Phoenix from the Ashes: The Literature of the Remade World

By Carl B. Yoke | Go to book overview

16
DOMINANT SOCIOLOGICAL THEMES IN POUL ANDERSON'S ORION SHALL RISE

Harold Lee Prosser

As a subtle, conflict sociologist concerned with social systems, Poul Anderson's dominant sociological themes of conflict, cultural mentalities, social deviance, and entropy are perfected and realized in his novel Orion Shall Rise ( 1983). Essentially, this fine novel concerns humankind's struggle to rebuild its civilization after a nuclear holocaust; the story is set centuries after this disaster, and it involves different cultures seeking the control of earth's destiny and resources. Orion Shall Rise contains some of Anderson's most complex and memorable character creations to date, such as Ronica Birken, Terai Lohannaso, Iern Ferlay, Peyt (Plik) Rensoon, Wairoa, Mikli Karst, Jovain Aurillac, Chon Till, and Faylis Ferlay, among others. Orion Shall Rise is a sociological study in conflict over power, and this theme is evident in the majority of Anderson's fiction.

Sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf, who constructed the theory of interest conflict groups, believed that social conflict is structured on the opposition of varying class-based interests as they are reflected in all technological cultures; results of interest conflict tend to generate social change in one form or another. 1 Taken from an individual perspective, one person vies for control by appealing in some manner to another whose interest matches his or her own. Thus he seeks to gain strength in numbers. This extends to all individuals in their daily existence, and eventually a group results that seeks the same goal or achievement of the same interest. To achieve that goal or interest means the displacement or absorption of any group in direct conflict with the defined goal or interest. Characters and their respective cultures in Orion Shall Rise exemplify Dahrendorf's theory of interest conflict groups in action.

By analyzing the conflict situations in the Anderson novel, it is possible to

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