cover image The Stars Are Also Fire

The Stars Are Also Fire

Poul Anderson. Tor Books, $22.95 (413pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85534-5

In this semi - sequel to last year's Harvest of Stars , Anderson, winner of seven Hugos and three Nebulas, gets back on track. Where its predecessor was disjointed, unbalanced and clogged with capitalist-libertarian preaching, this novel offers suspense, vivid writing and appealing characters wrestling with a big philosophical problem: Is a peaceful, stable life under the benign rule of superintelligent machines a utopia--or comfortable slavery? To explore this question, Anderson traces two converging plot lines. In one, Dagny Beynac--a descendant of Anson Guthrie, founder of the vastly powerful Fireball Enterprises--devotes her life to preserving peace on the Moon, in the process becoming the progenitor of a new race of genetically engineered ``Lunarians.'' Centuries after her death, the solar system is governed by the ``cybercosm,'' a network of machine intelligences--but a secret preserved since Dagny Beynac's time could threaten the cybercosm's hegemony. Ian Kenmuir, a space pilot in the service of the Lunarians, and Aleka Kame, a human ally of the genetically engineered ``metamorphs'' of Earth, race against time, their own consciences and the deadly pursuit of the cybercosm's agent Venator to bring the secret to light. Though Anderson's politics still color the tale, Kenmuir and Kame are never so certain of themselves or the answers as were Guthrie and others in Harvest , and the result is an engrossing story that leaves the reader wondering about the human need for fresh horizons, adventure and danger. (Aug.)