Mon
Sep 6 2010 4:25pm

Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade: An Appreciation by Greg Bear

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Poul Anderson’s The High Crusade in the pages of Astounding magazine (later to be known as Analog that very year). In celebration, Baen Books is releasing an anniversary paperback edition on Tuesday, September 7th, with appreciations from some of science fiction’s greatest names.

Tor.com will be posting these appreciations throughout Monday and Tuesday of this week, courtesy of Baen Books. These appreciations originally appeared at WebScription, where you can also sample the first few chapters of The High Crusade.

At the age of eleven or twelve, I picked up a book by Poul Anderson called The High Crusade. I was already a fan, having worked my way through a shelf-full of science fiction anthologies, best-of-the-year compilations from the 1950s at my local Navy base library in Kodiak, Alaska. Nearly all the anthologies contained stories by Poul.

But “The High Crusade” was something else again—a lively, sharp-witted reversal of science fiction stereotypes, as well as a magnificent adventure, full of larger-than-life characters.

This novel remains one of my favorites, not just of Poul’s work, but of science fiction in general. It demonstrates all of Poul’s great strengths as a writer. His sympathy with period personalities and historical events is manifest on every page. His full-bore mastery of science fiction elements meshes perfectly with the historical details. His prose style is elegant, simple, clear—and punchy. As in wickedly funny.

In short, The High Crusade practically defines the word “rollicking.”

One of Poul’s great strengths is that despite his superior skill and knowledge, one never gets the impression he looks down upon his readers. We are all partners, friends, invited to an interstellar jousting match, just to while away a few good hours and enjoy the fun.

In celebration of this new edition, and of fifty years of grand adventure, I suggest we all pick up the book, turn to the first page, read until we laugh, then stick in a bookmark and go to the refrigerator for a beer. Preferably a Carlsberg, one of Poul’s favorite brews.

Don’t drink a beer for every laugh. That would be excessive. But a swig per chuckle, and you’re on your way to a fine evening spent in the company of a great writer, a man whose highest calling was to thoughtfully entertain.

He was, as he often said, keenly aware that his books were contending for your beer money. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no contest.

This Crusade is its very own high.


Greg Bear is an American science fiction writer, perhaps best known for the novels Blood Music, Eon, and The Forge of God. He has published over thirty novels and received two Hugos and five Nebulas. His latest work, Hull Zero Three, is scheduled to be released on November 22nd.

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