Monday, September 11, 2017

Jerry Pournelle dies at age 84

Jerry Pournelle dies at age 84

Jerry Pournelle, born August 7, 1933, died on September 8 at age 84.

Pournelle was one of the few major sf writers who, during the stylistic upheavals of the New Wave era in the 70s and early 80s, continued to write stories and novels in the 'old school' manner, placing emphasis on plot and narrative. This stance likely was a reflection of Pournelle's conservative / libertarian political beliefs. Pournelle's willingness to write on military themes, without reflexively condemning the military itself, also made him stand out among fellow sf writers of the New Wave era. 

While he and frequent co-author Larry Niven did not always get the critical praise bestowed on other sf writers of the 70s and 80s, their novels were consistent best-sellers, and for me, a welcome relief from the increasingly self-indulgent nature of the New Wave as it began to decline in the latter 70s.

One of Pournelle's best novels was A Spaceship for the King (1973), which I reviewed here. If you read one novel by Pournelle, I would argue this is the one to read.

His collaborations with Niven, and later Steve Barnes, were by and large worthy of recommendation. While I thought Oath of Fealty was a dud, The Legacy of Heorot (1987) was a standout sf adventure novel based on a credible backdrop of a unique alien ecology.

Footfall (1985) also was a worthy novel, featuring sf writers as the heroes, rather than the usual square-jawed Men of Action.

Summing up, Pournelle, along with Niven, played an important role in keeping 'hard' sf commercially and culturally viable during a time when most publishers were concentrating on showcasing New Wave content. When publishers first began to return their attention to releasing hard sf novels in the late 70s, Niven and Pournelle played a large role in ensuring that the readership was there to welcome this change in the literary landscape. 

No comments: