Conn Maxwell was raised on the planet of Poictesme, home base of the Third Fleet-Army Force during the System States War. After the war, the soldiers went home, leaving the planet dotted with abandoned bases and equipment. However, one piece of equipment has yet to have been found: Merlin, the military’s rumored super-computer--a computer so powerful that it could solve any problem. Life will be good once Merlin is found.
And so, Conn is sent to Terra to study computers and learn the location of Merlin. Well, Conn’s back with the knowledge: Merlin only ever did exist in rumor. But Poictesme is rotting away, its inhabitants apathetic, sitting and waiting for Merlin to come along and solve their problems for them. So, Conn needs something to get Poictesme moving again, he need’s Merlin!
This book is another masterpiece by that under appreciated master of science fiction, H. Beam Piper. The story is great, with an excellent mix of adventure and suspense. In fact, the surprise ending will throw anyone for a loop. I really loved this book, and I highly recommend it to everyone!
I must admit one thing, though. The author did somewhat date the book, with computers that only communicate in taped-in machine code, and scientists who use slide-rules. But, if you are willing to suspend disbelief a little extra, you will be rewarded with a great read. So, get this book!
With the transition of much of H. Beam Piper's work into the public domain publishers like Wildside Press have finally begun to bring Piper's work back into print and for that fans of Piper owe them a debt of gratitude. This novel, set in Piper's Terrohuman Future History (and oddly issued under its original title--Piper preferred The Cosmic Computer), is one of his best. Poictesme (pronounced "pwa-tem") is a backwater planet, its economy crashed in the aftermath of an interstellar civil war, its surface dotted with known and unknown installations from the war. Conn Maxwell, freshly returned from computer studies on Terra (the non-miniaturized technology here will make some readers stumble), leads an exciting search for the fabled lost supercomputer, Merlin, that helped to win the war. In an adventure that takes us across the planet and into the local solar system Conn and his colleagues encounter pirates, Merlin-worshippers, wayward robots, and saboteurs before discovering a long-kept secret that threatens all of interstellar civilization! This is an exciting, tightly-written story that showcases Piper's storytelling at its complex and intricate best.