Customer Reviews

23
3.7 out of 5 stars
Harvest of Stars
Format: Mass Market PaperbackChange
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 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. Anson Guthrie's politics are those of the old-line, 1950s science fiction hero: the standard "government's job is to leave people alone" sermon comes out of his mouth repeatedly, reminding me very much of Heinlein's juvenile SF books. Whatever one's politics (Guthrie's are certainly Libertarian!), the questions the characters have to answer are valid ones for Humans today. What will technology make of us? (Not necessarily, "What will we make of technology?") And what is it that makes us Human, anyway? Having Download Guthrie as the book's protagonist (for he occupies that role, in the end, more than does Kyra Davis) lends that last question special poignancy.

Not the best Poul Anderson book I've ever read, but a darn good one nevertheless.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In my opinion this book is a great triumph for Anderson. Previous books by this author have been disappointing to me but this is in a whole different league. Beginning as a fast paced adventure and ending in a grand flourish portraying the future of humanity, this story is full of surprises, plot twists and very human characters. Even more signifigant in my mind is science that is actually believable and has defined limitations. This could actually take place in the not so distant future portrayed in this gripping story. The disconcerting, (though not necessarily bad) thing is that this is almost two stories in one. The first two thirds are all adventure and intrigue covering less than a years time. The last is a moving and thought provoking view of the divergent future of the human race spanning hundreds of years in fewer pages. However short this ending is, it still manages to overwhelm the reader with awe and scope not achieved by many other more renowned authors
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2010
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
My biggest beef with this book is that it is too big. The prose is painstaking in its detail. Conversations among the players are overlong and too smart for their own good. They plan for every foreseeable contingency down to the grittiest detail; meanwhile, the reader is lost because he can't see the forrest through the trees! It's irritating because not only does it slow down the plot but renders much of that reading a waste of time. Then Anderson unleashes a surprise at the end of Part II that completely changes the game. Which brings me to my second beef...

Part III. This part of the book is completely out of step with the rest of the novel. It seems to me that Anderson intended to end the book after Part II, but once he got there he wasn't satisfied, so he wrote 150 pages more. Several hundred years elapse, whereas the events in the first two acts take place over a month or thereabouts. Halfway through this false ending I had completely lost interest. The plot also takes a couple of fantastic turns that stretch science fiction to science farce.

Lastly, the book is a difficult read. The following sentence is indicative of the flowery narration sustained over the hulking 530 pages: "Turbulence eddied from each of the bodies and bodies and bodies that hurried, dodged, dawdled, gestured, swerved, lingered. Colors and faces lost meaning in their swarm. The air was thick with their breath, harsh with their footfalls and voices. Wind drove clouds like smoke across the strips of sky between walls."
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
... I have to state that this book (and its sequel, "The Stars Are Also Fire", and less so with the remaining two in the quartet, "Harvest the Fire" and "The Fleet of Stars") is perhaps the most thought-provoking SF work I have read. It ranks, for me, with the very best of Asimov, Heinlein, et. al., in terms of making me think of what the author is trying to convey. Its exposition of artificial intelligence (developed to much greater depth in the successors to this book) is very good, albeit coming late in this volume. The classic conflict between central control of society, and individual freedoms, is well set out, and overall it places one in the position of constantly asking "How would I react to this?" I've gone to the trouble of buying the whole quartet in hardcover, as I know that these are books I will be re-reading until I die. Great work!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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. Fireball is run by its founder, Guthrie, who was born in the 20th century. Guthrie's brain was scanned into a computer, so that he could manage the company from a robot body indefinitely. A second copy of his brain was made so that he could participate in an exploration mission to Alpha Centauri.

As the story opens the left-wing North American government decides to crack down on Fireball, seizing all Fireball assets within its jurisdiction. The capitalists of Fireball are, of course, more clever, efficient, and dedicated than the government's bureaucrats and goons, but the leftists have secured an advantage: they have stolen the copy of Guthrie's brain that went to Alpha Centauri and reprogrammed it to support them in their struggle against the "real" Guthrie. The first part of the novel consists largely of Guthrie's employees and friends carrying him around (he's like a hard drive or laptop that can be slotted into robot bodies when necessary), hiding him and trying to get him out of North America while the secret police, guided by his evil twin, try to hunt him down.

Harvest of Stars is ambitious and has lots of good ideas and some good scenes (I like the scenes in which people are in space ships and space suits, doing something besides talking). I am also sympathetic to Anderson's individualistic politics and his sense that life is a tragedy. But the book is just too long, and Anderson lacks the ability of the writers he praises over the course of the book, Robert Heinlein, Jack Vance, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, to get me really engaged with the story or characters, or to make me laugh, or to keep me turning pages, eager to see what happens next. I can't quite recommend this one.
11 commentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While it has been quite some time since I read Harvest of Stars, I still remember it very vividly. It is not the kind of book you can forget. The last part of the book is especially memorable. The language is vivid and poetic, the concepts mindboggling, the scale one of epic proportion...
However, when I first started reading the book, I had no idea that it would ever turn out the way it did. Not that that's necessarily always bad (I love being surprised). It's just that this book seems more like two stories rather than a single coherent tale... and the more interesting of the two stories only takes place in the last fourth of the book!
To begin with, the story starts out as a regular sci-fi adventure, with two "downloads" of Fireball Corporation's leader Anson Guthrie working against one another in a pitched battle for control (the "good" Guthrie with Fireball, of course, and the corrupted download being used by the government). There are some action sequences and chases (mostly involving Kyra, the female lead character who's actually one of the better heroines I've come across in hard SF) which take place within a fairly well realized future Earth. There's even a nice sort of space battle that happens, too. But then the conflict resolves itself rather quickly (and, might I add, anticlimactically), and then the book totally, completely, and utterly shifts gears into a wonderful story about man's life among the stars. While this was my favorite part, it felt totally unrelated to the rest of the book, came far too late in the book, and was not given nearly enough pages to realize its potential!
I liked this book, I really did. It was very ambitious, mind-boggling, entertaining, all that good stuff. However, it just didn't work well for me. I'd rather have seen Anderson write an entire novel devoted to the second plot than be misled so. Although I really enjoyed reading this, I felt like Anderson had been really unfair in holding out on us.
I've always been interested in reading the sequels to this novel, to see if he followed up on the ending like I wanted him to. Unfortunately, the books are incredibly hard to find. If it kills you not to be able to follow a saga through, you may not want to read this one, but I still say you should, even if for nothing more than the ending.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Mass Market Paperback
With North America having embraced a controlling, almost-police state that promises great advances, but delivers only repression and economic regression, the state turns hungry eyes towards the space-going Fireball Corporation. They plan on seizing Fireball’s assets, and using its expertise to deliver the utopia that their cherished philosophy never could. However, a group of Fireball loyalists, headed by cyber-entity Anson Guthrie, is on the run, determined to thwart the government’s evil plans. And, if in the course of their work they bring the whole rotten structure crashing down, so much the better!

Poul Anderson (1926-2001) is remembered as one of the giants of the sci-fi industry, and this book shows off why. I found the story to be quite gripping, and I really like his view of the not-so-far-off-future. And as for the politics, would the people of North America ever embrace a philosophy that promised a utopian future delivered through government control? Oh yeah.

The one fly in this ointment is the bothersome way that the Lunarians talk – like characters out of a Shakespeare play. But, as for me, I did not find it to be all that distracting. No, I found this to be a very interesting book, one that really held my interest from start to finish – I highly recommend this book!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
on December 31, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In the distant future the world is a different place. The Avantists, a far-left, totalitarian government controls North America, attempting to "perfect" humans based on the teachings of dead philosopher who claims humans must join machine intelligence to achieve their future. Fireball Corporation, a gigantic organization with a more libertarian outlook on life stands at odds with the Avantists, until the Avantists manage to steal a copy of the founder of Fireball, Anson Guthrie, who is physically long dead but maintains full awareness as a computer download. With the real Anson Guthrie (download) trapped in North America, Fireball Corp must call on it's best and brightest to smuggle him out of the country and back into space where he can re-take control of his corporation. However, to make it to safety he'll have to outsmart his other self, now reprogrammed by the Avantists before his duplicate can take total control. Err...and then, depending on how you look at it, there's the beginning of a 2nd book or a REALLY long epilogue.

Harvest of Stars is presented in three section. The first two are part of a continuous story that details getting the real Anson Guthrie out of Avantist clutches and back out into space, and the fallout of doing so. I thought this part of the book was excellent, full of exciting moments, plotting, scheming and skin-of-your-teeth escapes. Even during the excitement, Anderson can be a bit wordy, never using a five letter word when a 14-letter world will due and his sentence structures, while often beautifully descriptive can run on with an extreme of adjectives, making the whole book feel longer than necessary. However, Anderson does an excellent job of developing interesting political factions and characters, and there's a sense of real world-building. This is a future that can be envisioned with characters that seem appropriate to the world they live in and the niches they occupy.

Oddly, after the first two sections of the book, we've pretty much resolved the main plot line and this is where things broke down a bit for me. Based on the actions Fireball must take, and the fallout of securing the real Anson Guthrie, the world government turns against them and Guthrie and his cohorts set about making a real escape from Earth and it's politics - by building several ark ships to take them to a habitable planet orbiting Alpha/Beta Centauri. In the first two sections of the book, the plot takes places over a few weeks time but in section three things move by decades, taking us through the adventures of the Fireball colonists, along with inserts from what's going on on Earth, where the Avantist philosophy has prevailed in a somewhat less draconian manner, allowing for the joining of humans and true machine artificial intelligence.

I felt like part three was essentially a separate book. With a dramatic change of pace and essentially starting a new plot, I'm curious why this was made a part of Harvest of Stars at all. It's interesting to read the reviews because some reviewers (like me) found the first two parts of the book good and the last an odd, super-long epilogue while others thought the book really didn't get going until part three. I know Harvest of Stars is part of a larger series so perhaps part three was needed to set up the future books but, while I still found it enjoyable, I found it anti-climatic compared to the first two parts, but regardless, Harvest of Stars is worth the read.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoSending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
     
 
Customers who viewed this also viewed
Starfarers
Starfarers by Poul Anderson (Mass Market Paperback - October 15, 1999)

Harvest the Fire
Harvest the Fire by Poul Anderson (Hardcover - Oct. 1995)

Time Patrol
Time Patrol by Poul Anderson (Mass Market Paperback - February 1, 2006)
$6.57
 
     

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.

Your Recently Viewed Items and Featured Recommendations 
 

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.