Victor's Reviews > The Trouble Twisters

The Trouble Twisters by Poul Anderson
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Mar 30, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: speculative-fiction
Read in January, 2008

You should be careful of re-reading books you really liked as a teenager, because you might find that they do not hold up when you are older. You might even be embarrassed by what you used to think of as “good.” One volume in the docket, guilty as charged: The Trouble Twisters, by Poul Anderson. This is a collection of stories he wrote about his Polesotechnic League, and specifically about Nicholas van Rijn and his protégé David Falkayn. It comes after Trader to the Stars, where we first meet Nicholas van Rijn.

Please understand, I really like(d) Poul Anderson’s writing. Generally, I’ve found that he had a (relatively) deft touch with cultural detail, and a firm grasp on story-telling. But this set of stories did not age well at all. Whether it was the constant smoking on the part of the main characters, or the rather blatant sexism and aliens-as-racial-stand-ins, or simply the cheerfully cutthroat capitalism – I ended up having a hard time working my way through books that I thought were just grand adventure yarns as a teenager.

While some people might say I'm overreacting, I want to forestall this by pointing out that past "great works" may be flawed and those flaws might not become apparent until much later. Judged by the standards of the time it was published, The Trouble Twisters is remarkable in some ways: the character of Chee Lan, a member of a cat-like alien species where the females seem to be dominant, or the recognition that aliens have good reasons to not always trust humans, or simply the attention to detail in Anderson's stories. But it is precisely those virtues that make the flaws stand out even more strongly.

If you are looking for a decent older SF adventure yarn, and are not looking at the sub-text too closely, then The Trouble Twisters is a decent read. But don't go peeking too deeply into the book - you might end up being disappointed.
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message 1: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian I agree with your overall sentiment, but I re-read Anderson's PL stories in 2011, after an absence of decades. Dated and conservative as they are (in some ways), I still enjoyed his skill as a writer and the memories of my HS days that his work invoked.


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