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The High Crusade by Poul Anderson

The High Crusade (original 1960; edition 1983)

by Poul Anderson

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920309,529 (3.74)1 / 51
Title:The High Crusade
Authors:Poul Anderson
Info:Berkley (1983), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction

Work details

The High Crusade by Poul Anderson (1960)

  1. 00
    Space Folk by Poul Anderson (dukeallen)
  2. 01
    Ten Years to Doomsday by Michael Kurland (bmlg)
    bmlg: humour, tension, and the unexpected as a pre-industrial world clashes with highly advanced alien invaders.

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The idea that earth can resist an alien invasion is fairly ludicrous given that the aliens would have to travel light years across the universe to get here, so their level of technology and weaponry must be vastly superior to ours. Poul Anderson, a scifi legend, was well aware of this, and he carefully created an amusing scenario where such a thing is at least plausible. Anderson was a versatile author, books like [b:Tau Zero|240617|Tau Zero|Poul Anderson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1173036940s/240617.jpg|598009] and [b:Brain Wave|1228628|Brain Wave|Poul Anderson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1201247236s/1228628.jpg|328731] and The High Crusade are all very different (not to mention his non-genre and nonfiction works).

The premise is fairly straight forward. In 1345 AD a huge spaceship lands in Ansby, a small village in Lincolnshire just as Sir Roger de Tourneville an English knight was raising an army to fight a war with France. This is a scout ship from the Wersgorix Empire who are always looking to expand their dominion. As luck would have it their technology is so advance that they have forgotten how to fight hand to hand and falls prey to the English soldiers who stormed their ship and basically hacked them all to death except one rather shady character named Branithar. Thinking that the "flying ship" will give them a huge advantage over the French Sir Roger orders Branithar to fly the ship to France, Branithar readily agrees but activate the pre-programmed autopilot to take them to the nearest Wersgor colony instead.

In spite of the rather farcical premise the book is very enjoyable, it is more humorous than the other Anderson novels I have read (well, I have not read that many of them). Fans of the ultra hard sf [b:Tau Zero|240617|Tau Zero|Poul Anderson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1173036940s/240617.jpg|598009] will be disappointed if they are expecting more in that vein, those looking for a quick read entertaining sci-fi romp are in for a treat. The book is written in the first person, narrated by a monk who follows Sir Roger on his space adventures. The medieval style English is wonderful, I can not vouch for its authenticity of course but it is very amusing to read especially when describing alien technology. For example:

"I have studied the principles of their star maps a little, sire," I answered, "though in truth they
do not employ charts, but mere columns of figures. Nor do they have mortal steersmen on
the spaceships. Rather, they instruct an artificial pilot at the start of the journey, and
thereafter the homunculus operates the entire craft."

Ha! Love that stuff! The main alien race the Wersgorix are a little old school in that they are blue skinned bipeds who communicate through vocal speech and gestures, thus conveniently facilitating the establishment of communication. Other alien races show up later who are less like anthropomorphised creatures but really not all that strange by today's sci-fi standard. You may find that the idea that a bunch of medieval Brits resisting and conquering alien races with vastly superior technology ridiculous. It is basically done through bluff and bluster, with a lot of luck thrown in:
"But how could that be, sire?" asked Sir Owain. "They‘re older and stronger and wiser than
"The first two, granted," nodded the baron. His humor was so good that he addressed even this
knight with frank fellowship. "But the third, no. Where it comes to intrigue, I‘m no master of it
myself, no Italian. But the star-folk are like children."
In any case Anderson has written the book and developed the characters with such skill that you are likely to be swept away by the story and jettison your incredulity out the window.

Tremendous fun and takes no time at all to read, a must. ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
Oof. This is from the 1960s. It's from the time when SF kept saying that humans were trickier than the rest of the galaxy, so even though we're dumber and not as advanced, we'll do ok. I haven't read anything like that in a while.

It's a fast read, but the gender politics were... different than todays. At one point, someone says something like, "Well, what should I have expected? Leaving my wife alone for so long, she's bound to get silly ideas". That character is mostly an idiot, but it was weird anyway.
  adamwolf | Nov 24, 2015 |
A spaceship lands next to an English castle, When the aliens come out shooting, the local, led by Sir Roger de Tourneville, leads a charge that overwhelms the aliens soldiers and everyone inside the ship. de Tourneville commanders the ship, gets everyone aboard and forces a lone alien survivor to take them to France and then Jerusalem. He double-crosses them and sends them on a trip to his home world. Oops! A delightful story I read twice when I was young...it's been so long since I read it I was able to read it afresh. de Tourneville's campaign against the Wersgorix is an excellent tale. A fun read. ( )
  NickHowes | Sep 13, 2015 |
The year is 1345, and Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville has gathered his troops ready to join King Edward III in his battle against France. The knight's day is interrupted by a two-thousand foot long flying machine, containing an advance force of Wersgorix. These are aliens from a distant world who are on a voyage of conquest; their view of Earth is as a backward and primitive place. Unfortunately for them, Sir Roger and company are combat hardened, and not only do not like being shot at but they return fire with longbows, putting arrows through the invaders and bashing those who survive into kingdom come. When the battle is over, Sir Roger finds himself in command of a star ship, with just one Wersgorix, somewhat worse for wear, left to pilot the vessel. His first reaction is to take the flying ship to France in support of his King, then on to the Holy Land to deal with the infidels. But his plan is foiled by the remaining alien, who flies the ship straight back to the nearest Wersgorix planet, believing that once there the primitives will simply surrender. It is at this point that the Wersgorix learn a fatal lesson about the indomitable spirit, cleverness and sheer bloody determination of medieval Englishmen.

Poul Anderson is one of the science fiction authors I first encountered in my youth as he began writing novels in the fifties and sixties of the previous century. He became an award-winning author and demonstrated an imagination that produced both great science fiction and fantasy. With The High Crusade we have a vision of an alternative past where the medieval knights are faced with aliens and their success leads to further adventures in space. It sounds like a precursor to a recent film, "Cowboys & Aliens", set in the American west circa 1873. The High Crusade, while written somewhat tongue-in-cheek is nonetheless entertaining with reasonably developed themes. It shows what a well-disciplined and determined inferior group can achieve against a technologically superior foe. The characters are believable and maintain the reader's interest throughout.

The High Crusade is overall an entertaining story that can be enjoyed by both young and old. It reminded me of my enjoyment of tales like Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and another classic SF novel, L. Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall. Poul Anderson is always worth reading and this minor classic is one reason. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jul 31, 2015 |
A thought-provoking “celebration” of the Englishman laced with tongue-in-cheek glamour and sprinkled with a deftly handled satire on contemporary superpowers and societies.

The book is short and there's a great deal of action and witty humor, it gets a bit more philosophical towards the end but I finished it in one sitting with ease.
An intergalactic mega empire scouts for new planets to dominate and one of his spaceships lands in 1345 Lincolnshire, England, where even “the lowliest serf looked up from his acre and dreamed of freeing the Holy Land and picking up a coffer of gold on the way”. What was a routine mission soon becomes the aliens’ worst nightmare.
The plot is linear and tightly focused and it fits the subtlety of the book's themes just fine: I liked the story direction, but it’s the unfolding that is source of constant entertainment. I’ve never read anything by Poul Anderson before, but I soon trusted him, the prose, the narrative structure and the setting premises themselves make the whole adventure sound plausible.

The story is truly humorous, original, absurd and full of boldness, bravado and deceit, centered around a space jacquerie uprising led by a medieval noble knight. I'm a fan of England, a sucker for the Hundred Years' War (the earlier part at least) but I find anything related to gunpowder already too modern to bear; fact is, this book is so enthralling I got hooked immediately: knights and blue aliens? Livestock to confound airborne patrols? Archery and spacecraft? Heavy chivalry pitted against tanks? A whole village traipsing in the space and the main problem is how to calculate Easter?

The characters feel authentic, like the forlorn baroness, the ambitious young knight or the rambunctious archer (no way a good book about Englishmen in the middle-ages can miss an archer!) and then of course the catchy protagonists: Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville, the man of war, takes circumstances in stride and seizes the bull by the horns, while Brother Pelvus, the narrator, the man of religion, tries to understand the implications of their actions, but both apply the filter of their culture (with the right mix of superstition, crusading spirit and hard-life experience) on the events, to utterly hilarious consequences and unexpected results.

“The clinching proof of my reasoning is, that I’ll cut anyone who argues further into dogmeat.”
Actually, I felt that in his crude way my master had grasped truth. In my spare time I would recast his logic into proper syllogistic form, to make sure;

Very soon it gets so charming that I started to find logical everything I read, and internally it was for sure! Add into the fray a super powerful alien society grown complacent in their own superiority, a few surviving subjugated civilizations, some practical English diplomacy and… Oh, now I just loved reading this.

“And why? Well, on Earth there’ve been many nations and lords for many centuries, all at odds with each other, under a feudal system nigh too complicated to remember. Why’ve we fought so many wars in France? Because the Duke of Anjou was on the one hand the sovereign king of England and on the other hand a Frenchman! Think you what that led to: and yet ‘tis really a minor example. On our Earth, we’ve perforce learned all the knavery there is to know.” ( )
  Alissa- | Jun 5, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Poul Andersonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Alcorn, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heimisch, RalfCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidd, TomCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sweet, Darrell K.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woolheiser, JackCover Artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743475283, Paperback)

In the year of grace 1345, as Sir Roger Baron de Tourneville is gathering an army to join King Edward III in the war against France, a most astonishing event occurs: a huge silver ship descends through the sky and lands in a pasture beside the little village of Ansby in North East Lincolnshire. The Wersgorix, whose scouting ship it is, are quite expert at taking over planets, and having determined from orbit that this one was suitable, they initiate standard world-conquering procedure. But this time it's no mere primitives the Wersgorix seek to enslave - they've launched their invasion against Englishmen! In the end, only one alien is left alive - and Sir Roger's grand vision is born. He intends for the creature to fly the ship first to France to aid his King, then on to the Holy Land to vanquish the infidel!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:38 -0400)

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