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Harvest of Stars

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To save Earth from the crushing grip of totalitarianism, Kyra Davis journeys from the planet's rebel enclaves to the decadence of a lunar colony to a new world threatened by a dying star as she seeks to rescue the leader of Earth's last refuge of freedom. Reprint.

544 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published January 1, 1993

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About the author

Poul Anderson

1,414 books969 followers
Pseudonym A. A. Craig, Michael Karageorge, Winston P. Sanders, P. A. Kingsley.

Poul William Anderson was an American science fiction author who began his career during one of the Golden Ages of the genre and continued to write and remain popular into the 21st century. Anderson also authored several works of fantasy, historical novels, and a prodigious number of short stories. He received numerous awards for his writing, including seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards.

Anderson received a degree in physics from the University of Minnesota in 1948. He married Karen Kruse in 1953. They had one daughter, Astrid, who is married to science fiction author Greg Bear. Anderson was the sixth President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, taking office in 1972. He was a member of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America, a loose-knit group of Heroic Fantasy authors founded in the 1960s, some of whose works were anthologized in Lin Carter's Flashing Swords! anthologies. He was a founding member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Robert A. Heinlein dedicated his 1985 novel The Cat Who Walks Through Walls to Anderson and eight of the other members of the Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy.[2][3]

Poul Anderson died of cancer on July 31, 2001, after a month in the hospital. Several of his novels were published posthumously.

* Time Patrol
* Psychotechnic League
* Trygve Yamamura
* Harvest of Stars
* King of Ys
* Last Viking
* Hoka
* Future history of the Polesotechnic League
* Flandry

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5 stars
175 (17%)
4 stars
348 (34%)
3 stars
370 (36%)
2 stars
80 (7%)
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30 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 50 reviews
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
May 25, 2023
One of the things I like about Poul Anderson’s writing style is that he seems to be a pleasant mix of Robert A. Heinlein and Philip K. Dick. In no other book is this more evident than in Harvest of Stars, Anderson’s 1992 publication that describes a future totalitarian Earth with a strong libertarian underground.

This is similar in tone to Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and also somewhat reminiscent of Dick’s Vulcan's Hammer. An observant reader can also see a similarity with Dick’s Mr. Spaceship (published in 1953) in that Anderson describes a download of sentient life into a computer.

This could also be described as a tribute to Heinlein: there are connections to Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein is specifically mentioned as a non-conformist hero who wrote about important subjects, one of the main characters, Anson Guthrie (who’s description bears a striking resemblance to Heinlein’s character Lazarus Long), shares the name “Anson” with Heinlein, and there are a couple of characters named Farnham.

Of course, there are also the inevitable comparisons to Ayn Rand and this is where Anderson, for all the ambition of the novel, fails.

There are lengthy, and frequent soliloquys and diatribes espousing libertarian and maybe even outright objectivistic themes, and this gets overly burdensome for the reader. Most of the negative reviews of the book revolve around this area, and even an Anderson fan like me must concede that he misses the mark in this criticism. I must also add that some lusty editing and about a hundred less pages would have improved this.

All that said, Anderson remains inventive, imaginative, and at the end of the day, he tells a good story.

*** 2023 Reread -

This is weird. Of all the hundreds of books I've read (Goodreads says I have 2000 ratings!) I've only reread a handful. Add this 1993 novel from SF legend Poul Anderson.

Why weird? I like Poul Anderson, it's not unusual that I would reread a book of his. But this is a bloated behemoth, and had some odd libertarian / objectivist qualities. Why reread?

Believe it or not, this book has stayed with me and several books I've read over the years made me think of Harvest of Stars. Most notably, Dennis E. Taylor's 2016 We Are Legion, We are Bob. Both books (both series) feature a downloaded sentience.

I also tagged this with a 2 star after first reading and I always thought of this book and Frank Herbert's God Emperor of Dune - both got an initial 2 star and then a better rating after years of contemplation and a reread.

This one is still too long, though I didn't mind the libertarian musings as much. Actually, Anderson's description of totalitarianism and the corruption of free speech was relevant for our times.

For fans.

Profile Image for Bill.
409 reviews99 followers
May 4, 2016
Poul Anderson is a favorite Sci-Fi author whom I have read since the mid 1950s. His books were often released by the SFBC and I inherited a number of those dual Sci-Fi paperbacks with 2 novels, one upside down to the other containing some of his pulp fiction. His Golden Age novels are typical of the time and reminiscent of Heinlein's ilk. His later works are more complex and often epic with more literary styles.

This 1st book of a 4 book series sets up a universe in which mankind goes to the stars as well as staying home. Some humans turn outward and seed our galaxy while most turn inward becoming a rationalist society ruled by AI's or Sophotechs. Book 1 is about how this came to be, technically and politically. Though this novel has been called Libertarian, I've either found that easy to ignore or don't really agree. It is the adventure I appreciate the most. Perhaps the later books compare and contrast these two branches of mankind. We shall see. I just know I would have been on the ships going to Alpha Centauri. My independent, but progressive, streaks demand it.

7 of 10 stars
Profile Image for Lisa (Harmonybites).
1,834 reviews341 followers
April 21, 2010
I remember really liking, even loving this book when I first read it decades ago. But then I was a newly minted libertarian eager to see my philosophy reflected in fiction. Although I disagree with those detractors who sneer at this being reminiscent of Ayn Rand--not that I personally find anything wrong with that. No, to me this read like a homage to Robert Heinlein, particularly The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Heinlein had died only five years before this book was published, and the first name of the hero of novel, Anson Guthrie, is the same as Heinlein's middle name. Guthrie is a "download" in a electronic device of a personality of a real person born hundreds (?) of years ago in 1970. Harvest of Stars also shares some themes and worldview--the question of liberty, artificial intelligence, and inhabitants of the moon are major players here.

Although I did enjoy some of the imaginative detail of this future dystopia, I do agree this did suffer from bloat, infodump and overpreachiness. It's also--and I don't remember feeling this way first read, rather a downer. This doesn't paint a hopeful future of mankind's ultimate fate--and that's a rather far cry from Heinlein's spirit. Heinlein painted his share of dystopic societies--but as far as I remember--they were ones not far away from revolution. And the other thing about this is what I didn't remember. Decades after reading The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress I could vividly remember characters (especially Mike) and events. Not the case here, and that's what make this not a keeper--but I liked it enough that I'll be (re)reading the sequel on my shelves, The Stars Are Also Fire.
Profile Image for Baron Greystone.
137 reviews1 follower
July 9, 2022
I've been re-reading (and reading for the first time) a lot of Anderson lately. I read a bunch of Flandry, a van Rijn, Three Hearts and Three Lions, and a Midsummer Tempest. I loved them, always have, and certainly the latter two go on my Favorites list.

But hitting this one, for the first time and after reading all the others, I'm compelled to say that Anderson's voice appears different to me here. Almost as if he'd had a co-writer. It's still at Anderson's level, don't get me wrong. But the tone, the feel stands in contrast to those other works I mentioned.

One factor that may have influenced my experience is that I read this as an eBook via my library's reader app. I don't know if the formatting was adversely affected as a result, and I'm much more comfortable with linear plots, but while reading this I often found myself pausing, saying "what?" and then flipping back a few screens and realizing that we'd changed timeframes or voices without my realizing it. There were a lot of flashbacks, something I don't think I saw in any of the other Anderson books I'd just been through in my latest binge.

In any case, I understand this one is the first in a series. I think I'll pick up some of his other work before coming back to these.
724 reviews3 followers
November 16, 2020
Anson Guthrie, the head of Fireball - a global space conglomerate - was the first man to be downloaded into a spaceship and visit Demeter, the Earthlike planet orbiting Alpha Centauri A. When the upload returns the meatbody Anson is dead and his archive copy has been purloined to be used as propaganda by the increasingly totalitarian Federation in order to take over Fireball. The original Guthrie download is spirited off Earth by a cabal of Fireball employees, including pilot Kyra Davis, and assisted by Lunarians and anti-Federation Chaotics. But the Lunarians have their own agendas and are intent on full-scale Terran insurrection. As war gets closer a much more daring plan involving the use of all Fireball resources is proposed - a settlement of both humans and downloads on Demeter. One more problem - Demeter will collide with another planet in 1000 years. Poul Anderson has given us a fulfilling and cogent tale of political intrigue, space exploration and uplifting spirit in this wide-ranging space opera. First of a series but definitely enjoyable as standalone.
27 reviews
July 18, 2022
I first read Anderson as a teen back in the 70s and had forgotten how good a writer he was. This is the artist at his peak, a dazzling and deep plunge into what the critics call “hard” science fiction, but it’s so much more than just that. A great read on many different levels.
Profile Image for Christopher.
1,271 reviews153 followers
March 21, 2017
Published in 1993, Harvest of Stars is the first volume of a four-book future history on Man’s expansion to the stars, as well as a heavy-handed tract on the author's cherished political (libertarian) themes. The book is divided into two acts vastly separated in space in time. In the first act, space pilot Kyra Davis is sent to a future North America ruled by a totalitarian government. Her mission is to smuggle out the downloaded personality of Anson Guthrie, founder of the private space company Fireball. In spiriting the Guthrie download outside the borders of the North American Union and ultimately into orbit, Davis must evade the fearsome Security Police who want to capture them and send them to political re-education. In the second act, the Guthrie download, now safe, leads an effort to colonize a planet around Alpha Centauri, while Earth is increasingly dominated by artificial intelligences and turns its gaze inward.

When I first read this book around the age of 14, I was impressed by its epic scope. It covers centuries of human history and is ultimately among the most optimistic visions of the future around. But as an adult, and now being familiar with Anderson's other work, its strident political themes grate. For the last couple of decades of his career, Anderson went heavy on the "government bad, private initiative good" theme, to the point that his plots occasionally seem mere window dressing around the political message he wants to get across. Here, for example, a brief scene where a character walks through an improverished neighbourhood seems to serve little purpose except to drop the line "". For all Anderson's desire for human freedom, the good characters’ unquestioning allegiance to Anson Guthrie seems creepy; if the bad side here represent “collectivists”, then the good side consists of a feudal society led by one single superman. Also, in a throwback to mid-century science fiction (with its whiff of lingering scientific racism), the protagonists here are physically beautiful and suave, while the villain is physically ugly and gross.

There is, however, a new twist on Anderson's libertarianism in Harvest of Stars: his hatred of AI. An intelligence more advanced than millions of human beings could lead to a managed market, the bugbear of Anderson's variety of free-market libertarianism. But beyond that, Anderson was concerned that any transcendental intelligence might choose to construct a virtual reality to dwell in or make advances in pure mathematics instead of continually exploring other solar systems. Such a prospect horrified this author, who started out writing space opera in the 1950s when it was just assumed that human colonization of the galaxy would ultimately happen. Harvest of Stars thus sets up the conflict that rules the later volumes of this future history: intrepid space cowboys (good) versus eldritch computer minds (bad). Don't expect any of the imagination – and the acceptance that humanity might be changed beyond recognition – of other science-fiction authors thinking of a coming Singularity.

Anderson's vision of the future is little like the one we live in now just two decades later. That is something one just has to accept from most science fiction published decades. But a major flaw of this book is that even the internal chronology of Anderson's future history seems wonky. Guthrie has been a mind in a computer already for half a century when the book opens, and one would expect any civilization capable of downloading brains would have made concomitant strides in creating purely artificial intelligences in those same computers. And yet, Anderson sets the rise of artificial intelligence well after the thrills of this book's first act. Such sloppy worldbuilding only underscores the feeling that an old man just wanted to warn people of his perennial bogeymen, and the story came second.

The novel shares some of the other downsides of Anderson's body of work. This author was conscious that the future would see a great deal of globalization and international cooperation, with many of Earth's peoples and cultures mixing. Unfortunately, he illustrates this forecast by drawing some of his characters from 20th-century ethnic stereotypes. One of the ways these stereotypical characters give the reader their backgrounds is by occasionally sprinkling bits of their native tongues (i.e. phrases that Anderson plucked out of e.g. a Spanish or Arabic dictionary with no actual familiarity with the language) into otherwise American English. Also, Anderson was also very fond of the Anglo-Saxon culture of a millennium ago, and he has his characters use various obsolescent old English words that would be just ridiculous in our day, let alone a century from now.

Thus, while Harvest of Stars might still dazzle some innocent adolescent out there who picks it up by chance, I simply cannot recommend this to fans of science fiction. And lest you think I’m only hard on this novel because I disagree with its author's political position, Vernor Vinge is a libertarian too and yet I’d point to his writings of this same era as vastly better, both as a vision of the future and just plain good reading.
Profile Image for Dalen.
497 reviews4 followers
January 1, 2021
The book has the bones of what could have been an excellent one. The driving plot of the first section regarding a race to safety between the protagonists and their enemies was fairly good, and the colonization plot of the second half had promise as well. My main complaints with this book are that it tends to do a lot of telling rather than showing, and it really bogs down the book. Some interesting concepts that are enough where I'm willing to read the next in the series, but not Anderson's best work.
Profile Image for Jud Gardner.
10 reviews1 follower
June 17, 2016
Atlas Shrugged with Sexy Moon People. Has some neat ideas around AI that apparently are explored more deeply in the second book but I couldn't get past the second book's deep treatment of the seal people.
575 reviews8 followers
July 5, 2020
The visionary bit of this book doesn't come until close to the end; up until then it's a fairly routine adventure sprinkled with what (these days at least) comes across as over-the-top political rhetoric.
297 reviews26 followers
June 17, 2023
2.626 stars, I liked it, but not a book for rereading.

Harvest of Stars posits a future where a single freedom loving company, Fireball, manages space commerce, and the governments of Earth, while radically changed, are as fragmented as ever. The immediate problem, that of a decaying socialist government acquiring and tampering with a duplicate of the downloaded human that runs Fireball is interesting and its resolution makes this a good book. But the second half - what to do with the consequences of that exciting story is on the tedious side, and degenerates, like Boat of a Million Years, if I recall due to lack of conflict.
Profile Image for Lars Dradrach.
856 reviews
August 1, 2019
2.5 Stars.

A surprisingly heavy handed, long winded and clumsy story from one of sci-fi’s grandmasters. I can only assume he was losing his touch at the end of his long career.

Anderson outlines a future where the human race are on the brink of expanding into space while the earth is in the grip of a totalitarian government.

True to Heinlein who’s a strong inspiration for the story, Anderson embarks on long philosophical discussions about central government’s versus libertarianism.

We also have Anderson’s signature hero, a altruistic and all knowing business leader, in this case in the form of a downloaded mind, who’s far better at guiding the humans than the evil governments.

The storyline which ties it all together is not bad but feels a little aged and at places as a thin excuse for preaching.

Note - If anyone still believe business magnates would make better world leaders, then just look at Donald Trump, not to mention the idea of a downloaded Trump mentality governing the human race for millennia.....

4 reviews1 follower
May 28, 2010
My high school years were spent reading every work of science fiction I could get my hands on. Poul Anderson had always been one of my favorites. Then marriage, children, work and life slowed my reading to an occasional mainstream bestseller. Now my kids are older, and having a little more time to spare for the great science fiction of my youth, I've been finding great new authors and revisiting some of my old favorites. I was greatly pleased to find Poul Anderson had new works for me to enjoy and after reading the great reviews, was really looking forward to Harvest of Stars... Unfortunately, there just wasn't anything in this book to draw me into the story. A great novel for me is determined by how quickly the characters can stir my emotions, and by page one hundred, I felt almost nothing. It's been years since I put a book on the shelf without finishing it and though I did try, in the end it was just time to let go.
486 reviews
May 25, 2016
Interesting view of how to visit the stars. Download a human mind to a computer and capture it's genome to a computer. Then ship both at sublight speed in hibernate mode to a new star system. Then have robots wake the mind to supervise other robots building an environment suitable for people. Once the environment is up and running, have the robots with supervision use the person's genome to reconstruct the person and install the person's mind. This process can continue indefinitely.
Profile Image for J. Oakwood.
7 reviews
June 16, 2020
The first two part are exploring the world he sets up and then the third one explores humans expanding to another planet in another star system as a timelapse.

I'm giving this 4 stars because of the last part, in my opinion the first two parts are too slow and don't explore interesting ideas, but the last part is really good.
Profile Image for T.F..
Author 7 books57 followers
August 11, 2013
The premise is good. But there is not so much drama. At times it becomes a bit of tedious read. Somehow there is lack of continuity between first half and second half.
Profile Image for Bent Andreassen.
724 reviews3 followers
July 19, 2019
5 minus. One of Anderson' best books. Anderson's language is very rich.
A mature work and still full of fantasy and interesting concepts.
Profile Image for Thomas.
2,066 reviews
December 20, 2021
Anderson, Poul. Harvest of Stars. 1993. Harvest of Stars No. 1. SF Gateway, 2011.
Somewhere in the more than 500 pages of Harvest of Stars there is a 200-page story trying to get out. But it is buried in endless talk that slows the action to a crawl and hides rather than develops the characters. Anderson knew how to tell a story, but he did not get it done here. His protagonist, Anson Guthrie, shares a name with Robert Anson Heinlein, and the book is filled with plays on Heinlein’s characters and themes. I kept hoping that there would be some sign that Anderson intended parody, but no—the best we can say is that it is a clumsy, lugubrious homage. Guthrie is the recorded consciousness of an entrepreneurial space explorer. He and his company do battle with a totalitarian state and religious fundamentalism. Since he lacks a body, he has long philosophical conversations with Kyra Davis, a woman who is sneaking him out of the solar system to start a revolution. It is sad to see a grandmaster of science fiction make such a self-indulgent use of another writer’s material. There are three more novels in the series, but I doubt I will read them. 2 stars.
Profile Image for Duane.
248 reviews2 followers
November 1, 2018
Not particularly good SF. Or maybe just a little dated? The story covers a vast amount of time which sucks a lot of the life out of it. The prose varies from oddly archaic sounded to a more matter of fact hard sci fi, and for some reason the attempt to sound futuristic by injecting a lot of Spanish words into English just sounded silly. While several characters are digital downloads, the author doesn't take much interest in what their consciousness might really be like.
Profile Image for Jenise.
111 reviews
March 7, 2019
Overlong, like 2 stories combined, before and after they go to the new planet, should have picked one or the other. I did not like the main chararcter/robot/android guy, he was a dick. And the main female character, while fearless, was also kinda brainless.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
4 reviews
November 25, 2021
I had a really hard time following the plot of this book. There are some interesting high level ideas, but I feel like Anderson didn't flesh out the motivations of the characters, or the details of where they were enough, to give me a good image in my mind of what was going on.
Profile Image for Carmelo Medina.
141 reviews6 followers
September 9, 2017
Novela entretenida, que se hace un poco larga ya que parece que el autor intenta darle localizaciones, personajes y tramas de 3 novelas distintas en una sola.
Profile Image for Phillip Stern.
123 reviews
April 30, 2023
The downloaded intelligences were interesting but the book was tediously long, perhaps too ambitious.
Profile Image for Bill.
629 reviews13 followers
January 24, 2010
The one star rating is as low as I'll go. I did not finish this book. Maybe it's because I don't feel like investing the time it in (it's 531 pages long). Maybe it's because it's filled with crazy dialect-ridden dialog. Maybe it's because it comes across as a hyperbolic rant against religion and government. I think it's all of that and because it just wasn't very interesting. The premise appears to be that there is some future where governments are mostly puppets of huge corporations and special interest groups. One of the more powerful and benign corporations finds itself in conflict with a somewhat fascist special interest that is currently running one of the larger governments. There is intrigue. There is an AI. There are special agents. Yawn. I could put it down and did. I don't know if I'll ever pick it up again.
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