Harvest of Stars

Poul Anderson
Harvest of Stars Cover

Harvest of Stars


I have always included Poul Anderson as one of great SF writers that got me into SF in my youth. His short stories are great. He has received many well deserved awards.

After many years away I began reading SF again and I am sampling dozens of authors. For Anderson I started with this one.

This book is a vast and very inventive Space Opera. Lots of good ideas about things to come and their affects on humans. It starts with conflicts among groups who want to rule the near solar system. Poul has a great scientific imagination. He openly hates dictatorships, like communism, that promise paradise with secret police and the re-education camps. The book then moves to a space colonization story which continues the adventures of our beloved characters. Finally it is a about extending life through technology and continuing to provide habitable worlds for our decedents.

The character development is very good and you can't help but care for their well being over the length of the book and their long lives.

Unfortunately it's a slow read. In one chapter the issue of years long space travel is discussed. I can solve that. Just read this book twice and you're there. The other problems comes with the Action (there is a little if you wait), the Philosophy (goes on for chapters), and the dialogue (see below).

Poul writes very good dialogue. Thumbs up! He often uses it to explain this future world and jumps in time. If you miss a conversion you might miss that we have jumped ahead 20 years.

The problem was the nature of much of the dialogue. It fell into a few exhaustive categories:
I'll tell you my history and how it motivates me and how I feel about it.
I'll tell you my memories and how I feel about it.
I'll discuss with you endlessly about what I intend to do and how I feel about it.
I'll discuss with you what just happened and how I feel about it.
I'll discuss my fears that I may hurt someones feelings and how I feel about it.
Where is Arthur C. Clarke when I need him?

This story focuses on longevity. I got the feeling that extending life is often a bad idea. Some people can hardly carry the baggage of 100 years of mistakes and regret. Is a mental burnout really better at 300 years? Maybe they're just standing in the way of their descendants.

I will read more books by Poul Anderson but this epic just made me sad.