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The Fleet of Stars [Mass Market Paperback]

Poul Anderson
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Poul Anderson marks the 50th year of his science fiction writing career with the conclusion of his Harvest of Stars series (Boat of a Million Years, Harvest of Stars, The Stars are Also Fire, Harvest the Fire). While the writing is leisurely, the action bounces between the solar system and the stars as Anson Guthrie returns to action once again (or at least his downloaded consciousness does). It seems the artificial intelligence that half support and more than half control the Terran system are hiding something from humanity, and Guthrie is determined to find out what that is. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In the fourth installment of Anderson's "Harvest of Stars" series (e.g., Harvest the Fire, LJ 10/15/95), Anson Guthrie returns from the distant planet Amaterasu to investigate fragmented rumors about what solar lenses have found in deep space. On Earth he joins Fenn, a former Earth policeman, and his Terran girlfriend, Kinna Ronay, to learn why the cybercosm thinks it's too dangerous for humans to resume space exploration. This hard-science novel effectively explores the relationships between men and machines, cultural differences, and rebellion. Highly recommended for sf collections.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The fourth novel in his Harvest of Stars series shows that, after decades of extraordinary brilliance, Anderson is still the sf master he has long been acknowledged to be. Following the career of Anson Guthrie (in various manifestations) in a luminously realized future universe, the story centers on the relationship of and conflict between humans and the artificial intelligences devised--all too well--to aid them. The Teramind (defined in the list of dramatis personae as "the apex of the cybercosm") and its associated sophotects (Anderson has always been an onomastic whiz) protect the inhabitants of Earth and other planets so well that they have lost the spirit of enterprise that keeps them lively and human. Guthrie and his confederates must discover the nature and motives of the Teramind and win their own, human place in the universe. That universe is every bit as compelling as those Anderson created in his earlier future histories; meanwhile, his storytelling gifts have matured to fit his recent sweeping themes. Dennis Winters --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Fourth addition to Anderson's future-history series (Harvest the Fire, 1995, etc.). Far out in space, Terran colonists on planet Amaterasu, led by reincarnated hero Anson Guthrie, have developed a planetary consciousness or Life Mother. Lunarians occupy Alpha Centauri, and, back in the solar system, the remote asteroid Proserpina. Earth, the Moon, and Mars are benevolently ruled by an aggregate of machine intelligences, the cybercosm, and by its ultimate manifestation, the Teramind. News reaches Amaterasu that the Teramind, using the sun as a gravitational lens, has made some spectacular discovery and then suppressed it--and also sabotaged the Proserpinans' attempts to make a gravitational lens of their own. So a computer download of Guthrie must travel to the solar system to investigate. Hundreds of pages later--``plot'' is too definite a word to describe the goings-on--young ex-policeman Fenn successfully raids the data-receiving station on Mars; the data seems to reveal the presence of ancient machine civilizations far off in space. But skeptical old Guthrie doesn't believe it and organizes his own raid on the lens's focus. This information shows conclusively that no such civilizations exist: The Teramind planned the deception as a means of controlling the humans in its charge. Flabby and meandering: an average entry in this very disappointing series. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Any new book from Poul Anderson is a cause for rejoicing, and Fleet of Stars in particular deserves celebration. Anderson has produced more milestones in contemporary science fiction and fantasy than any one man is entitled to."--Stephen Donaldson

"Fleet of Stars is a grand story that gets bigger and better with every page. Poul Anderson has poured over fifty years of skill and talent into a grandmaster-class story."--Larry Bond

About the Author

The bestselling author of such classic novels as Brain Wave and The Boat of a Million Years, Poul Anderson won just about every award the science fiction and fantasy field has to offer. He has won multiple Hugos and Nebulas, the John W. Campbell Award, The Locus Poll Award, the Skylark Award, and the SFWA Grandmaster Award for Lifetime Achievement. His recent books include Harvest of Stars, The Stars are also On Fire, Operation Chaos, Operation Luna, Genesis, Mother of Kings, and Going for Infinity, a collection and retrospective of his life's work. Poul Anderson lived in Orinda, California where he passed away in 2001.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

In the ancient faith of her people, Amaterasu was the Sun Goddess, from whom flowed the light that gives life. The discoverers of a world far and strange named it for her because they hoped that someday their kind would make it blossom. The explorers that first went there were not human. Nor were the pioneers that followed, but they wrought mightily, until at last this Amaterasu could begin to nurture a people.
One evening about fifty Earth-years later, Anson Guthrie and Demeter Daughter left Port Kestrel, seeking solitude. They could have talked at home, but the news he bore would not let him sit quietly, and she was always glad of open sky. The little town--boats, bridges, brightly colored buildings--soon fell behind them, screened off by its trees except for a slender communications mast. A path took them along a fork of the Lily River, beneath whispery poplars, to the seashore, where it bent south.
Plantations and industry lay northward. Here was parkland, turf starred with dandelions and harebells, down to a strip of sand. Beyond lapped the Azurian Ocean. On several islets grass had taken hold, shivering pale in the wind. The sun had gone so low that haze turned its disk golden-orange. A broken road of brightness ran from it over the wavelets, casting glitter to either side. They were purple in the distance, tawny closer to hand. Here and there swayed dark patches, native thalassophyte; but overhead, in heights still blue, shone the wings of three gulls.
On the left, hills rolled upward, shadowful, their groves and greennesses drenched with the long light, houses scattered across them, windows shining. Air blew mild, murmurous, not every daytime fragrance departed. To someone newly come from Earth it would have felt mountaintop-thin; but then, weight was only nine-tenths, and besides, to Guthrie, Earth was a remote memory; to Demeter Daughter, scarcely even that. Elsewhere on the fourth planet of Beta Hydri, glaciers reared above deserts where machines and microbes toiled to broaden the domain of life. On this big subtropical island Tamura, Amaterasu Mother had won her victory and reigned in peace.
Or so it had seemed.
Man and woman walked awhile along the shore, silent, before Guthrie cleared his throat. "Well--" he began. It trailed off into the wind.
She regarded him. At forty-one biological years--seventy-two of Earth's--he remained large, burly, vigorously striding; but furrows crossed the rugged features, the once reddish hair tossed scant and white, the eyes had faded from steel to smoke. They squinted ahead of him as keenly as ever, though, and the bass voice had lost no force. In contrast to her graceful, colorful tunic and cloak, sandals on her feet, he wore just a coverall and his battered old hiking boots.
"Is what you have to tell hard for you?" she asked.
He shrugged. "Not exactly." He flashed her half a grin. "Which you must well know, sweetheart," after this lifetime together, and all the centuries and embodiments before. His gaze lingered on her: tall, slim, hazel-eyed, high-cheeked face marked by age mainly in deepening of the amber complexion and graying of the black, shoulder-length hair. "No, I started to speak," he said, "and then suddenlike got to remembering." Another coast, another woman, but she had been very young, a girl, and he was in his first life, a mortal like her, and it was on Earth. "No importe. Before your time."
Her hand closed on his for a moment, as much as sizes allowed. They walked onward. A massive live oak and a garnet-leaved Japanese maple spread their canopies ahead, some meters from the strand. A squirrel scampered up a bole and two crows took flight, hoarsely cawing. "Yon should be a good spot for us," Guthrie suggested.
His companion nodded. "Yes. You can really feel the presence of the Mother here, can't you?"
"Think she'll listen in?"
"Probably not. She has the whole world to look after, and especially now, with the ecological balance in New India crashing--" It was always precarious, when life sought a foothold in realms that had been wholly barren, or that at most held a few tiny, primitive native organisms. Nothing less than an integration of that life itself, globally, through a single awareness, could make it flourish in a span humanly, rather than geologically, meaningful.
He deferred to her intuition. She had, in sense, herself been Demeter Mother. If now, in the flesh, her memories of that existence were dim, fragmentary, like scraps of dream, nevertheless they were a dower of something beyond human ken; and this would be true of every De-meter Daughter, for as long as the race went starfaring.
"Okay, we'll tell her later," Guthrie said, deliberately prosaic. "And everybody else. But I did want you and me to talk first."
They settled down under the oak, side by side, leaning back against its sun-warmed roughness, their vision turned west overseas. Brighter but more distant than Sol from Earth, therefore smaller in heaven, Beta Hydri sank out of sight with a quickness increased by the planet's twenty-hour rotation period. A cloud bank on that horizon burned red and molten gold. The gulls skimmed low, mewing.
"It happened while I was gone, didn't it?" the woman prompted. She had been on the Northland continent, where nature was well-established on the eastern seaboard, visiting one of their sons, his wife, and especially the grandchildren. Guthrie had been too engaged with his latest project, a shipyard, to go along.
"Obviously," he replied.
"A message from Centauri, no?" she asked softly.
"Huh?" he exclaimed, startled. "Did the Mother tell you?"
She shook her head. "I said I don't believe she's been paying close attention to secure places like this. In any case, if she did know but saw you wanted to keep it secret awhile, she would have likewise. You'd have your good reasons."
Reasons that Amaterasu Mother might well appreciate better than he did himself, Guthrie thought. Her vastness and diversity, growing and growing across this world--
As often in the past, the idea flitted through him that the name of his lady should, strictly speaking, be Amaterasu Daughter. Her incarnation, like his and that of every other first-generation colonist, had been the work of the Mother here. Demeter Mother dwelt light-years hence, back at Alpha Centauri, abiding her doom. But…on that planet, his beloved had first come to being; and in his mind, through every lifetime they might ever share, she would always be Demeter Daughter.
"I was guessing," she went on. "But I do know the general situation." She smiled. "And I've gotten to know you rather well, querido."
The endearment touched his inmost spirit. The Kyra Davis part of her had used it, long and long ago.
He put on gruffness. "You know me too damn well, I sometimes think." He returned her smile. "But I wouldn't swap."
"Nor I," she murmured.
They were silent for a bit. The sunset flared brighter. A flight of cormorants winged across it.
"The news is troublous," she said. He had never quite wanted to ask her whether such occasional turns of speech came from her reading, wider than his despite his being centuries her senior, or from some deeper well-spring.
"Yeah," he admitted. Holding to his own style, as a kind of defense: "Not that we should keep it under the hatch for long--the communication team and now us two, I mean. I swore 'em to secrecy after they'd played it for me, but only till I'd've had a chance to palaver with you. The people have a right to know, and don't they know that!" Rambunctious lot, he thought, as free folk needed to be if they were to stay free.
"But if it's that…critical…shouldn't you have brought in the Mother immediately?"
"I wasn't sure. How much can she have to say about a business like this? You, you're human," in her way, as he in his. Mortal, she had the wisdom of mortality, together with as much of Demeter Mother's as a mere brain could hold. Amaterasu, however--
"You see, this may be more of a problem for us than for the, the gods," he continued awkwardly. "I can't tell how she'll take it. Maybe not even you can. Anyhow, we've been partners for quite a spell, you and me, haven't we?"
"Yes." Quite a spell. In these bodies, brought forth as youthful adults on this world. In the downloads before them, who had helped in the hard early work until a fraction of the planet was ready for flesh and blood, and who before then had made the voyage from Alpha Centauri. In the earlier bodies on Demeter, his built from a genome, hers from two others, an ideal, and a dream. Before then, for hundreds of years, in his first download and in Demeter Mother, whose mind had grown out of the minds of Kyra Davis and Eiko Tamura. Before then, afar on Earth, when his download had worked and fought and hoped together with those two women. And even before then, for into Demeter Mother had also gone his memories of Juliana, the wife of his first lifetime, when he was only a man, born and maturing and dying in the ordinary way.
"Okay," he said. "You're right, we've gotten a message from Centauri," more than a quarter century after it started out. "The Lunarians there, they've heard from Earth--from Sol, at least."
She caught her breath. The sunset light filled suddenly widened eyes. "O-o-oh. Finally, finally," she whispered. "I'd believed that-never--"
"Reckon we all did, huh?" he growled. "Our kind back at Earth, Luna, Mars, swallowed up--or whatever happened to them--taken up by the machines, not interested in us anymore. The Lunarian race maybe extinct, aside from those who moved to Centauri. Someday, someday we might go back and find out, but it's such a long way and we've got so much to do out here."
She seized his arm. "What has happened?"
"Sorry for rambling. But what we've received is hardly a story, it's more a history, knotted and tangled, and the laser beam conveyed little better than pieces of it, and I don't claim to savvy what the devil's been going on, not really." Guthrie paused, marshaling words. "Well, for openers, five-six hundred Earth-years back, the...
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