Retro Review: The Rebel Worlds by Poul Anderson

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The next story in the Dominic Flandry series brings about another change for the character. Ensign Flandrey brought us a nice war with the Mersians and showed how one world escalated a galactic conflict. A Circus of Hells showed Dominic floating around doing spy work, expanded the Mersian conflict, and it truly felt like a James Bond in space novel. This one, Flandry is given command of a ship as we set out to the frontier where a Rebellion is stirring against the Terran Empire.

It begins from the perspective of an Admiral accused of treason, who is breaking out of prison and his beautiful wife is being held captive by a local governor. Flandry goes out to investigate, finds the Admiral has declared himself Emperor of Humanity and has amassed a fleet, and through a series of really fun events, we end up on another alien planet.

What’s interesting is Poul Anderson weaves these world-changing political events into a story, but has each time moved us to a planet where we saw some strange alien species that has a big difference to them than general humanity. This one is perhaps the coolest alien concepts of the books yet — with a species that has three different creatures to it, and when they come together, they form sentience. When they part, they separate sentience. They also can combine with other creatures to form different entities. They have strange memories and a strange way of being and I loved this conceptually. They play a huge part in the book and overall story.

What’s interesting is Anderson really has the conflict of the major worlds going on in the background, while Flandry is in his own little mission doing his own thing. I like this style of writing, it adds to the space opera flare in my opinion. Flandry can influence events, but he’s not at the center of the battle because of his position. And Even as he roams around on other planets, eventually his actions do amount to solving the conflict with the Rebel Worlds.

The story also, like the others so far, centers around a woman — the wife of the rebel admiral who is so captivating, everyone falls in love with her. This subplot adds a nice dynamic to the story, and highlights Anderson’s excellent characterization in this. Flandry, of course, falls for her as well, and like the prior stories it ends without fulfillment for Flandry. A minor annoyance is that the past loves and past adventures really don’t get referenced, despite this being somewhat of a continuance from those, but these older books are all meant as standalones more than the way series are written today, despite the shared universes.

It’ll be interesting to see how this goes. This is probably the second best of the trilogy so far, with Ensign Flandry being my favorite still. There’s many short stories next in the Baen collected version of this series I’m reading, and not sure if I’ll review all of those. The next novel to take place in this series apparently doesn’t star Flandry proper, but is set in the universe.

Overall, this is some of the best space opera out there. Highly enjoyable read.

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One thought on “Retro Review: The Rebel Worlds by Poul Anderson

  1. Hi, Jon! Very nice review of THE REBEL WORLDS. I only have a few minor quibbles to make. We do see reference to past events in ENSIGN FLANDRY and A CIRCUS OF HELLS in Chapter II of REBEL. And, yes, in a way, even the corrupt governor, Aaron Snelund, fell for Kathryn McCormac. Yes, the tri-bodied entities of Dido are strange and cool. I would put some stress, as well, on Flandry’s insistence that any gov’t, if it’s not to be too bad, has to be LEGITIMATE. Altho short, THE REBEL WORLDS packs in an amazing amount of thought and reflection.

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