The Chapter Ends
By Poul Anderson
Published by Librivox
Read by Phil Chenovert
This is an interesting little story that takes place in the incredibly far-flung future. There is a sub-genre of science fiction of stories that involve how human life on Earth will end. In many stories the extinction event is a disease or a supervolcano. In others we get out-evolved by sentient ants or drop bears or something. In others the world goes boom for no readily apparent reason or an inconvenient comet comes by to visit and moves in permanently. Some very optimistic stories actually have humans lasting four or five billion years until the sun goes nova.
Poul Anderson presents us with a very different end, however; political expediency. It’s been a very long time since Mankind first left the home world. So long, in fact, that most humans have forgotten all about Earth, or spaceships for that matter. People have learned to travel through Interstellar space without spaceships… except for those on Earth who continue to hold by the old ways. Meanwhile, in space, there is a non-human civilization that has similarly eschewed spaceships as a mode of travel. The Problem is their method gets in the way of humans and vice verso, so they have made a deal; split the galaxy. Mankind gets the inner part of the galaxy and the others get the rim. Problem: Earth is on the rim.
It’s an interesting story that examines just what it is to be human and while I think it could have stood to be a little more philosophical, it is a pleasant read and worth examining.
I have listened to audiobooks by Phil Chenovert before. His accent is mild and folksy and usually matches the story he is reading well. In this case, however, he sounded a bit sing-song in nature and the folksy ups and down to his voice was annoying to me. I think this may have been due to the way Poul Anderson wrote the story and the way he used words, so that the way Mister Chenovert told the song seemed to go up and down in the same way a small boat rides through eight-foot swells. I will be discussing Mister Chenovert’s style some more in two weeks on a story I think he read much better (stay tuned), but I cannot help but feel that his style was more just pushing my buttons rather than actually being bad. Or perhaps it just does not fit the story well.
So, we have an interest short story, well worth looking into and it is read by the talented reader who this time might have missed the mark, but in fairness I think he is worth listening to and coming to your own conclusions on.