Poul Anderson's Harvest Of Stars sequence of deliberately Heinleinesque future history novels finally comes to an end with The Fleet Of Stars.
Anson Guthrie has succeeded in spreading humanity to the stars, in a balanced realtionship with machines. Meanwhile back in the solar system, the Cybercosm is cementing its control over a recovering Earth, and bringing humanity back to the nest by shutting down Martian terraforming and out thinking the fiercely independent Lunarians out in the Oort Cloud.
Guthrie has learnt something of developments in the Solar System, and sends an upload back to finds out just what is happening. He arrives in the middle of a slow conflict between man and machine, where the key to victory is the supressed data from a powerful telescope that uses the Sun's gravity to focus the light from the galactic centre. Is this news of life outside humanity's limited domain?
Anderson's story should be compelling. After all, he's a master writer, who's produced some of SF's best known novels and series, and this is the climax of a long road with our hero. Instead we get a story that's slow and turgid, a story that seems to have lost its way in the libertarian politics of the debate between the paternalistic cybercosm and Guthrie's rampant expansionism. Even the token seeker of truth seems more charicature than character, despite the tragedy that culminates his quest for truth.
This is a 250 page novel hidden in 400 pages - the unnecessary 150 pages are just padding and waffle that could have easily been excised during edits. It's a pity, as this could have been an excellent book, instead of merely adequate...