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Starfarers [Read] ➲ Starfarers ➮ Poul Anderson – Thomashillier.co.uk When evidence of an advanced civilization is discovered by SETI astronomers an expedition into the far reaches of the galaxy is planned and an eclectic team of scientists is chosen to make the trip Bu When evidence of an advanced civilization is discovered by SETI astronomers an expedition into the far reaches of the galaxy is planned and an eclectic team of scientists is chosen to make the trip But because the origin of the alien signals is thousands of light years away the crew will age only a few years while millennia pass on Earth And though they are ready to face the ramifications of such a voyage none of the Starfarers are prepared for what awaits them at the outer edge of the cosmos or back at the planet they once called home.


10 thoughts on “Starfarers

  1. Tim Martin Tim Martin says:

    Starfarers is definitely both hard science fiction and also epic in scope The basic premise is that in the relatively near future SETI astronomers find evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life not by receiving and decoding any communication from distant worlds but by discerning interesting and at first unexplainable astronomical phenomena occurrences that with time and study lead researchers to conclude that they are evidence of starships traveling very near the speed of lightWith the information obtained from these studies and from the further research that these discoveries inspired humanity was able to construct similar vessels and reach the stars discovering and then settling worlds in other star systemsHowever trips to these faraway beings were not at first possible owing to their vast distance from Earth It would take something close to a ten thousand year round trip journey to visit these beings which came to be dubbed the Yonderfolk Thanks to the effects of time dilation only a couple of years would pass for those on board any ship that made the attempt while many thousands of years would pass for those on Earth I was reminded at times of the Joe Haldeman's excellent The Forever War a fantastic novel that also explored the effects of time dilation on people traveling at relativistic speedsEventually a massive and highly capable starship Envoy was constructed and a topnotch crew of ten people were selected including among them highly skilled pilots engineers as well as a planetologist physicist biologist and a linguist The majority of the book is their epic journey their amazing discoveries adventures and personal triumphs and tragedies What they found at the end of their trip to the stars of the Yonderfolk was in many ways just the beginning of a story that made for very gripping readingThe book is well named indeed as Anderson though devoting most of the novel to the intrepid crew of the Envoy explored the concept and ramifications of starfaring There were several chapters in the book that were essentially interludes vignettes exploring the evolution of humanity and the worlds they had colonized chronicling the rise and fall of civilizations and especially how starfaring people the crews of near light speed ships fit in I found his ideas logical and intriguing; owing to the effects of time dilation a culture formed around the starfarers one that over hundreds of years and then millennia increasingly separated them from the cultures of the worlds they called upon to trade exotic chemicals alien species Earth species for the colony worlds new technologies and cultural treasures from the distant settled worlds as well as eventually from the alien intelligences that they encountered What could have been a lot of exposition and info dumps was made into some very good short stories stories that helped explain the culture and technology of Earth and its sister worlds when the Envoy eventually returned in the very distant futureTo a lesser extent Anderson also explored some related themes as to me any truly good science fiction should do so For instance is the urge to explore a thing deeply engrained in humanity or it is instead maybe cultural or even perhaps found only in certain individuals? Also what is the end result of human history; what is the nature of the ultimate or final human society or can there ever be any such thing? Can humanity ever achieve a stable population on a world creating a society free of war civil strife and living in an ecologically sustainable manner or is that type of society too alien for our species or maybe any species to achieve? Will all starfaring species share the same ultimate fate or is each species too different to share the same fate? What is the impact of thousands and tens of thousands of years of history on a society and on an individual in terms of imagination creativity and initiative?


  2. Christopher Christopher says:

    Starfarers was one of Poul Anderson's last works published in 1998 three years before the science fiction author's death at the age of 74 It also looks back decades to his early career incorporating the short story Ghetto that was published back in the 1950s Its plot praises the human ambition to explore after x ray starship trails are discovered in star systems far away the starship Envoy is launched to meet these aliensRelativistic effects mean that thousands of years will pass on Earth and only a brief time for the crew on board Between chapters on the adventures of the crew Anderson depicts the changing civilizations on earth along with the gradual decline of interest in starfaring and the restriction of visiting starship crews to a ghetto While Anderson makes the interesting suggesting that space travel may only be a brief phase in a species's evolution this is a frustrating book featuring many of the perennial flaws of Anderson's style but magnified and feeling something like a halfhearted effort For one Envoy has a motley crew a Hungarian Israeli Scotswoman Chinese Zulu etc Anderson may have thought he was adding color and authenticity by having them speak in dialect or make reference to their homes but really these are a bunch of ethnic stereotypes Only people who think that eg the Irish walk around greeting each other with Top of the mornin' to ye will be able to suspend disbelief Artificial intelligence and personal computing are absent The lack of the former is easy to understand Anderson was an ardent Libertarian and as he set out in his earlier series beginning with Harvest of Stars he believed that the rise of super human intelligence would lead to central planning and uench human initiative The lack of computing than the screens that the crews consult is inexcusable by the time Anderson wrote this book PDAs existed and technology was moving to smaller form factors but his people of future have no tech than what could have been imagined in the 1950s Finally the dialogue is often risible with characters discussing basic aspects of the plot with each other after they have already lived and worked closely with each other for years For a novelist with a career of a half century behind him it is strange how Anderson forgets the show don't tell principle


  3. Michael Michael says:

    This book is one of last books published by Poul Anderson He shows once again why he was considered to be one of Science Fiction's top writers Although published 20 years ago this book is still relevant today It is a mix of science fiction and hard science Much of the science he uses to explain his space drives and other technology in this book is still being used by today's science fiction writers This book is about spaceflight that approaches the speed of light but never exceeds it Thus it takes many years and in some cases many centuries to travel between stars Because of relativity the time that passes for the crews of these ships is measured in months or in some cases a few years The main focus of this story is about a mission by the Starship Envoy to cross thousands of light years to investigate the possibility of another star faring species The crew know when they leave that as much as 10000 years may pass on Earth while they are gone They face an uncertain voyage and an uncertain welcome when they return to an Earth that has aged 10000 years This book is a great read by Poul Anderson and I recommend it to his fans and if you have never read one of his books this would be a great one to start with


  4. Josh Josh says:

    A slightly interesting story but the writing is preposterous and pretentious Specifically the dialogue between characters astronauts chosen for a mission of indeterminate length to a distant star is unbelievably cliche and shallow Even after spending years with eachother on the mission they are still discussing basic facts and motivations in each others' lives? DumbThe larger issues relating to the starfarers being isolated from planetary populations due to time dilation effects are interestingly covered by Vernor Vinge in A Deepness in the Sky or even Charles Sheffield in Between the Strokes of Night Both of those works examine how a starfaring population can become culturally isolated from planet bound humanity but manage to avoid the pretentious dialogue and characterizations of Anderson


  5. Tomislav Tomislav says:

    I've read and enjoyed Poul Anderson before so it is with some disappointment that I have to report this is not a particularly good example of his writing While the effect of time dilation in travel near light speed is portrayed accurately and there is some good speculation on the cultural effects of that this novel ultimately falls flat The future 10000 years of Earth history are told episodically in parallel with the beginning of the starship Envoy's journey The Earth events actually dominate the story early on but about half way through they are almost completely dropped; it turns out the novel is actually about the ten crew members of the Envoy and what they findSince there are no really new concepts explored in this story its success would rest mostly on character development But the introductions to the characters who join the Envoy for its 5000 light year journey are tedious and there are a number of mostly irrelevant side stories involving characters not on the crew This could have been a much better novel with some strong editing


  6. Elar Elar says:

    Poul Anderson last book gives humanity a slither of a hope and is not too morbid Thank you grandmaster for all the stars and years


  7. Gary Holt Gary Holt says:

    This book is one of the few SF works that doesn't posit faster than light travel When clearly alien signals of spaceships traveling at 0999 of the speed of light are received a mission is prepared to visit them but time will elapse while they are in flight than there has been so far in all of recorded human history and the planet will be unrecognizably different when they return if they returnThe story follows two major lines the characters' adventures as they meet the aliens and how civilization changes while they were gone Anderson postulates that our civilizatization like the alien civilization will give up on space travel I think he must have felt the decline of the certainty that used to be characteristic of the West and assumed that we would lose the idea of progress It's an interesting read that way a haunting portrayal of a civilization that used to be greater than it is now The space travelers are the only ones who remember it like it used to beI am skeptical that the idea of progress will be lost if for no other reason than progress is so enormously profitable But nevertheless it's an idea worth exploring


  8. Brandon Brandon says:

    I really wanted to like this but just could not get into it due to the writing Found his style very difficult to read smoothly and enjoy Sort of herky jerky text archaic dialogue weird verbless sentences and strange word choice that made it sound like something run through an electronic translator The last 200 pages were just a slow grind to finally get through The constant returning focus on all of the sexual frustrations among the crew of 6 men and 4 women after these pair off in the first phase of the voyage always leaving a few 'odd men out' just became boringly redundant after a while Is this what Anderson is always like? I had hoped for


  9. K.J. Cartmell K.J. Cartmell says:

    Dry and heavy on science Starfarers was interesting but not engrossing The book covers a staggering amount of time and much happens on Earth while the heroes are out exploring Anderson labors to keep us up to date with Earth's current events but his little vignettes are jarring and often difficult to understand The main story is interesting enough but with a ten person crew I had difficulty keeping track of who was who Cutting out the extraneous material would have helped with that but the characters could have used better definition and depth


  10. Earl Truss Earl Truss says:

    Another recently started book that was really hard to finish I've said before that I am not really into books with a lot of fantasy and relationships instead of hard science After the first couple of hundred pages I just skimmed through to the end looking for interesting parts and finding little The story had parts that were never resolved and things just sort of happened with no build up DisappointingI expected from other books I read by Anderson


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