A Stone in Heaven
Series: Dominic Flandry
Reviewed date: 2007 Aug 6
Here's a Flandry book with a twist: Dominic ends up with the girl. That is fitting; in A Stone in Heaven, Admiral Flandry is older, wiser, and less callous in his treatment of others.
But he's still Dominic Flandry, saviour of the Terran Empire. This time, the mystery is on Ramnu, a cold heavy planet where Miriam "Banner" Abrams is studying the sapient autochthons. Ramnu is entering an ice age that will kill the natives. Banner appeals to the Duke of Hermes to save the Ramnuans. He refuses.
His refusal is unexpected; the cost would be little, and the public relations gain would be significant. Even curiouser: the Duke goes to extraordinary lengths to prevent Banner from appealing directly to the Emperor.
Banner appeals to Admiral Dominic Flandry for help. Flandry suspects the Duke, Edwin Cairncross, is plotting to overthrow the Emperor. Ramnu holds the only evidence, so Flandry and Banner sneak off to the planet to gather what information they can. There they are aided by the Ramnuan natives, most particularly by Yewwl, the Ramnuan female that Banner has developed a close friendship with.
A Stone in Heaven is one of the better Flandry books. Poul Anderson has developed one of his most alien races. The Ramnuans are unlike any human culture. Unlike some of his other books, where Anderson's aliens are modeled on human cultures, these aliens are unique.
My copy of A Stone in Heaven is massively illustrated by Esteban Moroto. There are nearly a hundred black-and-white line drawings. Sadly, there isn't much you can do with black-and-white. Many of the drawings are unrecognizable blobs. Grayscale pencil drawings would have been better, but the printing costs would have been prohibitive for a mass market paperback.
The book also contains an essay by Sandra Miesel entitled The Price of Buying Time. It explores the fall of the Terran Empire, and examines the Empire's clash with Merseia, and draws parallels to Earth history.