Even after nearly 40 years in the biz, Poul Anderson still cranks out the imaginative sci fi like a champ, with the idea-packed Genesis
--a billion-year-spanning tale involving immortal AIs and the future of Earth itself--being just another example. A decorated hard-SF veteran from the old school (think the Amazing, Analog
crew from the '50s, '60s, and '70s), Anderson has got a mantle any other writer would kill for, boasting a Nebula Grand Master award, seven Hugos, and three "regular" Nebulas. (Heck, the guy's even got whippersnapper Greg Bear
for a son-in-law.)
Taking on ideas that share space with Anderson's well-loved Fireball series (Harvest of Stars et al.), Genesis follows the peculiar existence of Christian Brannock and Laurinda Ashcroft, two humans who shared such affinity with machines in their mortal lives that they went on to become uploaded consciousnesses, immortal human-robot hybrids. Anderson mines even the mundanities of this situation thoroughly, but adds in enough twists in the far-future plot to start asking some really interesting questions too: when the vast supermind inhabiting posthuman Earth (mythically named Gaia) starts simulating endless replays of humanity's chaotic evolution, the time-hopping Brannock and Ashcroft--who have been tasked with investigating exactly what Gaia's been up to--find themselves struggling over the moral complexities of free will and the very nature of reality. --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
With this brilliantly conceived novel, Grand Master Anderson flings his long-time audience beyond his Starfarers and Boat of a Million Years, into a far-future extrapolation of human destiny that sings praises to the power of human love. After a long career of solar-system exploration, astronaut Christian Brannock achieves man-machine immortality by allowing his personality to be uploaded into an artificial intelligence that can probe the galaxy. Two centuries later, on the brink of Earth's next Ice Age, Laurinda Ashcroft, a human interface to Terra Central, similarly chooses to merge with the supercomputer that millions of years later becomes an element of Gaia, the Earth's artificial intelligence, itself a rebellious node of the galactic brain. As Earth's sun begins to fail, the node Wayfarer, in which Brannock's consciousness resides, must determine if humanity's mother world should be saved, though Gaia seems strangely determined to let it perish. When Wayfarer sends Christian to investigate strange hints about a secret Gaia may be hiding, Christian and Laurinda, ghostly memories of the man who went to the stars and the woman who remained on Earth, take virtual human shape, and the tender love that they find together as they probe Gaia's various alternative realities of human civilization reenacts the union of sky and earth that anchors all human mythologies. By humanizing the inhuman, Anderson comes breathtakingly close to speaking the unspeakable, the meaning of human existence. Deftly moving from one utterly convincing vignette of future human society to another, blending them into one profoundly moving fictional entity with reverence for the undying human thirst for knowledge and the pain that must accompany human achievement, Anderson's narrative soars, as unfettered as an exalting dream.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.