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Harvest of Stars
     

Harvest of Stars

4.5 4
by Poul Anderson
 

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The virtual persona of a long-dead visionary entrepreneur threatens to incite a revolution from space that could topple Earth’s powerful and repressive religious-technological dictatorship in this ingenious science fiction classic

In the future, individual freedom is a thing of the past. North America is a police state controlled by the Avantist

Overview

The virtual persona of a long-dead visionary entrepreneur threatens to incite a revolution from space that could topple Earth’s powerful and repressive religious-technological dictatorship in this ingenious science fiction classic

In the future, individual freedom is a thing of the past. North America is a police state controlled by the Avantist government, a despotic, techno-religious ruling order that promises an impending transcendence for the oppressed. Space, however, remains free, thanks to Anson Guthrie’s powerful Fireball Corporation. Guthrie’s corporeal self died many generations ago, but his essence lives on, preserved forever in a computerized state that enables him to inspire his loyal employees and adherents to keep reaching for the farthest stars. But now the totalitarian enemy, led by sadistic secret policeman Enrique Sayre, has gained possession of a Guthrie download, intending to subvert it to the Avantist cause, thereby breaking Fireball’s hold on the cosmos. The corporation is doomed unless ace pilot Kyra Davis can smuggle a still-unreconstructed version of Guthrie out of enslaved America and rocket him to the moon and beyond, where Fireball’s virtual creator can attempt to stoke the flames of revolution—and change the direction of his world.
 
A truly remarkable work from one of science fiction’s all-time greats, Harvest of Stars might be the most ingenious and ambitious novel of Grand Master Poul Anderson’s acclaimed and prolific career. Thoughtful and adventurous, rich in imagination and integrity, it offers definitive proof of the seven-time Hugo Award–winning author’s unparalleled mastery in the field of speculative fiction.

Editorial Reviews

John Mort
In Anderson's big new epic, there's an audacious, visionary male, Anson Guthrie, at the center of things and a daring female, Kyra Davis, to carry out his will--all reminiscent of the last, reactionary tales of Robert Heinlein. But Anderson also factors in some of the staples of cyberpunk: virtual reality (there's a delightful sequence with Davis and John Carter flying over Barsoom) and the notion that corporations can become more powerful than governments. What Anderson offers is a history of the future, from our present until humankind has settled the stars. In "our" present, there are the stirrings of two great movements: Guthrie's Fireball, an Ecuadorian corporation set up to do business in space, and Avantism, a massive cult of rationality resulting from the discovery of a set of equations that purport to explain everything. Centuries later--in a mostly Spanish-speaking "North American Union"--the two movements have reached a historical impasse. Avantism is attempting to bring every "incorrect" element--such as Mormonism and Islam--under control, while Fireball is attempting to flee Earth entirely. Long before, Guthrie had downloaded himself into a computer; now he makes "real" appearances to guide Davis in their escape to the stars. The Avantists have cloned Guthrie, however, and so he faces his precise self as an adversary--in effect, he leads both the Avantists and Fireball. And still another Guthrie explores, with robots, a remote planet--a new Earth. A complex novel, indeed, simply boiling with ideas--and remarkable because, unlike Heinlein, Anderson is able to entertain the merits of completely opposite schemes: much of Avantism makes good sense; Fireball isn't perfect. A grand meditation.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781504024457
Publisher:
Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Publication date:
12/08/2015
Series:
Harvest of Stars , #1
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
544
Sales rank:
165,385
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Harvest of Stars


By Poul Anderson

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1993 Trigonier Trust
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-2445-7



CHAPTER 1

Her chance was one in seven, unless the ghost lay at none of his old lairs. Then it would be zero, and finding him become a race against his enemies. Kyra more than half hoped that she, at least, would draw blank. Beyond Earth she dealt with vastness, vacuum, sometimes violence, but she had never been quarry. Por favor, let her simply and honestly report that Guthrie wasn't here, and return to space.

Nerve stiffened. She had given troth.

Besides, if the task did fall on her, with any luck it shouldn't prove dangerous. She'd merely be a rider on crowded public carriers. Nobody ought to suspect that she bore Fireball's lord. If somehow the hunters learned she had visited Erie-Ontario Integrate, there were ready answers to whatever questions they might ask. The first several years of her life had passed in Toronto. How natural that she spend a short groundside leave taking a look at childhood scenes. Nor would she have to respond personally. By that time, supposing the occasion arose at all, she and Guthrie would be on the far side of the sky.

It tingled in her. She, his rescuer!

Maybe. Whatever happened, she'd better keep a cool head and a casual bearing. First concentrate on traffic. Scores of little three-wheeled cycles like hers wove and muttered their way among hundreds of pedestrians. On most the canopies were deployed, nearly invisible, shields against the weather. She had left her bubble folded, in an irrational wish to be free, today, of even such slight confinement. Nothing larger was allowed on this street, but vans threw their noise and shadows down off the monorail overhead. Now and then a flitter went whistling above them. No matter how hard the times, here the megalopolis churned.

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. It struck through Kyra's hapi coat. Her blood welcomed the sharpness, which cut away part of the stench and claustrophobia.

Had this sector gone hellward in the past couple of decades, or was memory just softening itself? She wasn't sure. Her parents had seldom brought her east of the lakes. Whatever the truth, she ought not to feel threatened. These were human beings, and better off than many. Yes, look, that dark woman in her sari, that caballero with bells on his wide-brimmed hat, that hombre whose brother-hood emblem and big scarred hands declared him a manual worker, that couple who by their green garments defiantly proclaimed themselves believers in the Renewal as their grandparents had been, what harm could they do? The menace was High World, the wielders of forefront technology, money, influence — more exactly, those of the High World who in this country were the government. It sprang from a mathematical theory.

Nevertheless grimy cliffs, murky doorways, guards in shops where the windows once held more and better goods, the crowd above all, took on a nightmarishness. Was she following an asymptote, struggling closer and closer to the Blue Theta but never quite to reach it?

Abruptly she did.

Gigantic though it was, the complex had been hidden from her by the surrounding masses. Nor could she now see it as a whole. A kilometer away and well aloft, vision would have swept up walls, piers, arches, roofs, towers, a-soar in azures and whites, to the Greek letter crowning the central spire. Here she made out only height and a broad gate standing open.

It was enough. Gladness leaped.

For a moment Kyra frowned. Why these mood swings? She'd been at risk before and stayed zen. Exhaustion? It hadn't been a long drive from the tricycle rental to here. Of course, earlier she'd cabbed from Kamehameha to Honolulu, ridden the suborbital to Northwest Central, and changed maglevs twice on her way to Buffalo Station; but that was scarcely an ordeal.

Bueno, no doubt the knowledge of what was at stake had gnawed at her more than she knew. Silently reciting a peace mantra, she sought a place to park.

There. She stopped her motor, dismounted, wheeled the machine over to the rack, inserted a coin, and keyed the lock to her thumbprint Fifty centos paid for an hour, which should be plenty. If not, she had cash to release it Because rain appeared possible, she sprang the canopy loose. No sense in risking wet saddles, control board, and luggage box, when she might depart with such a cargo — and maybe a passenger — that discomfort would distract her attention from danger.

No time to gas off, either, though she'd better not make herself conspicuous by haste. She passed through the crowd and the gate into the court.

Tumult faded away. Again she felt naked. The area wasn't deserted. People went to and fro, tenants, personnel, shoppers, visitors. Traffic seemed so sparse, though, so subdued. Maybe, Kyra thought, it was the contrast with the scene outside, not only thronged but alien — poor, primitive, powerless, the Low World that everywhere on Earth underlay the high technology yet had no real part in it.

Or maybe the magnificence here simply overwhelmed its occupants. Mosaic pavements surrounded fountains, gardens whose flowers and shrubs were the work of genetic artists, an outsize holo presenting a ballet recorded on a low-weight level of L5. Against the curtain wall, ten stories of arcades lifted to a transparent roof. Sunbeams lanced past clouds. Beyond them stood the wan daylight Moon, like a homeland glimpsed in dream. Yes, she thought, right now the very Lunarians were in her mind more akin to her than these fellow citizens.

She bit her lip and strode on to the keep. The foyer at this entrance was almost empty. A maintainor rolled by on an errand, but a metal zodiac in the ceiling had gone dull for lack of polishing. Two men sat in loungers. One, sepia-hued, wore a drab coverall and smoked a cigarette. Kyra caught a whiff of cheap tobacco-marijuana blend and reflected with a moment's wryness that however well or ill the Avantists had succeeded in controlling the ideas of North Americans, the vices had usually eluded them. The other man, robed, was totally hairless, his skin deep gold, his features ... peculiar? A metamorph, his heritage left over from days when in certain jurisdictions on Earth experimentation with DNA was almost unfettered? They didn't speak, probably they weren't acquainted, nor did they watch the multiceiver. It showed a woman exhorting a youth group to learn and live by correct principles and report anyone who deviated to the authorities so they could enlighten that person.

Kyra shivered a bit. She had mostly dwelt apart from such things. Snatches came to her on newscasts, in written accounts, from the lips of witnesses. Sometimes they struck hard. (A child taken from his parents and they charged with abuse because they had repeatedly told him not to believe what he heard in school about Xuan's great insights. An importer, who made her objections to various regulations conspicuous in foreign media, harassed to bankruptcy by the tax examiners and then convicted of tax evasion. A documentary on a rehabilitation center, the blank smiles of the inmates and the bland denial that they were there for political reasons: "This nation is in the process of transcending all politics.") Always, though, she told herself that it was unfortunate but it couldn't spread farther nor last much longer. Today she had seen, felt, smelled a piece of the reality.

At the directory board she keyboarded "Robert E. Lee" instead of speaking the name. Ridiculous; did she think yonder men were secret agents listening? Bueno, she wasn't used to this game. The screen displayed "D-1567," which she already knew, and directions for getting there. Her memory being excellent, she didn't pay for a printout, but went straight to the fahrweg and signalled. The door retracted. She entered. Having no need of a cuddler to help her absorb the slight shock of acceleration, she stepped immediately from strip to strip until she was on the fastest.

The ride took a bad ten minutes, with three changes, including the vertical. To keep tension from ratcheting within her, she observed other folk as they got on or off or traveled along. They were less varied than what she had seen in cities elsewhere on Earth or on the streets here. Their garb ran to the same kinds of coat and trousers, tunics and tights, or unisuits, conservatively colored. Even fancy clothes, a man's ruffled blouse, a woman's iridon dress, had little of the flamboyant about them. Men were beardless and the haircuts of either sex seldom reached below the earlobes. For twenty-three years, now, among High Worlders and many Low Worlders of the North American Union, conformity had been a requirement of success. More and more, it was becoming a requirement of survival.

She noticed exceptions. Three boys flaunted scalplocks, feathers, and fringed garments. Several bearded men in headcloths accompanied women in veils and muffling ankle-length gowns. Also bearded were a pair of obvious Chasidim and a man displaying a pectoral cross whom she guessed was an Orthodox priest. That one talked with a burly fellow in blue, who wore a cap badged by a silver two-headed eagle and a truncheon at his belt. Most likely he was a constable of a tenants' association. In a complex this size, whole blocks of units could be the sites of special communities, internally autonomous — not unlike Fireball, Kyra thought, except that in North America the present government tolerated their existence only reluctantly, because it wasn't feasible to abolish them, and tried to keep a close eye on their doings.

Nevertheless it was a shock when another large man boarded. His outfit was tan, crisply form-fitting, a sidearm at the hip. An armband bore the infinity symbol of Avantism. Silence spread around him like waves when a stone falls into a pool Officers of the Security Police seldom came here in uniform.

Did his glower single Kyra out? Her pulse quickened. Dryness prickled her tongue. What a stupid oversight it had been, hopping to the mainland in bright tropical jacket, shorts, sandals. Even in Hawaii, she remembered, such were frowned on nowadays. She'd paid little attention, for Earthside she mainly associated with company people on company property.

She braced herself. She wasn't doing anything illegal, yet. Her identicard showed she was a citizen, nominally.

Scant comfort. A foreigner, arrested, would have more rights, more help to appeal for, than she would.

The Sepo got off. Kyra let out a breath. For an instant, she leaned on the cuddler beside her. Nonconformers looked at each other and, bit by bit, resumed their conversations.

The telltale flashed that she was approaching her destination. She crossed the strips, signalled jerkily, went through the door while it was still withdrawing, and caught the safety rail lest she stumble.

Anger flared. This was nonsense! She was a spacecraft pilot, able to handle herself at anything from zero g to ten. She wasn't aged or sick, she was twenty-eight years old and her genome promised her another century or so of robust health if she heeded her medical program. All right, she was on a job new to her, possibly hazardous, but that was no excuse for blinkiness. Get on with it, girl.

Nobody else was in the corridor. She jogged through its pastels to the door marked 1567. The exercise warmed blood and spirit. Odds were that nothing waited for her, and that she'd return directly to the spaceport. She grinned. After this much fidgeting, what a letdown. She touched the bell plate.

At the station she had used her informant to make a quick, anonymous audio call, verifying that Lee was at home. He ought to be; these rooms were his main workplace as well as his quarters. When she now got no response, misgiving wakened again. Had he gone out? She dismissed the emotion. Doubtless he wanted to scan her first. It was a natural precaution under the circumstances. She straightened, shaped a smile, and hoped he enjoyed the view.

Men had told her she was handsome. She agreed, without letting it go to her head. Tall, broad-shouldered for a woman, otherwise slender but well outfitted fore and aft, she cut her sandy hair in a Dutch bob to frame hazel eyes, prominent cheekbones, straight nose, full mouth. When she spoke, her voice was a bit husky. "Saludos, consorte. I'm Fireball too, my name is Kyra Davis, and I've got urgent company business."

The door slid aside. "Come in," Lee said. He saw the surprise she failed to hide, and the strained tone yielded to a chuckle. "I reckon you haven't seen a picture of me. With a name like mine — and as a matter of fact, my folks live in Roanoke, where I was born. But Lee is a good old Chinese name."

He was short, slim, clad with the carelessness of a bachelor who need not keep up appearances at work. His features were boyish, though Kyra didn't believe a professional intuitionist could be much younger than she. As she entered, nervousness resurged and made him talk on, pointlessly: "The family's been over here for a couple of hundred years, genes were getting pretty diluted, but when the refugees arrived in Jihad times, some were ethnic Chinese from Southeast Asia and three or four of them married into my lineage. Since then, bueno, you know how people tend to stick close to those they know and can trust — endogamy's gotten common —"

He stopped and swallowed. Kyra sympathized. "'Fraid you might have said too much?" she answered. "Don't worry, I'm not a psychomonitor, not any kind of police. I'm Fireball, I told you. Here, let me prove it." From a coat pocket she drew her card case, to offer him the company ident that stood for so much more than any government issue.

"Yes, gracias," he mumbled. "Excuse me. I've got to — Excuse me. No offense meant, but ... if you'd follow me, por favor?" He led her toward an inner door.

On the way she observed her surroundings. This living room was unpretentiously furnished, cluttered with souvenirs, keepsakes, a chessboard, a bookcase holding codices that could well be heirlooms. Pictures on the walls, not activated at the moment, were probably of kinfolk and the hills of his homeland. A large viewscreen gave an outlook from the topmost spire, just below the theta. That scene was heartcatching. The integrate became a geometrical wilderness of pinnacles and green biospaces, glimmering away on every hand till it lost itself in the hazy air, as fantastic as anything at Luna or L-5. Westward she spied the giant leap of waters in Niagara Park and, dim beyond them, certain towers she remembered. North and south she made out the lakes, dull silvery sheenings in the mist. She decided she liked Robert E. Lee.

The next room was cramful of equipment. It included three big multiceivers, as many different computer terminals, and a vivifer that must be for full-sensory input, not entertainment. A molecular scanner quickly verified that her ident was genuine and had not been tampered with. The informant on his wrist was a fancy one indeed; maybe the company had supplied it, considering what it must have cost. It checked not only her thumbs but her retinae, and confirmed that the patterns matched those in the card.

Lee smiled apologetically. "This was required, you understand," he said. "We scarcely need to take a DNA sample! Now, uh, consorte Davis, what can I do for you?"

Kyra's heart lurched. She must gulp before she could utter the question. "Do you have Guthrie?"

He stared. "Huh?"

"Anson Guthrie. The jefe. Are you hiding him?"

"Why — uh —"

"Listen. I've proven myself to you, but if I have to go further, muy bien." The story tumbled from her. "Washington Packer sent me. You know who he is? Director of Kamehameha Spaceport. He called several of us into his office earlier today. He told us Guthrie's been in the Union since shortly after the government occupied Fireball's North American headquarters. He was smuggled in and squirreled away so he could be on hand to mastermind our strategy on the spot. It wasn't really a gyroceph thing to do, Packer said. We needed to react fast and decisively. International communications are too likely tapped, but we have secure lines inside the country.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Harvest of Stars by Poul Anderson. Copyright © 1993 Trigonier Trust. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Larry Bond
A vivid, fast-paced novel on a grand scale. Anderson's mix of action, colorful characters and fascinating concepts make Harvest of Stars a great read.
Larry Niven
Harvest of Stars is an extraordinarily powerful novel because of the extent to which Paul Anderson immerses you in the future. His men and women take on a life of their own. They have their own dreams and lifestyles, entertainment and agendas, goals and paths, quite apart from the author's. Paul brings them visibly to life. Perhaps what really impressed me was the book's wealth of detail. Paul puts us into a whole new world. Paul has traced a thousand trends, pulled them tightly together, and created a masterpiece.

Meet the Author

Poul Anderson (1926–2001) grew up bilingual in a Danish American family. After discovering science fiction fandom and earning a physics degree at the University of Minnesota, he found writing science fiction more satisfactory. Admired for his “hard” science fiction, mysteries, historical novels, and “fantasy with rivets,” he also excelled in humor. He was the guest of honor at the 1959 World Science Fiction Convention and at many similar events, including the 1998 Contact Japan 3 and the 1999 Strannik Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, he has received the Gandalf, Seiun, and Strannik, or “Wanderer,” Awards. A founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he became a Grand Master, and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

In 1952 he met Karen Kruse; they married in Berkeley, California, where their daughter, Astrid, was born, and they later lived in Orinda, California. Astrid and her husband, science fiction author Greg Bear, now live with their family outside Seattle.
Poul Anderson (1926–2001) grew up bilingual in a Danish American family. After discovering science fiction fandom and earning a physics degree at the University of Minnesota, he found writing science fiction more satisfactory. Admired for his “hard” science fiction, mysteries, historical novels, and “fantasy with rivets,” he also excelled in humor. He was the guest of honor at the 1959 World Science Fiction Convention and at many similar events, including the 1998 Contact Japan 3 and the 1999 Strannik Conference in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Besides winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards, he has received the Gandalf, Seiun, and Strannik, or “Wanderer,” Awards. A founder of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, he became a Grand Master, and was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

In 1952 he met Karen Kruse; they married in Berkeley, California, where their daughter, Astrid, was born, and they later lived in Orinda, California. Astrid and her husband, science fiction author Greg Bear, now live with their family outside Seattle.

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Harvest of Stars 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
FairbrookWingates More than 1 year ago
The most amazing book I've ever read. Each read through, about five years apart, has given me something more. This book crosses time and space in its scope while never loosing its human characters or reader. The best of sci-fi from a worthy author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've gone around writing reviews of my top five SciFi books ever (if it helps give me some credibility, the other four are 'Dune' 'Hyperion' 'Ender's Game' and 'The Moon is a Harsh MIstress') Anyway, this is a huge book, filled with international intrigue, space combat, fugitives, oppressive governments, two types of genetically engineered intelligent species, and nonstop action. At the center of the novel is the huge presense of Anton Guthrie, a man who's so big and full of life that even death can't stop him, and a woman space pilot who works for his company. You will not be able to put this book down. There are some (rather weak) sequels, but this one is brilliant.