Orbit Unlimited (1961) -Poul Anderson

November 19th, 2009

I like Poul Anderson’s books. Orbit Unlimited is several short stories, published separately, that have been tightened up into a short novel. It is the story of people in a future decadent culture that manage to ship out to a nearby star to start a colony and find philosophical freedom.

The word Constitution, as the book points out, is a loaded word. In semantics, a word can have so many diverse meanings as to be meaningless. To call someone a constitutionalist would not convey much meaning. In Orbit Unlimited, the term is vague, but mostly applies to people who wish to retain constitutional freedoms. In the near future, these freedoms are being eroded by a ruling class that wishes to retain any and all rights to do what needs to be done to ensure that they remain the ruling class.

Orbit Unlimited starts out with a request by a commissioner to fund expansion of the space fleet to explore the nearby stars. The request is turned down. It is pointed out that there is no way to fund a fleet capable of shipping off a significant part of the population to colonize another star system. Exploration of space shows no sign of showing any advantage for Earth.

The story proceeds to follow the son of one of the commissioners and a constitutionalist as he takes an 87 year voyage to a near star with other constitutionalists. They have been maneuvered into this to get them off of Earth where the might stir up trouble. The next section describes the colonists on a challenging planet. The protagonist is convinced to help find a lost child who has wandered off and is most likely dead.

Each section is mostly standalone, although interconnected. It feels like Anderson has rewritten them to tighten up the plots to be more novel-like. At 80k words it is short and parts feel very much like a short story.

I am amazed at Anderson’s analysis of the politics and sociology of the future society. At one point they government makes education free, but promotes courses in athletics, music appreciation, basket weaving and other non-scientific subjects in order to keep the population stupid, ignorant, and easy to manipulate. Poul Anderson was issuing a warning that was ignored then and we are seeing the practical results of loss of educational rigor.

This is the last Poul Anderson book on my to-read shelf. I wish there were more.


One response to “Orbit Unlimited (1961) -Poul Anderson”

  1. I’ve read both the stories and the novel. It does not appear that any changes were made in the translation to book form, which suggests he’d planned to novelize all long.

    It’s a good book. I reviewed it here

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Buy the Book!

I cleaned up my tab for Sonny Boy's Help Me and made it into a short book. There's a Kindle version for 99 cents, and if you buy the paperback you get the Kindle free.

Playing "Help-Me" In the Style of Sonny Boy Williamson II: A step by step, note for note analysis of some of Sonny Boy's Signature Riffs

I also write Science Fiction, so you can sample some of my best stories. Also available in Kindle format.

Error Message Eyes: A Programmer's Guide to the Digital Soul


Keith Graham's CThreePO.com Links

I started reading Science Fiction in the 1950s. I started Writing SF in the 1960s. Then, I had a life. Now I am retired, raising chickens and keeping bees. I am still an avid reader and I have sold about 70 stories in the last 20 years.
I have been collecting information about writing Science Fiction for many years now. Social media has replaced the Blog and large dedicated websites, so the pages here are mostly static. I update them from time to time.


Book Reviews

Please note, the comments on this site are historical from when the site was a Blog. The web pages are now static, and there is no mechanism for leaving comments.