The Stars Are Also Fire

The Stars Are Also Fire

by Poul Anderson

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504024464
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 12/08/2015
Series: Harvest of Stars , #2
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 312,916
File size: 2 MB

About 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.

Read an Excerpt

The Stars are Also Fire


By Poul Anderson

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1994 Trigonier Trust
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-2446-4


CHAPTER 1

Lilisaire, Wardress of Mare Orientale and the Cordillera, at Zamok Vysoki, summons the captain Ian Kenmuir, wheresoever he be. Come, I have need of you.

From Luna her message rode carrier beams through relays circling millions of kilometers apart, until it reached the communications center on Ceres. Then the hunt began.

Out here in the deeps, vessels seldom kept unbroken contact with any traffic control station. The computer on the big asteroid knew only that Kenmuir's ship had been active among the moons of Jupiter these past seventeen months. It flashed a question to its twin on Himalia, tenth from the planet. Shunted through another relay, the answer spent almost an hour in passage. The ship had left the Jovian realm eleven daycycles earlier, inbound for a certain minor body.

Given the flight plan Kenmuir had registered, calculating the direction of a laser beam that would intercept him was the work of a microsecond or less. It required no awareness, merely power over numbers. Within that vast net which was the cybercosm, robotic functions like this were more automatic than were the human brainstem's regulation of breath and heartbeat. The minds of the machines were elsewhere.

Yet the cybercosm was always One.

The ship received. "A message for the captain," she said.

Kenmuir and Valanndray were playing double chaos. Fractals swirled through the viewtank before them, in every color and in shapes beyond counting. Guided more by intuition than reason, fingers stroked keyboards. Forms changed, flowed, swept toward a chosen attractor, tumbled away as the opponent threw in a new function. Caught in their game, the players breathed quickly and shallowly of air that they had ordered to be cool, with a tang of pine. They ignored the cabin-wide audiovisual recording at their backs, a view from the Andes, rock and sky and snowdrift on a shrill wind.

The ship spoke.

"Halt play!" snapped Kenmuir. The contest for a stable configuration froze in place.

He spent a moment beneath Valanndray's gaze before he decided, "I'll take it at the console. No offense meant. It may be a private matter." Belatedly he realized that the apology would have gone better had he expressed it in Lunarian.

He felt relieved when his passenger replied, in Anglo at that, "Understood. Secrecy is precious by scarcity, nay?" If the tone was a bit sardonic, no harm. The two men had been getting along reasonably well, but tension was bound to rise on a long mission, and more than once they had skirted a fight. After all, they were not of the same species.

Or maybe that saved them, Kenmuir thought flittingly, as he had often thought before. A pair of Terran males like him, weeks or months on end with no other company, would either have to become soul-brothers or else risk flying at one another's throats. A pair of Lunarians like Valanndray — well, alterations made in ancient genes had not brought forth any race of saints. But neither of this team found his companion growing maddeningly predictable.

Kenmuir doubted that their occasional encounters with sophotects had soothed them. An inorganic intelligence — a machine with consciousness, if you wanted to think of it in those terms — was too alien to them both.

He shrugged the reflection off and walked out into the passageway.

The ship murmured around him, sounds of ventilation, chemical recycling, self-maintenance of the whole structure. There went no sound or shiver of acceleration; the deck was as steady beneath his feet, at one-sixth of Earth weight, as if he were on the Moon. The corridor flickered with a chromatic abstraction, Valanndray's choice. When it was Kenmuir's turn to decorate, he usually picked a scene from his native world, contemporary, historical, or fantasy.

Where his path descended, he used the fixed ladder rather than the conveyor. Anything to help himself stay in trim. The command cabin lay near the center of the spheroidal hull. Its interior displayed ambient space, a representation better than reality. Solar radiance was muted lest it blind. Star images were bright ened to overcome shipboard lighting. Unwinking, they beswarmed the dark, white, amber, coal-red, steel-blue, the galactic belt icy among them. Jupiter glowed like a lamp, the sun was a tiny disc rimmed with fire-tongues. Kenmuir settled at the main control board. "Screen the message," he ordered.

His voice sounded too loud in the encompassing silence. For an instant, bitterness woke anew. Command cabin! Control board! He told the ship where and how to go; she did the rest. And hers was a narrowly limited mind. A higher-order sophotect would not have needed anything from him. He knew of no emergency that even this craft couldn't handle by herself, unless it be something that destroyed her utterly.

His glance swung over the stars of the southern sky and came to a stop at Alpha Centauri. Longing shook him. Yonder they dwelt, the descendants of those who had followed Anson Guthrie to a new world, and so tremendous a voyage would scarcely be repeated ever again. From here, at least. Maybe their own descendants would find ways to farther suns. They must, if they were to outlive their doomed planet. But that wreck would not come for lifetimes yet, and meanwhile, meanwhile —

"Pull yourself together, old fool," Kenmuir muttered. Self-pity was contemptible. He did get to fare through space, and the worlds that swung around Sol should have grandeurs enough for any man. Let him thank Lilisaire for that.

Wryness bent his lips upward. Gratitude was irrelevant. The Lunarians had their reasons for keeping as much human staff of both races in their space operations as possible. He, Terran, served a genuine purpose, less as a transporteer who could tolerate higher accelerations than they could than as advisor, troubleshooter, partner of the engineers whom he brought to their work. A sophotect with similar capabilities wouldn't necessarily do better, he told himself fiercely; and if he depended on life-support systems, why, a machine had its requirements too.

The thoughts had flashed through him in a fraction of a second. The message grabbed his attention. Its few words rammed into him. He sat for a while dumbstruck.

Lilisaire wanted him back. At once.

He had expected some communication about the job ahead. To read it in isolation had been an impulse, irrational, a sudden desire to escape for five or ten minutes. Such feelings grew in you on a twenty-four-month tour of duty.

But Lilisaire wanted him straight back.

"Easy, lad, easy," he whispered. Put down love and lust and all other emotions entangled around her. Think. She was not calling him to her for his personal sweet sake. He could guess what the crisis might be, but not what help he might give. The matter must be grave, for her to interrupt this undertaking on which he was embarked. However mercurial some of the Lunarian magnates were, they all took their Venture most seriously. An alliance of entrepreneurs was their solitary last hope of maintaining an active presence in deep space.

Absently, as a nearly automatic accompaniment to thought, he evoked a scan of his destination. It was now about six million kilometers away. At her present rate of braking, the ship would get there in one more daycycle.

Magnified and enhanced, the image of the asteroid swam in the viewtank as a rough oblong lump, murky reddish, pocked with craters shadow-limned against harsh sunlight. Compared to the lesser Jovian moons where Valanndray, with Kenmuir's assistance, had led machines in the labor of development, this was a pygmy.

However, a robotic prospector had found resources worth extracting, not ices and organics but ferrous and actinide ores. A work gang was waiting for human direction — robots, of course, not sophotects: mindless, unaware, though versatile and adaptable. Skilled vision identified a landing field, a cluster of shelters, glints off polished metal skins.

Nearby loomed the skeletal form of a shield generator, big enough for its electrodynamic fields to fend particle radiation not merely off a spacecraft, but off an entire mining plant. Nevertheless it was small, when he compared those that had let him visit Ganymede and return alive.

A visit, and brief. The settlers there were sophotects, for only machines could function in such an environment and only machines that thought, that were aware, could cope with its often terrible surprises. In law the big inner satellites of Jupiter were territory of the World Federation Space Service. In practice they belonged to the cybercosm.

Kenmuir dismissed the recollection and stood up. His heart thudded. To be with Lilisaire again, soon, soon! Well, if his feelings were like a boy's, he could keep his words a man's. He went back to the recreation room.

Valanndray was still there, toying with orbital mechanics variations. He turned to confront the pilot. His face, fine-boned, ivory-pale, lifted ten centimeters above Kenmuir's. On this crossing he had laid flamboyancy aside and clothed his litheness in a coverall; but it was of deep-blue perlux, and phosphorescent light-points blinked in the fabric. Recorded snow blew behind him, recorded wind beneath the musical voice: "So, Captain?"

Kenmuir halted. Tall for an Earthling, he had long ceased letting Lunarian height overawe him. "A surprise. You won't like it, I'm afraid." He recited the message. Within him, it sang.

Valanndray stood motionless. "In truth, a reversal," he said at length, tonelessly. "What propose you to do?"

"Set you off with the supplies and equipment, and make for Luna. What else?"

"Abandonment, then."

"No, wait. Naturally, we'll call in and explain the situation, if they don't already know at headquarters."

The big oblique eyes narrowed. "Nay. The Federals would retrieve it and learn."

Irritation stirred. Kenmuir had simply wanted to be tactful. Their months together had given him an impression that his associate was in some ways, down below the haughtiness, quite woundable. Valanndray might have felt hurt that the other man was so ready to leave him behind.

Just the same, Kenmuir had grown fired of hearing coldly hostile remarks about the World Federation, and this one was ridiculous. Granted, Lunarians had not rejoiced when their world came back under the general government of humankind. Resentment persisted in many, perhaps most, to this day. But — name of reason! — how long before they were born had the change taken place? And their wish for "independence" was flat-out wrong. What nation-states bred while they existed, as surely as contaminated water bred sickness, had been war.

"The message went in clear because it must, if we were to read it," Kenmuir said. "We don't have cryptographic equipment aboard, do we? Very well, it's in the databases now. Who cares? If somebody does notice it, will he send for the Peace Authority? I hardly think the lady Lilisaire is plotting rebellion."

Recognizing his sarcasm, he made haste to adopt mildness: "Yes, we'll notify the Venture, though I daresay she has already. It ought to dispatch another ship and teammate for you. Within a week or two, I should imagine."

He was relieved to see no anger. Instead, Valanndray regarded the spacefarer as if studying a stranger. He saw a man drably clad, lean to the point of gauntness, with big bony hands, narrow face and jutting nose, grizzled sandy hair cut short, lines around the mouth and crow's-feet at the gray eyes. The look made Kenmuir feel awkward. He was amply decisive when coping with nature, space, machines, but when it came to human affairs he could go abruptly shy.

"The lords of the Venture will be less than glad," Valanndray said.

Kenmuir shaped a smile. "That's obvious. Upset plans, extra cost." When everything was marginal to begin with, he thought. The associated companies and colonists didn't really compete with the Space Service and its sophotects. They couldn't. What kept them going was, basically, subsidy, from the former aristocratic families and from lesser Lunarians who traded with them out of Lunarian pride. And still their enterprises were dying away, dwindling like the numbers of the Lunarians themselves....

He forced matter-of-factness: "But the lady Lilisaire, she's a power among them, maybe more than you or I know." His pulse hammered anew.

Valanndray spread his fingers. A Terran would have shrugged shoulders. "She can prevail over them, yes. Go you shall, Captain."

"I, I'm sorry," Kenmuir said.

"You are not," Valanndray retorted. "You could protest this order. But nay, go you will and at higher thrust than a single Earth gravity."

Why that grim displeasure? He and Kenmuir had shaken down into an efficient partnership, which included getting along with one another's peculiarities. A newcomer would need time to adjust. But the Earthman felt something else was underlying.

Jealousy, that Lilisaire wanted Kenmuir and not him, though Kenmuir was an alien employee and Valanndray kin to her, a member of her phyle? How well the pilot knew that tomcat Lunarian vanity; how well he had learned to steer clear of it.

Or a different kind of jealousy? Kenmuir pushed the question away. Just once had Valanndray seemed to drop an erotic hint. Kenmuir prompely changed the subject, and it arose no more. Quite possibly he had misunderstood. Who of his species had ever seen the inmost heart of a Lunarian? In any case, they had a quivira to ease them. Kenmuir did not know what pseudo-experiences Valanndray induced for himself in the dream box, nor did the Earthman talk about his own.

"If you loathe the idea, you can come back with me," he said. "You're entitled." On the Moon, obligations between underlings and overlings had their strength, but it was the strength of a river, form and force incessantly changeable.

Valanndray shook his head. Long platinum locks fell aside from ears that were not convoluted like Kenmuir's. "Nay. I have sunken my mind in yonder asteroid for weeks, hypertext, simulations, the whole of available knowledge about it. None can readily replace me. Were I to forsake it, that would leave the Federation so much the richer, so much the more powerful, than my folk."

Kenmuir recalled conversations they had had, and dealings he had had with others, on Luna, Mars, the worldlets of the Belt, moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Few they were, those Lunarian spacefarers and colonists, reckoned against Terrankind. Meager their wealth was, reckoned against that which the machines held in the name of Terrankind. But if they leagued in anger and raised all the resources at their beck, it could bring a catastrophe like none that history knew.

No, hold on. He was being fantastical. Ignore Valanndray's last words. No revolt was brewing. War was a horror of the far past, like disease. "That's right loyal of you," Kenmuir replied.

"I hold my special vision of the future," Valanndray told him. "Come the time, I want potency in council. Here I gain a part of it." The admission was thoroughly Lunarian. "I regret losing your help, in this final phase of our tour; but go, Captain, go."

"Uh, whatever the reason the lady's recalling me, it must be good. For the good of — of Luna —"

Valanndray laughed. Kenmuir flushed. The good of Luna? Hardly a Lunarian concept. At most, the good of the phyle. Still, that could entail benefit for the entire race.

"As for me," Valanndray said, "I will think on this. We can finish our game later. Until evenwatch, Captain." He laid right palm on left breast, courtesy salute, and strolled out the door.

Kenmuir stood a while alone. Lilisaire, Lilisaire!

But why did she want unimportant him at her side?

Because of the Habitat? Remote and preoccupied as he had been, he had caught only fugitive mentions of that project. It seemed the Federation government was definitely going to go through with it. That would rouse fury on Luna — a feat of engineering that would make mass immigration from Earth possible — but what in the manifold cosmos could he do?

What should he do? He was no rebel, no ideologue, nothing but a plain and peaceful man who worked in the Venture of Luna because it had some berths for Terrans who would rather be out among the stars than anywhere else.

Let him shoot a beam to Ceres and ask for an update on Solar System news, with special reference to the Habitat.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Stars are Also Fire by Poul Anderson. Copyright © 1994 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.

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John Jakes

One of Anderson's two or three finest works -- if not the finest.

Larry Niven

"A masterpiece."

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The great canvas of inter-stellar space comes alive under his hand as it does under no other.

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The Stars Are Also Fire (Harvest the Stars Series #2) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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This is a story about how the human spirit can be slowly, unknowingly crushed through our own best intentions. It tells of how various technologies (AI, genetic engineering, space travel and habitation, etc.) combine to create different cultures and how these cultures reconnect with each other politically, socially, and even personally. It also brings up a few interesting questions only science fiction can answer for the time being, such as how would a truly sentient artificial intelligence 'feel', in what ways could the human mind connect with the artificial mind, and how would specific, mostly physical, genetic manipulations affect the mind of the altered human and what cultural differences would arise from that. Speculation like this is exactly what science fiction is about. When I first began reading this title, I had the conflicting feelings of both being bogged down with detail and being drawn through it all willingly. Although the multiple time lines were difficult to keep track of at times (for a while I wasn't even aware of it) and the build up to a place where you could look forward to where you were going was rather slow, it was very well written. Along the way the reader is given just enough to enjoy and look forward to so that the many albeit necessary details are not enough to make you give up. By the middle of the book I was enthralled to the point where I could not have put it down I wanted to, the work at the beginning setting everything up in a way usually only multiple volume series can do. The reader is rewarded at the end with a satisfyingly happy, though not typical, ending.