The Danish-American author Poul Anderson (1926-2001) won seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards as well as many other science fiction and fantasy awards for the innumerable novels and short stories he wrote in a career spanning the last six decades of the twentieth century. But his 1965 novel, the Corridors of Time, was not one of the award-winners, and no wonder. Although the book has its strengths—Anderson was, without question, a professional—it’s weak both in its premise and its execution.
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Poul Anderson knew Danish history
Anderson was the son of Danish immigrants and grew up in the United States bilingual in English and Danish. And it’s clear from The Corridors of Time that he was also steeped in ancient Danish history. The novel reeks of it. Grounded in 1964, the story’s protagonist, an imprisoned former Marine named Malcolm Lockridge, whisks through—yes, you’ve got it: actual corridors through time—to Denmark in 1827 BCE, and later to Denmark and England in the sixteenth century CE.
The person who miraculously manages to spring Malcolm and speed him through the corridors is a woman named Storm Darroway, whom he later discovers has come from the future. (And that’s not her name.) Everywhere Malcolm alights he finds a richly imagined past that conforms with what archaeologists and historians know of those distant periods. Anderson, it seems, knows his history.
The Corridors of Time by Poul Anderson (1965) 186 pages ★★★☆☆
A shaky premise
Unfortunately, the premise on which this novel is based is—well, not to put too fine an edge on it—silly. Some two thousand years in the future humankind is grouped in two warring factions, the Wardens and the Rangers. The Wardens are the good guys . . . or are they, really? They embody the feminist principle, the Rangers the masculine. And, yes, the Rangers hold sway in—just one guess: North America. The Wardens’ home base is Europe.
Despite this juvenile premise, Poul Anderson might have managed to write a truly interesting story . . . if only he hadn’t insisted on contriving so many hard-to-believe twists and turns in the plot. At times, The Corridors of Time becomes downright baffling.
For related reading
The bottom line here should be obvious: avoid this novel, and turn instead to one of Poul Anderson’s much better books. For starters, I recommend Tau Zero. I reviewed the novel at In this great example of classic hard science fiction, humankind reaches the stars. You might also check out his novels The Avatar (Alien life abounds in our starfaring future) and The Boat of a Million Years (A journey from ancient history to the stars).
However, I’ve also reviewed another of the author’s disappointing novels, Brain Wave (How would you behave if your IQ suddenly doubles?). That’s two out of three. I don’t think Poul Anderson’s books will be on my reading list in the future.
For more good reading, check out:
- These novels won both Hugo and Nebula Awards
- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels
- 10 top science fiction novels
- 10 best alternate history novels reviewed here
- Eight new science fiction authors worth reading now
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