Sunday, 8 June 2014

On The Highroad River II

Originally published on Poul Anderson Appreciation, 1 July 2013.

In Aurea, the capital city of the planet Daedalus, the Cynthian, Shan U of Lulach, captain of the riverboat Waterblossom, offers to transport the human Diana Crowfeather and the Wodenite, Francis Xavier Axor, down the Highroad River from the nearby head of navigation, Paz de la Frontera, to the mainly Cynthian town of Lulach, which, according to the map (Poul Anderson, Flandry's Legacy, New York, 2012, p. 194) is about half way between Aurea and the Phosphoric Ocean.

"The Highroad River has always been a main artery of travel..." (p. 288)

- because roads, where they even exist, are poor.

To check out Waterblossom, Diana travels with Shan U by cable car down to Central Station in Paz de la Frontera, which is a colony for veterans who are helped to establish farms. Clusters of habitation with diverse architectures - facades hiding courtyards; domes and spires; framed vitryl; a wooden stockade guarded by brassarded militiamen armed with knives and staves; etc - are separated by open spaces because veterans who had originated on different colony planets are mutually hostile - and non-humans have learned not to live there. Passing through a lawless area, they are attacked but Diana, who grew up among Tigeries and was trained by Targovi, knows how to handle herself.

Waterblossom is made of Terran and Cynthian woods which are immune to Daedalan organisms. Terra is Earth, we know of Cynthia from previous installments of the Technic Civilization History and Daedalus has been introduced in the current novel. Thus, Anderson shows three planets interacting not just by communication between intelligent beings but also on molecular and organic levels.

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