For Love and Glory by Poul Anderson. (SF Novel, 2003).
Poul Anderson (1926-2001) was one of the last surviving Big Name Writers of that bunch of authors who gave the world the so-called Golden Age of Science Fiction. He was of the hard-science school of thought overall and won pretty much every award the field had to offer over the years. Today I’m reviewing his last book, published posthumously in 2003.
For Love and Glory is in some ways an old-fashioned SF adventure–and I don’t mean that as either a necessarily good or bad thing.
On the plus side, there’s plenty of that much-loved Sense of Wonder on display here. It’s got lots of fascinating world-building, taking place as it does on a number of fictional planets (plus one character’s notable diversion to a radically different, far future Earth). We also encounter several interesting alien species and go through multiple adventures in space exploration. There’s political intrigue and conflicts (likewise involving both human and non-human characters), and yes, a bit of romance for good measure.
It’s all handled in a thoroughly competent manner–just as one would expect from a seasoned old pro with Anderson’s formidable credentials. This includes perfectly serviceable characterization, generally believable and occasionally sly dialogue. It also fits in with the one great, recurring motif in Anderson’s canon: The independent-minded business person as hero–out to make a buck and certainly ready to bend the rules, yet still a basically decent, even thoughtful individual.
This is, in short, a good space adventure book of the old school–it just doesn’t strike me as a great one, alas.
The novel does have interesting and unusual origins, though.
Longtime SF readers may recall that in the early 1990s another all-time SF great Isaac Asimov put together a shared world (or more properly shared cosmos) for other writers to explore. The result was a number of anthologies and a couple authorized novels set there, written by various writers and published in a series called ISAAC’S UNIVERSE. Anderson had stories in two of those anthologies and, when working on this novel, he got permission from Asimov’s estate to adapt those stories as episodes in For Love and Glory.
As Anderson explains in the novel’s Acknowledgements page, what I’m reviewing today is NOT to be considered part of that established series. He’s changed place names, the history of this universe, its characters and the plot are all different. Even the two episodes have been rethought and are much altered. While owing something to the series, this one is most definitely Anderson’s own work and should be considered as such.
Lissa is the adventuresome daughter of the head of the rich and powerful head of one of the prominent Houses (think: family-owned super corporations) that effectively rule the human world called Asborg. She’s also something of an idealist.
Torben, originally from Earth, but is much older (try 900 years old!). But with the periodic medical rejuvenation treatments common then, he’s physically the equivalent of 35 or so. He’s a freebooter–not a bad guy, but a wanderer always on the move and making a living pretty much wherever and however he can.
They meet while Lissa is part of a multi-species science team mapping parts of Jonna, a largely unexplored, somewhat Earth-like planet. Torben and his fierce alien sidekick are there, too–exploring, but focused on finding a way to make a profit on whatever they find. The conflict between their worldviews (one focused on pure science, the other looking to make a buck off it) is an immediate and consistent element in their relationship. Torben and Dzesi (his alien partner) have found a mysterious artifact left behind from an ancient alien super-race.
But actually, this conflict is only one of emphasis–Lissa has been raised to respect the profit motive (how else did her family and its House get so damned rich) and Torben isn’t some money-above-all-else creep (though he likes to act the part).
Without spoiling things for potential readers, I’ll simply state that they bond over a life-threatening natural disaster then work out a reasonable compromise and go their separate ways. Neither can quite forget the other, however.
Torben returns to a much-altered Earth for a sort of medical adjustment (the rejuvenation treatments have side effects that build up over time). Lissa returns to her homeworld and is soon involved in other adventures involving a spectacular celestial event and an oppressed alien religious minority.
Years pass and the chance for both scientific discover and profit (not to mention the need to keep potent unknown technology out the hands of a dictatorial alien government that’s desperate enough to take huge risks) eventually bring the two (and several supporting characters) back together for the book’s concluding chapters. A tense standoff leads to a violent climax.
It’s an entertaining effort, granted. I do find how easily our heroes figure out that the legendary Forebearers’ efforts are connected to the developing group-mind evolving on Earth a bit of a stretch. But otherwise, a respectable and often fascinating book.
Hence, I give this one another moderate/overall positive recommendation.