Review: Pandora's Legions

Pandora's Legions - Christopher Anvil

Pandora’s Legions is a mix of short stories and a serialized novel broken apart and combined into a single chronological book.  This actually worked quite well as far as coherency goes; the book was consistent and relatively seamless.  I probably wouldn’t have realized it wasn’t originally published that way had I not already known otherwise.   For the most part, the stories are told from the perspective of two different characters – one human and one alien.  I think the larger bulk was told from the perspective of the member of the alien species, the Centrans.  The Centrans dominate the galaxy, exploring new worlds, conquering them, and then apparently assimilating them into their own culture.  In the first story the Centrans encounter Earth and the humans are unlike anything they’ve ever encountered.

This book was by turns funny and dry, but it leaned more heavily on the dry side in my opinion.  The stories were written between the mid 50’s through early 70’s and it showed its age.  The thing that kept sticking out to me, as I read the e-book on my Kindle, was the excessive amount of paper in the stories.  We have paper informational printouts, paper communications, paper announcements, and paper reports.  We have stacks upon stacks upon stacks of paper reports.  They’re leaning against the walls, toppling over, covering desks, and at times it seemed like they were being referred to on every page of the book.  We get to read snippets of these reports, which are often written in an intentionally dry and pedantic manner or, less often, in an intentionally convoluted manner.  I sometimes had as much trouble getting through the sections about the reports as the characters had getting through the reports themselves.  


On the bright side, there were quite a few references to things I’m reading about in my 20th century European history course at the moment, and I was pleased to catch references that probably would have gone over my head in the past since I disliked history when I was younger and paid very little attention in class as a child. That may be part of what made this book seem dry to me – I’m on week five out of an eight-week university class and I’m probably putting more time and effort into it than a typical student who has a better foundation in history. So, while I’m happy that I’m now catching more references, right now I don’t really want to see quite so much of it in my rare moments of entertainment.

But the book did have several funny moments, and I liked the main characters.  There were times when I became quite caught up in the stories -- mainly the ones that had fewer reports in them!  Some stories focused more on action taking place on one of the planets, while other stories focused more on the Centrans and their attempts to understand and decide what to do about the humans.  The former were far more interesting to me.