Cover image for Genesis
Anderson, Poul, 1926-2001.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : TOR, 2000.
Physical Description:
253 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Science Fiction/Fantasy

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Astronaut Christian Brannock has lived to see artificial intelligence develop to a point where a human personality can be uploaded into a computer, achieving a sort of hybrid immortality. A billion years later, Brannock is dispatched to Earth to check on strange anomalies. It is there he meets Laurinda Ashcroft, a hybrid.

Author Notes

Poul Anderson, November 25, 1926 - July 31, 2001 Poul Anderson was born on November 25, 1926 in Bristol, Pennsylvania to parents Anton and Astrid. After his father's death, Poul's mother took them first to Denmark and then to Maryland and Minnesota. He earned his degree in Physics from the University of Minnesota, but chose instead to write stories for science fiction magazines, such as "Astounding."

Anderson is considered a "hard science fiction" writer, meaning that his books have a basis in scientific fact. To attain this high level of scientific realism, Anderson spent many hours researching his topics with scientists and professors. He liked to write about individual liberty and free will, which was a well known theme in many of his books. He also liked to incorporate his love of Norse mythology into his stories, sometimes causing his modern day characters to find themselves in fantastical worlds, such as in "Three Hearts and Three Lions," published in 1961.

Anderson has written over a hundred books, his last novel, "Genesis" won the John W. Campbell Award, one of the three major science fiction awards. He is a former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and won three Nebula awards and nine Hugo Awards. In 1997, Anderson was named a Grandmaster by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and was also inducted into the Science Fiction Fantasy Hall of Fame.

Poul Anderson died on July 31, 2001 at the age of 74.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Anderson's novel is a miniature exploration of themes he has used in other novels, most recently Starfarers (1998), concerned with individuals isolated from humanity by immortality or long voyages. Here, astronaut Christian Brannock is able, thanks to having his personality imprinted on a computer, to embark on a billion-year exploration of the stars. (The consequent travelogue element is small but descriptively well up to Anderson's high standards; plainly he was a great Norse skald in a previous existence.) Returning to Earth, Brannock finds that the planet's overmind, Gaia, hypothetical when he left, not only exists but plans to regain control through schemes inimical to what is left of humanity. With another computerized immortal, Laurinda Ashcroft, Brannock must work out a compromise with Gaia that accommodates all parties. Anderson's longer treatments of the theme may stand the test of time better, but this one, despite an ending that feels a trifle rushed, certainly provides much fine entertainment. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

With this brilliantly conceived novel, Grand Master Anderson flings his long-time audience beyond his Starfarers and Boat of a Million Years, into a far-future extrapolation of human destiny that sings praises to the power of human love. After a long career of solar-system exploration, astronaut Christian Brannock achieves man-machine immortality by allowing his personality to be uploaded into an artificial intelligence that can probe the galaxy. Two centuries later, on the brink of Earth's next Ice Age, Laurinda Ashcroft, a human interface to Terra Central, similarly chooses to merge with the supercomputer that millions of years later becomes an element of Gaia, the Earth's artificial intelligence, itself a rebellious node of the galactic brain. As Earth's sun begins to fail, the node Wayfarer, in which Brannock's consciousness resides, must determine if humanity's mother world should be saved, though Gaia seems strangely determined to let it perish. When Wayfarer sends Christian to investigate strange hints about a secret Gaia may be hiding, Christian and Laurinda, ghostly memories of the man who went to the stars and the woman who remained on Earth, take virtual human shape, and the tender love that they find together as they probe Gaia's various alternative realities of human civilization reenacts the union of sky and earth that anchors all human mythologies. By humanizing the inhuman, Anderson comes breathtakingly close to speaking the unspeakable, the meaning of human existence. Deftly moving from one utterly convincing vignette of future human society to another, blending them into one profoundly moving fictional entity with reverence for the undying human thirst for knowledge and the pain that must accompany human achievement, Anderson's narrative soars, as unfettered as an exalting dream. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Christian Brannock agrees to have his personality uploaded into a computer so that his mind can explore the stars long after the death of his body. When his billion-year journey brings him back to an Earth that has undergone many cosmic changes, Brannock encounters another uploaded personality who restores to him the wonder of being "human." The lyrical approach of this sf master to the meaning of human existence gives his latest effort a surreal, allegorical feel. Recommended for most sf collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



I The story is of a man, a woman, and a world. But ghosts pass through it, and gods. Time does, which is more mysterious than any of these. A boy stood on a hilltop and looked skyward. The breeze around him was a little cold, as if it whispered of the spaces yonder. He kept his parka hood up. Gloves didn't make his fingers too clumsy for the telescope he had carried here. Already now, before the autumnal equinox, summer was dying out of the Tanana valley and the nights lengthening fast. Some warmth did linger in the forest that enclosed this bare height: he caught a last faint fragrance of spruce. The dark reached brilliant above him, the Milky Way cleaving it with frost, the Great Bear canted and Capella outshining Polaris in the north, ruddy Arcturus and Altair flanking steely Vega in the west, a bewilderment of stars. Though the moon was down, treetops lifted gray beneath their light. A spark rose among them, a satellite in a high-inclination orbit. The boy's gaze followed it till it vanished. Longing shook him. To be out there! He would. Someday he would. Meanwhile he had this much heaven. Best get started. He must flit back home at a reasonable hour. Tomorrow his school gyroball team was having practice, he wanted to work out a few more Fourier series--if you just told the computer to do it, you'd never learn what went on--and in the evening he'd take a certain girl to a dance. Maybe afterward he'd have nerve enough to recite her a poem he'd written about her. He hastily postponed that thought. His astronomical pursuits had gone well past the usual sights. This time he savored their glories only briefly, for he was after a couple of Messier objects. There was no need to spoil the adaptation of his eyes. He spoke a catalogue number to the telescope mount. It found the RA and dec, pointed the instrument, and commenced tracking. He bent over the eyepiece and touched the knobs. Somehow it always felt better to focus for himself. The thing swam into view, dim and misty. He hadn't the power to resolve more than a hint of structure. But it wasn't a nebula, it was a galaxy, the most remote he had yet tried for, suns in their tens of billions, their births and deaths, whirling neutron globes, unfathomable black holes, clouds of star-stuff, surely planets and moons and comets, surely--oh, please--living creatures, maybe--who could say?--some that were gazing his way and wondering. No. Stupid , the boy chided himself. It's too far. How many light-years? I can't quite remember . He didn't immediately ask for the figure. Down south he had seen the Andromeda glimmer awesome through six lunar diameters of arc, and it was a couple of million off. Here he spied on another geological era. No, not even that. Lately he had added geology to his interests, and one day realized that magnolias were blooming on Earth when the Pleiades kindled. It strengthened his sense of the cosmos as a unity, where he too belonged. Well, that star cluster was only about a hundred parsecs away. (Only!) It was not altogether ridiculous to imagine what might be going on there as you watched, three and a quarter centuries after the light now in your eyes had departed it. But across gulfs far less deep than this that confronted him, simultaneity had no meaning whatsoever. His wistfulness to know if any spirit so distant shared his lifetime would never be quenched. It could not be. The night chill seemed to flow through aperture and lens into him. He shivered, straightened, glanced around in a sudden, irrational-search for reassurance. Air tingled through his nostrils. Blood pulsed. The forest stood tall from horizon to horizon. Another satellite skittered low above it. An owl hooted. The ground stayed firm beneath his feet. A nearby boulder, weathered, probably glacier-scarred, bore the same witness to abidingness. If human science asked its age, the answer would be as real as the stone. We're not little bits of nothing , the boy thought half defiantly. We count too. Our sun is a third as old as the universe. Earth isn't much younger. Life on Earth isn't much younger than that. And we have learned this all by ourselves . The silence of the stars replied: You have measured it. Do you understand it? Can you? We can think it , he declared. We can speak, it, Can you ? Why did the night seem to wait? Oh, yes , he thought, we don't see or feel it the way we do what's right around us. If I try to picture bricks or something side by side, my limit is about half a dozen. If I'd been counting since I was born and kept on till I died, I wouldn't get as high as twenty billion. But I reason. I imagine. That's enough . He had always had a good head for figures. He could scale them down till they lay in his mind like pebbles in his hand. Even those astrophysical ages--No, maybe it didn't make sense either, harking clear back to the quantum creation. Too much that was too strange had happened too fast. But afterward time must have run for the first of the stars as it did for him. The chronology of life was perfectly straightforward. Not that it had an exact zero point. The traces were too faint. Besides, most likely there wasn't any such moment. Chemistry evolved, with no stage at which you could say this had come alive. Still, animate matter certainly existed sometime between three and a half and four billion years ago. The boy's mind jumped, as if a meteor had startled him. Let's split the difference and call the date three-point-six-Jive billion B.C.E. , he thought. Then one day stands for ten million years. Life began when January the first did, and this is midnight December the thirty-first, the stroke of the next new year . So…along about April, single cells developed, nuclei, ribosomes, and the rest. The cells got together, algae broke oxygen free into the atmosphere, and by November the first trilobites were crawling over the sea floor. Life invaded the land around Thanksgiving. The dinosaurs appeared early in December. They perished on Christmas Day. The hominids parted company with the apes at noon today. Primitive Homo sapiens showed up maybe fifteen minutes ago. Recorded history had lasted less than one minute. And here they were, measuring the universe, ranging the Solar System, planning missions to the stars. Where will we be by sunrise ? he wondered for a dizzying moment. It passed. The upward steepness was an illusion, he knew. To go from worm to fish took immensely longer than to go from fish to mammal because the changes were immensely greater. By comparison, an ancient insectivore was very like an ape, and an ape nearly identical with a human. Just the same , the boy thought, we've become a force of nature, and not only on this world. It's never seen anything like us before. Our little piece of extra brain tissue has got to have taken us across a threshold. But what threshold, and what's beyond it ? He shivered again, pushed the question away from him, and turned back to his stargazing. Copyright © 2000 by The Trigonier Trust Excerpted from Genesis by Poul Anderson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.