For Love and Glory
by Poul Anderson
Tor, 2003, ISBN 0-312-87449-9
This book is a fix-up, built around two stories originally written for the Isaac’s Universe project, substantially modified and with new materal written to expand it out to novel length. Unfortunately, while each piece of it is a pleasant enough read, the overall effect is choppily episodic, the parts not complete enough to stand as separate stories, and not blended together sufficiently to make a satisfactory novel.
The background is a loose, multi-species civilization occupying mostly the near galactic neighborhood. The various species trade with each other, and have treaties governing how they decide who owns what, and sometimes mount joint scientific expeditions, but mostly don’t interact too closely. Like other species, the humans aren’t all under one government and one culture, and most of the principal human characters are citizens of Asborg, which has the kind of corporate feudalism Anderson has featured in other novels. Earth also has the computer intelligence-based Gaia culture/blended identity that has appeared in other works, but the widespread, ftl-based interstellar culture in this book is incompatible with the stl limitations on travel and colonization featured in some of them. Another of the important human characters is from Earth, but, as one of the first generation for whom serious life extension was available, he’s over nine hundred years old and hasn’t been back to Earth in several centuries, in part because he chose not to become a member of the shared Gaia mind.
Lissa Windholm is a daughter of one of the noble houses of Asborg, still fairly young (only one rejuvenation), and not yet quite ready to settle down and give up adventuring. While on one of those adventures, as part of a multi-species scientific expedition to a newly-discovered habitable planet, she encounters a pair of freelance explorers. One of them’s the Earth-native human mentioned above, Torben Hebo, and the other is Dzesi of the Ulas Trek, one of the vaguely catlike natives of Rikha. Hebo and Dzesi have discovered a Forerunner artifact, and the problem in this episode is making sure the artifact is turned over to proper scientific investigation while not depriving the freelancers of fair compensation for their discovery. Other episodes involve other scientific discoveries related to the Forerunners, and conflict with the lizard-like species known as the Susaians and with another Asborgian house, Seafell, concerning exactly who is going to get to acquire and exploit that knowledge. Hebo and Dzesi wind up playing a major role in Lissa’s efforts to ensure that the knowledge is widely shared, rather than becoming the private property of one government.
This is all much more involving to read than it may sound when described like that, but still, this is very minor Anderson.