by Poul Anderson
A book review by Mark L. Olson
Doubleday, 1968, 204 pp, $4.95
Satan's World was written a decade later and is considerably more mature than War of the Wing Men. Van Rijn is still a major character, but he's joined by a Trader Team of David Falkayn, Chee Lan and Adzel, the latter two being non-humans. The Polesotechnic League is further fleshed out, also -- it's more, now, than just a mutual assistance pack among merchants, it's a quasi-governmental power that exists above and beyond the traditional governments like the Commonwealth, the government of the wealthiest human planets.
Interestingly, Anderson shows the Commonwealth to be a standard-issue government of humans, for humans and staffed by humans, while the Polesotechnic League is very multi-racial (multi-specieal?) and has a significant number of non-humans in leading positions.
Falkayn simultaneously discovers a lead on a potentially very valuable planet and evidence of a deep penetration of human society by agents of an unknown alien race, and must race to claim the planet for van Rijn and to head off whatever it is the aliens are up to. Right in the heart of the Commonwealth, on Luna, van Rijn takes independent action -- breaking the law -- to close down the alien spies, and then follows Falkayn to meet the aliens.
As always (and as few writers have managed to do), Anderson realizes that worlds are big places. Both Satan and Dathynia are large places with room for a multitude of differences from place to place and amongst its people (in Dathynia's case). And, as usual for Anderson, the aliens are well-drawn, plausible and not simply people wearing knobby fittings on their skulls.
Satan's World is one of Anderson's finest SF novels.
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