Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Time Patrol by Poul Anderson


When I wrote about the short story collection Futures Past, I mentioned it was my first exposure to Poul Anderson. After I wrapped up that work I was quick to pick up a collection of his stories about the Time Patrol, a time-hopping police force established to keep the flow of history 'correct', be it good or bad.

What I enjoy about these stories is Anderson's refusal to conform to the predictable locales of the genre. You will not read of agents aboard the Titanic, or defending the Alamo or helping William conquer England. Instead Anderson picks a vital but less popular area of history - the life of Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, or the everyday exploits of Goths that inspired Wagner's operas - and explores them in detail.

Sometimes in too much detail, as in The Sorrow of Odin the Goth, where I needed flowchart to track lineages. Most of the time (no pun intended) history is very neatly detailed but kept in the background, as in the rollicking The Year of the Ransom, set in Pizzaro's Peru.

But this is fiction, not history, and so the important question is whether or not the stories keep your attention and leave you coming back for more.

Yes and yes.

He was a heck of a storyteller - a tad old fashioned in the stammering, emotional responses of women and the pipe smoking hero - but the stories are entertaining, well constructed, and (a minor miracle given the subject) believable.

3.4 out of 4


Bridgett said...

This isn't a genre of book that appeals to me, but regardless, you review it so well! :)


Estela said...

I don't think I've read anything by Poul Anderson. But I do love the concept of a time patrol. Perhaps this is where Star Trek got their ideas for time traveling episodes and the eventual time line police.

drgns4vr said...

I first read Poul Anderson in high school back in the late 50s. I fell in love with his Three Hearts and three Lions, which also involved time travel. Most of his books stand up well to the test of time (pun sort of intended).

megryphon said...

Yes, my sister drgns4vr, read Three Hearts and Three Lions when I brought it home from the library. HA.

It is more an alternate history than a time travel story. It has something to do with Ogier the Dane (hence the title.) My favorite line from the book is when the hero dispatches a troll, saying: "What's a Christmas song among friends?" (You know, "Troll, the ancient Yuletide carol.") [moan] But I have liked Anderson's work since that time. Glad you enjoyed Time Patrol.

o<\\\^) Jan the Gryphon