Jay's Reviews > Flandry's Legacy: The Technic Civilization Saga

Flandry's Legacy by Poul Anderson
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Mar 17, 12

Read from February 15 to March 17, 2012 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Sadly--since I am such a fan of Poul Anderson's work, especially his Technic Civilization series, as re-collected recently by Hank Davis--this is the final volume not only of Flandry stories, but of the Terran Empire as a whole.

The opening novel, "A Stone in Heaven," is a pivotal episode not only in now-Vice Admiral Flandry's career but also his personal life. In coming to the aid of a primitive species who needs Imperial help against the cooling of their world, he uncovers a plot to start a civil war within the Empire. He also gets much more than he bargained for as a result of his action. Strangely though, Flandry himself is a relatively minor character for most of this story.

This is even more true in the next story, the long and wonderful "The Game of Empire," in which Flandry's illegitimate daughter Diana Crowfeather is the focus of the story (and she shows that she really is her father's daughter). There's all sorts of great closure in this, the last Flandry tale: a reappearance of Wodenites and Cynthians from the Commonwealth tales of the first volume, and Tigeries from the initial story of Ensign Flandry. Fleet Admiral Flandry himself has a very small role, not even appearing until the middle of the story and keeping a quite low profile until the very end. A most fitting passing of the torch, and an epic tale that reads like the most visually scenic James Cameron movie unfolding in the reader's head.

What follows gives a glimpse of how civilization slowly reemerges after the fall of the Long Night, which happens some decades after the close of "The Game of Empire." "A Tragedy of Errors" shows how language can drift when two sets of speakers are isolated for long enough, and the dire consequences it can have. "The Night Face" demonstrates how bizarre civilizations and moral codes can develop in the same way. "The Sharing of Flesh" is, as Davis says in his foreword, a "whydunit" rather than a "whodunit," and for some reason it reminds me of some of the great pulp fiction tales of the 1930s and 1940s. It also reminds us that we don't need to become barbarians ourselves, even when faced with the most naked barbarism in others. The final story, "Starfog," takes place at a time when human civilization has revived and spread even farther and more energetically than during the height of the Empire, a thousand years and more after its fall.

I can't express strongly enough how hard I wish that we had 10 times more stories of Technic Civilization than we do; but I'm so grateful for what we have. Anderson wrote some of the best, flawed, noble characters in all of science fiction; they inhabited a rational yet mysterious and awe-inspiring universe that his mastery of language brings to vivid life; and they face many choices and moral dilemmas that we face in our lives as well. I will now move on from the Technic Civilization series and re-read Anderson's other works--both fantasy and sci-fi--but these books with their amazing characters--Van Rijn, Falkayn, Flandry, Aycharaych, Adzel, Chee Lan, the Merseians--will always remain a touchstone for me, and a standard against which I measure all other science fiction.
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