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by Poul Anderson

Category: Fiction / Autobiography
383 pages; ISBN: 0-312-86037-4

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Paul Lappen


This near-future science fiction story begins when SETI astronomers discover "trails" among the stars, thought to be signs of an advanced civilization.

Man has started to spread out among the stars, but has yet to find any other earthlike planets, so there is great interest in exploring the trails. An advanced starship, called Envoy, is outfitted with an eclectic, ten-person crew, mostly for when they reach their destination. The area where the trails were discovered is approximately 60,000 light years away, meaning the crew will return to an earth 120,000 years older than when they left.

As Envoy gets closer to its destination, the trails become fewer and fewer, then stop altogether, leading to speculation among the crew that the civilization either destroyed itself, or, for some reason, gave upon space exploration. The humans encounter an intelligent race that has, indeed, turned its back on the stars. Envoy`s arrival is not totally welcome, because it leads to unwelcome interest in returning to space among some of the aliens.

This is a vivid, well done story of courage and exploration on a grand scale. It just misses the level of Anderson`s Best Work, with the science occasionally getting a little overwhelming, but it is still far better than much of what is in the Science Fiction section of the local chain bookstore.


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