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Harvest of Stars Hardcover – August, 1993

Book 1 of 4 in the Harvest of Stars Series

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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: #1,809,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

The story reads well and is quite interesting.
Amazon Customer
Also, the book's main plot resolves itself after about 300 pages, and then we get a second plot, or a long anticlimactic denouement, for 100 pages.
Mitchell Glodek
This book will turn the reader into a believer because of its realistic humanity.
Greg Gordon

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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mitchell Glodek on October 30, 2011
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Poul Anderson's Harvest of Stars feels incredibly long. Not only is it over 390 pages in the hardcover edition (and the print is not large) but the pace is slow. Anderson really wants you to get to know his characters and the world he has created, so there are lots of flashbacks as the characters think back to happier days and earlier adventures, and describe 21st and 22nd century history. Most of the plot is described in conversations, as the characters discuss what to do next or engage in diplomacy; much of the important action the characters observe on TV. Anderson spends a lot of time describing landscapes, architecture, interior decor, the sky. Characters are always looking at the moon reflected on the ocean, watching a sunset, looking out a window at a city or the stars, etc. There is little tension in the story, and the characters, while serviceable, are not particularly interesting; genius businessman who makes libertarian wisecracks and flirts with every woman he meets, female space pilot who has sex with all the men who help her on her dangerous journey, Japanese woman who writes haiku, mercenary who reforms, decadent aristocrat who reforms. Also, the book's main plot resolves itself after about 300 pages, and then we get a second plot, or a long anticlimactic denouement, for 100 pages.

The main plot is actually pretty good, and sounds exciting when summarized. Two hundred years in the future radical leftists have taken over North America, so that the people of the former USA and Canada suffer the greatest poverty and least freedom of any country in the world. Working against the leftist government behind the scenes is Fireball, a private company that dominates high tech fields like communications, energy and space travel.
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