Sunday, 8 June 2014

On The Highroad River I

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 1 July 2013.

A long boat journey down a river offers comfort, in the boat's saloon or a cabin, and adventure as the travelers encounter each new place along the river. Poul Anderson describes two such journeys, the first in The Day Of Their Return, the second in The Game Of Empire. The place names on the maps at the beginning of The Game Of Empire become invested with meaning as the characters travel to and through them.

The relevant map of one part of the surface of the planet Daedalus shows the capital Aurea as just upriver from Paz de la Frontera, which is the head of navigation on the Highroad River. Targovi arrives on Daedalus by landing his ship, Moonjumper, at the spaceport in Aurea. The original town, which had been small because "...colonization was far-flung, enclaves in wilderness..." (Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy, new York, 2012, p. 221) has been mostly demolished or engulfed by sector defense command, civil bureaucracy, private enterprises, towers and industrial plants linked by streets, elways and air-space with round the clock traffic.

Aurea is on a plateau above a steep slope retaining a small part of the old town. Descending from the plateau, Targovi walks along a lane down the side of a cliff with, on his left, time-worn walls and, on his right, beyond the railing, a view of:

ice fields beyond northern mountains;
the headwaters and the river valley;
native growth;
farms and plantations;
southern plains receding to invisibility.

Ju Shao, a Cynthian, runs an inn perched on the cliff.

Hospitable inns are a major feature of Anderson's fictional worlds. There is one between the universes and there are several in the city of Ys as well as others scattered among many times and places. In the Patrician System, Hassan runs the Sign of the Golden Cockbeetle in the old part of Olga's Landing on the planet Imhotep and Ju Shao runs her place in old Aurea on Daedalus.

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