (And come to think of it, the latter being Jay's speciality and not mine, I think I'll just acknowledge that he knows -- and cares -- far more about these fine gradations and distinctions than I do, and leave off arguing with him.)

Also, WS, rather than being a casual fan because you have read virtually nothing by Poul Anderson, I suspect you of merely being British (not an offense in my eyes). I've never been in an American library with a substantial SF/Fantasy section that didn't carry dozens of Anderson's books. I haven't gone looking for his books in chain bookstores lately, but considering the turn-over of his novels in the used-book stores (places like Half-Price Books where people sell their books as soon as they read them), I doubt he is under-represented there either.

In any case, I've noticed that people tend to go to talk about books in places where people are talking about the kind of books they like; this can create the impression that those are the books (and the only books) that everyone else is talking about. I recently went out to eat with some friends who are long-time SF and Fantasy readers -- not casual fans by any definition of the word -- and would you believe it, they had no idea that George R. R. Martin was such a popular writer. One of them had never even heard of him. I'm not a Martin fan, but that simply floored me.
 

jackokent

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Kelpie said:
they had no idea that George R. R. Martin was such a popular writer. One of them had never even heard of him. I'm not a Martin fan, but that simply floored me.
I'd never heard of him either until I joined this site and I read a lot of SSF and fantasy. Your post has made me feel much better Kelpie, I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me.:)
 

Razorback

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I haven't read that much by Pohl. Besides Harvest of the Stars, Tau Zero and The Boat of a Million Years, what other SF works would people recommend?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
 

Brys

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Kelpie said:
I

(So to leave off splitting hairs with Jay, and to answer your original question, nixie: I think you should read some of Poul Anderson's books. He was a very important and influential author. Since you have two of his novels in your possession already, I see no reason why you shouldn't start with those. Particularly as The Broken Sword is, in my opinion at least, one of the greatest fantasy novels written in the 20th century.)
What? I agree with Kelpie again! The Broken Sword is truly excellent fantasy - I wasn't expecting it to be, but as with the Riddlemaster trilogy, it took be by surprise how good it was.
 

Jay

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I haven't read that much by Pohl. Besides Harvest of the Stars, Tau Zero and The Boat of a Million Years, what other SF works would people recommend?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
I'm going to assume you are reffering to Poul Anderson, and not Fredrick Pohl - which had my head spinning for a moment :D

Regarding SF, I also really liked his Brainwave, - rather interesting premsie wher ll life starts becoming more intelligent and the study of how this effects differnt individual, and eve nanimals and what nw order evolves from it. This is one of his earlier works, and firmly has Golden Age ideals (which may or may not appeal to you), but I really enjoyed it. I also really like his Future History of the Polesotechnic League (starts withThe Man who Counts). Another book, a much later book by Anderson, Starfarers is somrthing I enjoyed as well - and many Anderson fans don't - but it was such a departure from Anderson works of the past, in size, and really is 'SF' that I think lends itself further into the hard Science Fiction territory than I had seen Anderson go to before, and I just found it an interesting step for someone who had been in the business for as long as he had, and been as prolific as he had.

It's not SF but I realy liked The Merman's Children (aquatic fantasy) and his mystery, Murder in Black Letter.
 
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