Poul Anderson is one of my favorite science fiction authors, although I tend to like his earlier works better than his later ones. This novel is one of his later works, but it avoids the bloat that has characterized several of his recent novels, which is a relief.
This is essentially the story of an aristocratic woman of the future, on a distant planet settled largely (apparently) by Icelanders. There are roughly half-a-dozen alien races whose technology is roughly on a par with Humankind. This story to a large extent deals with the interactions of these aliens with humans, and Anderson's speculations about what intelligent alien beings might be like are quite interesting.
The basic plot is straightforward. Other than the several alien civilizations on a rough par with humanity, there was an earlier race known as the Forerunners, which reached a higher-than-human level of technology many thousands of years ago. Forerunner artifacts still exist, and of course to find and control such artifacts could give one or the other alien races a huge military-industrial advantage over the others. Therein lies the struggle.
As Anderson fans know, most of his more recent science fiction novels have assumed that it is inevitable that Earth would eventually become dominated by computerized artificial intelligences, as Man's computers surpass his capabilities and gradually assume most or all vital functions. This novel is no exception, and this premise is there, but thankfully, the novel mostly avoids this topic (which Anderson has thoroughly explored elsewhere) and the real subject of this novel is the interactions of organic human and alien civilizations.
Overall, this is a good read, and much better than much of the recent science fiction that has been published lately. The storyline is reasonably lucid, the characters, while not particularly memorable, are at least somewhat interesting (especially the aliens), and the novel moves along at a smart pace without dragging. Not Anderson's best, but worth taking a look at.
Hugo and Nebula award winner Anderson incorporates two stories he wrote for the Asimov's Universe series into this absorbing posthumous novel, a fast-paced space opera that never lets the reader forget that aliens are alien. At a time when nearly immortal humans have colonized the galaxy, various space-faring species commingle freely and the residents of Earth have become as alien to other humans as true ETs, an astronomical event that may affect all existence is about to take place. Unfortunately, only one set of aliens knows what that event is and their ruling dictatorship is hell-bent on keeping it that way. Lissa Windholm, an Earth woman with a spirit of adventure men find attractive, is determined to uncover the mystery and share the knowledge with everyone. Lissa and her partner Karl, a tyrannosaurus-like scientist, make some startling archaeological discoveries on the planet Jonna about beings known as the Forerunners, but a psychologically scarred starship captain and an impressively ancient and profit-minded human rogue have other plans for the relics.