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REVIEW: Fire Time by Poul Anderson

REVIEW SUMMARY: The promise of the intriguing premise failed to materialize into something interesting.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Under threat of extinction from an unfortunate placement of their planet’s three suns, the centaur-like natives of Ishtar attack the natives of the safer regions while visiting humans, with their superior technology, look on.


PROS: Interesting backdrop with intriguing planetary mechanics.

CONS: Story lacked interest for me; slow-moving; hard to read.

BOTTOM LINE: I gave up reading this after 75 pages (27% of the way through)

The three suns of the planet Ishtar move through that star system in such a way that every 1,000 years, the planet is exposed to all three suns at once, causing catastrophic damage to Ishtar’s northern Hemisphere. This so-called Fire Time is certain doom for the Ishtarians (the centaur-like natives of the planet) who live in the north. War is a way of life during this time as hordes of natives flee to the south struggling for their lives. However, this time the planet has visitors from Earth whose futuristic technology can possible save them all. That is, if the humans can do so in addition to fighting their own war.

As premises go, this is an interesting one. The backdrop reminded me of Isaac Asimov’s excellent short story “Nightfall” in which the planet, for the first time in recent history, will lose sight of all six (I think six) of its suns. Both that story and this novel share an interesting set of orbital mechanics that arouses a sense of wonder.

So it was with high hopes that I went into this book which, sadly, I could not bring myself to finish. Although the premise is interesting, I found it a really, really tough and slow-moving read – mostly because the prose structure, the slow-moving storyline and the lackluster characterizations. Throwing in a truckload of Ishtarian words and names only served to lessen the enjoyment even more.

For me, the promise of the intriguing premise just failed to materialize into something interesting. For 75 pages (about 27% of the book) I pressed on, hoping it would turn into something more interesting but, alas, I just could not get into this book.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

7 Comments on REVIEW: Fire Time by Poul Anderson

  1. Is there any reason why the link for the ‘really, really tough’ line links back to this review? Some sort of bizzare recursive, self-referential fetish?

    Otherwise, HA! I knew you’d hate this book. And don’t say you don’t. You do. You are a politcal SF h8a! 😀

  2. Fixed the link (back to the readability post). Thanks.

  3. Fred Kiesche // March 31, 2005 at 5:59 pm //

    You did not like the book, did not finish it…but it got five stars? What’s the maximum number of stars that a book can receive?

  4. Fred,

    It got 0 stars. The stars are yellow when filled in. Perhaps John ought to change the way a 0 star book looks to make it clearer.

  5. Fred Kiesche // March 31, 2005 at 7:44 pm //

    Aha! Lousy screen I’m using, then. I could not tell they weren’t filled in!

    **Now** the rating vs. commentary makes more sense!

  6. And after re-familiarizing myself with the story behind The Dispossesed, I sense another book John won’t finish…

  7. Well for you information, Mr Smarty Pants, I’m 40 pages in and liking it very much, thank you. 8o|

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