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Harvest of Stars Hardcover – August, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though Anderson's ( The Boat of a Million Years ) latest offering bears the earmarks of a science fiction epic, the novel fulfills little of its promise. A future North America is dominated by the Avantist police state, while space is ruled by the vast Fireball corporation. Founded by entrepreneur Anson Guthrie, Fireball is devoted to a nearly libertarian ideal of individual freedom and laissez-faire economics, the antithesis of the Avantist policy. The original Guthrie is long dead, but his mind, downloaded into a computer, lives on to direct Fireball. When the Avantists capture a second copy of Guthrie, designed to travel with a probe to Centauri's earthlike planet Demeter, they have the power to destroy Fireball, using their copy to issue false orders and to force a crisis. Plucky Fireball pilot Kyra Davis and a host of other Guthrie loyalists race to avert disaster. The plot is flat, however, the tension deflated by trite, intrusive lectures on liberty and finding meaning in a high-tech world. Then Anderson introduces a bizarre development, when Guthrie decides to lead his followers to colonize Demeter. Despite Anderson's assemblage of all the elements of classic SF on a grand scale, the novel evokes more weariness than wonder.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Medium-future power struggle between a North America gripped by a techno-religious dictatorship, and an interplanetary corporation representing the last bastion of free enterprise: from the author of The Boat of a Million Years, Orion Shall Rise, etc. The doctrine of Avantism predicts a transcendent future for humanity; but, meanwhile, the real ruler of North America is secret police chief Enrique Sayre, whose best weapon is a computer-copied personality (``download'') of Avantism's main opponent--the late Fireball head honcho Anson Guthrie--that's been reprogrammed to accept Avantism. However, an unreconstructed download of Guthrie is still annoyingly at large and attempting to smuggle itself out of America in the company of ace Fireball pilot Kyra Davis. After many narrow escapes, Guthrie and Davis arrive on the moon, where Guthrie encourages the moon's independent rulers to help start a revolution to overthrow the repressive Avantists. Guthrie and a Davis download then head for Alpha Centauri to explore the only known habitable planet outside the solar system; back on Earth, meanwhile, advanced artificial intelligences fuse with human intellects to bring about the transcendence predicted by Avantism. In his career, Anderson has written dozens of wonderful short to medium-length stories (the Time Patrol series, etc.). Why he persists in grinding out ponderous, somnolent, bloated offerings like this is one of science fiction's enduring mysteries. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 395 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (August 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312852770
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312852771
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John C. Wright on November 2, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Poul Anderson has brought lifetime's worth of craftsmanship and pure artistic genius to bear to create this, the crowning acheivement of his science fiction career. The downloaded copy of late Anson Guthrie, with the help of Fireball pilot Kyrie Davis, is fleeing the totalitarian Avantist world order; but the Avantists have secured and brainwashed another copy of Guthrie, so that his most dangerous opposition is himself.

The background is awe-inspiring in its complexity and completeness. Instead of a stale monoculture, or an endless array of postapocolyptic punks, the reader is treated to a tapestry of cultures of the future, including the eerie, elfin Lunarians, perhaps Anderson's most successful and memorable creation.

The main action of the book, however, is just a backdrop for a more chilling and larger threat: the spectre of bioengineering and true artificial intelligence slowly displaces Man from his seat as lord of his own fate, and an increasingly inert and sheeplike humanity becomes merely the clients and wards of a supreme cybernetic system. The only hope for Man to retain his human spirit is a risky and uncertain project to colonize one of the doomed worlds of Alpha Centauri.

HARVEST OF STARS moves from an action thriller seamlessly into profound conflict over the ultimate spiritual destiny of man, whether one of numb security or perilous liberty.

Magnificent on all levels, rich in characterization, vivid in detial, profound in scope and philosophic depth, I cannot imagine how any science fiction reader could help but award this book the highest possible rank. A classic.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Roger J. Buffington TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 27, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As I have noted elsewhere, as he got older Poul Anderson seemed to more or less settle on his vision of man's future. He essentially appears to believe that man is destined to be subordinate to and dominated by entities of artificial intelligence, which will simultaneously raise the general standard of living while diminishing mankind's self-determination. Anderson portrays this as an inevitable and a depressing future. There is no better friend to freedom and liberty than Anderson, yet he seems to lack confidence that mankind in the future will enjoy freedom in a manner consistent with American notions. A plausible and interesting concept, but in his last decade or so Anderson seemed unable to depart from this groove. Surely other human destinies are possible--Anderson has told of many.
Poul Anderson is far and away my favorite SF author. This novel, while interesting and readable, is not his best work. This book is a maddening mix of brilliant speculation, great characterization, and bloated prose. This novel would have been twice as good if it had been half as long.
The novel is the story of a freedom-loving spacefaring "corporation" (really a nation of sorts) struggling against oppressive earth governments. The relevant characters are brilliantly portrayed as people and as idealists, and/or villains. Unfortunately, the book bogs down and could and should have been much more crisply written. Consequently, the story line seems to ramble towards the end. Frankly, I found the ending unsatisfying and implausible.
Poul Anderson's other works are more imaginative and better written. If you like this book (and there is a fair amount to like) try his Nicholas Van Rijn/Polesotechnic League series, and his many collections of short stories. This are among his best work.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nina M. Osier on July 27, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In the not-so-far-off future, machines have taken over much of the work that Humans once did. The government of what was the United States of America, dominated by a movement called Avantism, polices its citizens ruthlessly and punishes deviance from this philosophy's ideals. That's undoubtedly why Fireball, a vast private company that owns the entire space travel industry, has its headquarters in Ecuador. Anson Guthrie, Fireball's founder, died in the flesh decades ago. But his "downloaded" personality, and all his knowledge and life experience, lives on as a sentient computer program. As the story opens, Fireball pilot Kyra Davis finds herself on the run with her "jefe" - Download Guthrie - to protect from capture by the American government that wants to use him to gain control of Fireball.

The first half (and more) of this book recounts Guthrie's flight from the Avantist authorities, and Kyra's adventures among the genetically engineered and no longer quite Human "Lunarians" who have built an independent and unique new culture on Terra's natural satellite. The remainder of the novel takes us along with Guthrie, Pilot Davis, and others whom we've come to know as a band of hardy souls sets out to transform an alien planet into their new home. This gives the book an odd structure, with so many of its pages covering a relatively short period of time and the rest leaping through events decades apart. You might say that "change of pace" takes on a whole new meaning.

Anderson's characters engaged me despite lapses into stereotype, and I found his descriptions of the Lunarians' culture and of Demeter's transformation vivid and enthralling.
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