The Stars are Ours!
|Cover artist||Virgil Finlay|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback)|
|Followed by||Star Born|
The Moon, Mars and Venus have been explored and found unsuitable for colonization. Back on the Earth, two very different factions compete to determine the future of humanity: the Free Scientists, who refuse to accept political, racial and religious divisions, and the nationalists. Armed men seize control of one of the space stations orbiting the planet, convert it into a weapon, and (perhaps accidentally) devastate most of the world's heavily populated areas.
A fanatic named Arturo Renzi rises up, blaming the catastrophe on the scientists and "techneers" and espousing a return to a simpler, less technological life. When he is assassinated, the Free Scientists are hunted down. Within a period of three days, most are killed; the few remaining survivors are either enslaved by the ruling Peacemen of the Company of Pax or go into hiding, to be tracked down one by one in the following years. Society is structured into three classes, the Peacemen nobility and their landsmen overseers, a vast peasantry, and the work-slaves, composed of actual or suspected scientists. Most technology is rejected and civilization ebbs.
Chemist Lars Nordis, his daughter Dessie, and younger brother Dard, are among the lucky ones. They escape the great purge (though Lars is crippled as a result) and find a precarious refuge on a small farm. There, Lars continues his research as best he can and stays in touch with an underground network of scientists working on some great project.
One day, Lars finishes his work and notifies his contacts. As a precaution, he makes Dard and Dessie memorize what seems to them to be meaningless words and patterns. But before they can be taken to the last secret stronghold of the scientists, the suspicious local landsman, Hew Folley, calls in the Peacemen to raid their home. Dard and Dessie escape, but Lars is killed.
Dard contacts Sach, an agent of the scientists, who agrees to guide them to the refuge. Once inside, Dard learns that the scientists and their supporters are feverishly building a starship to escape the tyranny. They desperately need what Lars was working on - suspended animation. Only it can bring the stars within reach, for the journey will take many, many years. The information that Dard and Dessie had memorized turns out to be what they have been waiting for. But the scientists are racing against time, for the Peacemen are hunting for them.
Before they can leave, there is one more task. They need to plot a course using a computer. The only one they know of that still works is located in Pax headquarters. Dard volunteers to lead pilot-astrogator Simba Kimber to it, since he visited the place years ago. They succeed, though they barely avoid capture, and manage to return with the priceless calculations.
Then the refuge is found and comes under attack. Fighting a desperate rearguard action, the defenders manage to hold off the Peacemen long enough to blast off. Then, trusting in Lars' invention, they set their course and undergo suspended animation.
Ad astra (To the stars)
When they awaken (though a few never do), they find themselves near a star with a hospitable planet. They land and begin to build their new colony. While exploring the surroundings, they discover a cargo container; though they detected no signs of technology from orbit, the planet may still be inhabited by an intelligent race.
Dard goes along on a scouting expedition. The explorers find the remains of a road, which leads to a war-wrecked, abandoned city. While travelling in their rocket sled, they barely survive being shot down by decrepit, automated anti-aircraft guns. The sled can barely fly, so some of the explorers have to walk back. When they return, they find a thriving settlement.
Soon afterwards, Dessie protects a "sea baby" from small flying "dragons". It turns out that the creature is intelligent. Its parents appear out of the ocean and retrieve their offspring. Seeing that the humans are friendly, their tribe or clan is soon trading goods and information. They are telepathic and can communicate with the newcomers if they hold hands. They reveal that they were once the slaves of the species that built the city. They escaped when the Others warred with each other. Now there are none of the Others left on the continent, but they still live across the sea.
But that is a problem for another day. For now, the humans have found a new home.
Reviewer Groff Conklin praised the novel as a "genuinely exciting adventure," but faulted it for "an entirely unwarranted amount of cruelty and almost sadistically contrived bloodshed." Anthony Boucher characterized it as "a good adventure story" and "a pleasing travelog." P. Schuyler Miller described the novel as "a stirring adventure story in the good old mold, but told with thoroughly modern deftness and smoothness."