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The Cosmic Computer PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: The Cosmic Computer
Author: H. Beam Piper
Publisher: Published 1978 by Ace Books (first published January 1st 1963)
ISBN: 9780441117574
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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During the System States' War, Poictesme was the general HQ and supply depot for the final thrust at the enemy. When the war ended, the buildings, the munitions, the freeze-dried food supplies, were all abandoned without a thought. Now the colony world is a poverty-stricken agricultural society with only two exports: the fermented products of their world's unique grapes, a During the System States' War, Poictesme was the general HQ and supply depot for the final thrust at the enemy. When the war ended, the buildings, the munitions, the freeze-dried food supplies, were all abandoned without a thought. Now the colony world is a poverty-stricken agricultural society with only two exports: the fermented products of their world's unique grapes, and the salvaged war equipment, now selling at about 1% of its true value. And, persisting over the decades, is the legend of MERLIN, the super-computer said to have planned the grand strategy which successfully concluded the war. "If we could only find Merlin," the inhabitants said to each other, "all our problems would be solved." Then young Conn Maxwell returned from Earth, with a university degree, and a few clues about the location and the true nature of Merlin. And the sure knowledge that finding the Cosmic Computer would be the worst thing that could possibly happen to his home world.

30 review for The Cosmic Computer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roddy Williams

    'During the System States' War, Poictesme was the general HQ and supply depot for the final thrust at the enemy. When the war ended, the buildings, the munitions, the freeze-dried food supplies, were all abandoned without a thought. Now the colony world is a poverty-stricken agricultural society with only two exports: the fermented products of their world's unique grapes, and the salvaged war equipment, now selling at about 1% of its true value. And, persisting over the decades, is the legend of 'During the System States' War, Poictesme was the general HQ and supply depot for the final thrust at the enemy. When the war ended, the buildings, the munitions, the freeze-dried food supplies, were all abandoned without a thought. Now the colony world is a poverty-stricken agricultural society with only two exports: the fermented products of their world's unique grapes, and the salvaged war equipment, now selling at about 1% of its true value. And, persisting over the decades, is the legend of MERLIN, the super-computer said to have planned the grand strategy which successfully concluded the war. "If we could only find Merlin," the inhabitants said to each other, "all our problems would be solved." Then young Conn Maxwell returned from Earth, with a university degree, and a few clues about the location and the true nature of Merlin. And the sure knowledge that finding the Cosmic Computer would be the worst thing that could possibly happen to his home world.' Blurb from the 1978 Ace paperback edition. As is made clear from the blurb, Conn Maxwell was designated to travel to Earth from the colony world of Poictesme, a world desperate for regeneration following an intersystem war, to try and identify the location of the super computer Merlin, which many of the colonists believe is hidden somewhere on the planet and which they see as their salvation. Although Conn has identified the sites of many abandoned bases and spacefields likely to contain valuable equipment and ships, he has been informed that Merlin was a myth, invented to boost morale and demoralise the enemy. After making this clear to a trusted few, including his father, they decide to publicly embark on the search for Merlin, their aim being to loot the abandoned sites, build enough finances to build a hypership and trade on their own terms with Earth, exporting their valuable melon brandy and revitalising their world. If this means lying to the public, then so be it. One can argue that this is borderline SF at best. The society of Poictesme is lifted wholesale from the US of the Nineteen Fifties, along with its values and inevitable sexism. Piper has made no attempt to create a believable colony society and, as other critics have pointed out, has not considered that computers may have been miniaturised by the time Man has reached the stars. To be fair, he was never alone in this, and it is the least of this novel's problems. It suffers for one thing from a surfeit of minor characters, many of whom are not fleshed out enough to be distinguishable from the rest. It is at root a political farce, possibly a homage to James Branch Cabell, since the name of the world and its main town are lifted from Cabell's work. It has dated considerably in comparison with other novels of the time. It also owes a lot to Asimov's 'Foundation' trilogy at the denouement which uses the same premise of analysing data to predict the future of human civilisation in the galaxy. Interestingly, Piper seems to have been the inventor of the word 'Collapsium' which Will McCarthy later used to great effect in his novels of The Queendom of Sol. Having said all that it's an entertaining piece and mildly amusing in places, but is not an important work by any stretch of the imagination.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Carlson

    The Cosmic Computer is basically a story about economic development. It features the same sorts of hardy capable men as Four Day Planet did. It also includes a hardy capable woman. It's set in the same fictional galaxy, as well. The adventure isn't quite as rollicking as in Four Day Planet. But nor is the tale quite as simple, either. The reveals are decent. (One draws a bit from Asimov's Foundation.) The conclusion is okay, short-term, but isn't really a conclusion. But, hey, no one ever promised The Cosmic Computer is basically a story about economic development. It features the same sorts of hardy capable men as Four Day Planet did. It also includes a hardy capable woman. It's set in the same fictional galaxy, as well. The adventure isn't quite as rollicking as in Four Day Planet. But nor is the tale quite as simple, either. The reveals are decent. (One draws a bit from Asimov's Foundation.) The conclusion is okay, short-term, but isn't really a conclusion. But, hey, no one ever promised one, did they? All in all, a fine read, just not as fun or satisfying as the other Piper works I've read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Short and almost pointless. Not the best example of H. Beam Piper. It was just barely okay.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Patrick DiJusto

    You know that asshole friend of a friend who is always going around telling people to read The Fountainhead or, heaven forbid, Atlas Shrugged as a way to really get excited about capitalism? And it always turns out that the only things those books do is to produce another asshole who blames his problems on everyone else being "moochers"? Well, next time that asshole opens his mouth, tell him to read this book instead. This book is the most joyous, vibrant, exciting exploration of capitalism I h You know that asshole friend of a friend who is always going around telling people to read The Fountainhead or, heaven forbid, Atlas Shrugged as a way to really get excited about capitalism? And it always turns out that the only things those books do is to produce another asshole who blames his problems on everyone else being "moochers"? Well, next time that asshole opens his mouth, tell him to read this book instead. This book is the most joyous, vibrant, exciting exploration of capitalism I have ever read. No one in the book is an asshole. No one blames their problems on anyone else. They just go out and form companies and start doing business, then they merge their LLCs into holding companies and do more business, then they issue stock in the holding company and do even more business, and everyone has a blast doing it. The Plot: After the interplanetary System Alliance War ended, the Planetary Federation Army (just like the US Army after WWII), wrapped up its heavy equipment and either buried it in the desert or just left it behind. The end of the war resulted in an economic (and spiritual) depression, severely contracting the economy. Rumors abound that the Army had developed an Artificial Intelligence named MERLIN and left it buried on one of the agricultural planets. A sort of cargo cult has arisen around MERLIN; people believe that only MERLIN can save them by directing their economy and government. As a result, without MERLIN, nothing gets done. Conn Maxwell is a young man from that agricultural planet, just returned from University on Earth. Everyone thinks he knows where MERLIN is, though he claims he doesn't. What he does admit to knowing, though, is the location of hundreds of supply depots the army left behind. He and his father form a salvage corporation to go and dig up these depots. This stirs up competition -- other citizens come out of their doldrums and form their own salvage teams -- some of them still looking for MERLIN. When it turns out that some of the supply depots are really dockyards for building interstellar transport ships, the Maxwells form another corporation to build interstellar transport ships. This stirs up competition -- other citizens come out of their doldrums and form their own shipbuilding companies. Some of those companies join into holding companies to form a shipping services company. Once the planet has its own starships, it won't be tied to Earth's transport monopoly. Unemployment across the planet drops, as men who couldn't find jobs before now rush to retrain to become salvagers, spaceship builders, navigators, communication techs, computer programmers -- everything the new economy needs. Still MERLIN isn't found.... I won't give anymore away, because you get the picture -- the people soon learn that they didn't need MERLIN. All they needed was something to jumpstart their economy, and a reason to get back to work. It's hard to imagine a more pro-capitalist book, and what's great is that unlike the works of Ayn Rand, no one in the book (or the audience) ends up a miserable asshole.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Cosmic Computer is set in a post inter-galactic war society. The economy of the planet the story centers around is in the midst of a depression, and things are only getting worse. During and after the war rumors circulated about a super computer that could solve the problems of mankind, and revive the economy. A young boy is sent to study computers on another planet and learn all he can about this super computer 'Merlin'. *** Partial Spoiler (contains information from the first 3 chapters) * The Cosmic Computer is set in a post inter-galactic war society. The economy of the planet the story centers around is in the midst of a depression, and things are only getting worse. During and after the war rumors circulated about a super computer that could solve the problems of mankind, and revive the economy. A young boy is sent to study computers on another planet and learn all he can about this super computer 'Merlin'. *** Partial Spoiler (contains information from the first 3 chapters) *** He meets a war general who tells him that the computer never existed. When he gets back to his home planet, he is unable to dash the hopes pinned on the existence of Merlin. Instead he tells them the computer exists, and, with the help of his father, manipulates the search efforts to give the economy a jumpstart. ***end spoiler*** This was a freebie Kindle book, and a quick 2 day read. While the story was interesting enough that I didn't want to put it down, it didn't pull me in as much as other sci-fi books have. Overall, I don't regret the time spent reading it, but I am not inclined to read it again or look for other books by the author. I might suggest the book to someone who is interested in computers and sci-fi, but it would not be a top recommendation.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rex Libris

    The book takes place in a "universe" that is a forerunner to the "Firefly" universe. There was a big war of unification/consolidation, and after the war the backwater planets are poor while the core planets remain wealthy. The residents of one of the backwater planets intend to better their situation by cutting out the middleman and to start shipping their goods to market themselves and keep the mark-up. Meanwhile, there is always talk of mythical, super-computer that was used to win the war, an The book takes place in a "universe" that is a forerunner to the "Firefly" universe. There was a big war of unification/consolidation, and after the war the backwater planets are poor while the core planets remain wealthy. The residents of one of the backwater planets intend to better their situation by cutting out the middleman and to start shipping their goods to market themselves and keep the mark-up. Meanwhile, there is always talk of mythical, super-computer that was used to win the war, and then left abandoned on the planet where the story takes place. The enterprising business men need money to salvage equipment to build their fleet of spaceships, so they tell people they are using the investment to look for the computer when they are in fact creating a business empire that is making everyone wealthy without the computer. Everyone else thinks they are looking for the computer that may or may not exist, and the rest of the story unfolds from there. What is interesting about the computer in the story is that it is supposed to be so powerful that it is infallible. Some think it is a source of evil, others a source of the salvation of mankind. But to us looking back at the opinions of technology held by people in the 50's and 60's, it is an interesting study of anachronistic beliefs.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    The planet Poictesme is in a deep economic rut: the original Gartner Trisystem colonies was almost exclusively an export economy, and when its trading partners gained manufacturing capabilities the Trisystem economy collapsed. After a long depression the System States War briefly returned prosperity, as Poictesme was strategically important to the Federation. At its sudden conclusion, the Federation forces quickly withdrew, taking their jobs and personnel but leaving practically all of their equ The planet Poictesme is in a deep economic rut: the original Gartner Trisystem colonies was almost exclusively an export economy, and when its trading partners gained manufacturing capabilities the Trisystem economy collapsed. After a long depression the System States War briefly returned prosperity, as Poictesme was strategically important to the Federation. At its sudden conclusion, the Federation forces quickly withdrew, taking their jobs and personnel but leaving practically all of their equipment, buildings, vehicles, and materiel. The people of Poictesme (I'll save you a Google search: it's pronounced "pwa-tem", and is taken from James Branch Cabell) are in economic and spiritual doldrums, and most believe that only a top secret piece of war equipment, a supercomputer named MERLIN, can save them by directing their economy and government, and so forth. This is a book that throws a lot of ideas at the reader. In addition to the intricate economic construction (just the idea that the armed forces left everything behind is intriguing) is the psychology and sociology of a hidebound, almost superstitious population whose fixation on MERLIN blinds them to the possibilities. It takes the rare individual with entrepreneurial spirit to lift them out, and then only by trickery and guile. MERLIN appears to be an extended metaphor for the various emotional crutches that limit people from solving their own problems. And then there's the psychology of a market bubble, as produced by the searchers for MERLIN. Wealth just sort of appears, driven by the desire for people to get involved. A rumor that MERLIN may not exist risks the market itself. The searchers must solidify the market with actual profits and gains before it crashes and takes the planet back into depression. So, the government and commercial interests were spending a deficit, essentially. The difference between a depression and a growth economy is getting people motivated to do something. I'm not convinced that Piper's model holds water completely: Poictesme farmers bemoan overproduction of their brandy as unsellable (and plan to cut production), yet it apparently goes for tremendous profit offworld. Is the problem a lack of trading vessels? Why hadn't that been solved elsewhere, if not on Poictesme? It appears to be a case where a thing is extremely profitable, yet nobody is doing it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dominick

    Well, this was enjoyable--especially because it was so compact! It clocks in at 190 pages, for a story that would almost certainly require 300 or more these days. Part of that difference might benefit the modern version, as a novel like this now would probably go to more trouble to flesh out the characters, who are, herein, pretty shallowly sketched. On the other hand, the tight length means it chugs along quite quickly. And the plot really isn't that complex, so added verbiage would not necessa Well, this was enjoyable--especially because it was so compact! It clocks in at 190 pages, for a story that would almost certainly require 300 or more these days. Part of that difference might benefit the modern version, as a novel like this now would probably go to more trouble to flesh out the characters, who are, herein, pretty shallowly sketched. On the other hand, the tight length means it chugs along quite quickly. And the plot really isn't that complex, so added verbiage would not necessarily make it better. Planet impoverished after an interplanetary war goes after the mythical supercomputer that supposedly was built and then lost during said war, even though it supposedly does not really exist, as our protagonist "knows." Turns out he's wrong, of course. Not that that really matters much, as once the supercomputer is found the novel pretty much just stops; the supposedly earth-shattering (literally) consequences never occurring, making the supercomputer perhaps the biggest macguffin in all literature (the computer is gigantic, as miniaturization is something apparently generally unforeseen by SFwriters). What is most interesting is that the novel is actually fairly grounded in economics more than anything else; what really matters is how the search for the computer stimulates economic growth. The characters charter companies, sell stock, see the market grow, worry about it crashing, collude to keep it strong, etc. There is some rather wry if not outright satirical handling of manipulation, both political and economic, as a major element. Rather dated in its handling of women, who are allowed (in one instance anyway) a degree of competence but are still basically "girls" (so-called) and relegated to fiance and wife roles. Not SF for the ages, to be sure, but a fun and engaging old-time SF adventure. Fans will probably like it, but I doubt it would win any converts.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Annette

    From my lofty perspective of the 21st century, it is amusing how many classic sci-fi authors were able to imagine computers of near-godlike capacity... and yet never imagine miniaturization. I suppose the former follows, while the latter was dependent on advances and discoveries not currently in evidence. In any case, "Junkyard Planet" (I greatly prefer this title) is an unremarkable and yet perfectly competent little tale from the golden age of Sci-Fi. I had to look up whether this book pre- or From my lofty perspective of the 21st century, it is amusing how many classic sci-fi authors were able to imagine computers of near-godlike capacity... and yet never imagine miniaturization. I suppose the former follows, while the latter was dependent on advances and discoveries not currently in evidence. In any case, "Junkyard Planet" (I greatly prefer this title) is an unremarkable and yet perfectly competent little tale from the golden age of Sci-Fi. I had to look up whether this book pre- or post-dated Asimov's "Foundation" As it turns out, it was written a dozen years later, and therefore ought to confess to being just a wee bit derivative: the concept of being able to predict macro-history with startling accuracy appears here as well. I was amused to note a couple of references here and in the sequel / related thematic story "Space Viking" to Zarathustran sun-stones: he's clearly placed his sci-fi writings in the same basic universe as "Little Fuzzy," although the stories are separated by enough space and time as to make this fact unimportant, at least from the perspective of deciding what to read first.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Oddly, Piper had a very limited vision of what future computer technology might look like, but the story is more about people than about hardware. At the core of the story is the economic upheaval that can follow a war, in this case an entire planet that was in a "boom town" economy during wartime, but in near collapse after peace returned, because the military had provided so much of its economic structure. He may have used real world cities within the U.S. as a pattern for this, in the way some Oddly, Piper had a very limited vision of what future computer technology might look like, but the story is more about people than about hardware. At the core of the story is the economic upheaval that can follow a war, in this case an entire planet that was in a "boom town" economy during wartime, but in near collapse after peace returned, because the military had provided so much of its economic structure. He may have used real world cities within the U.S. as a pattern for this, in the way some cities were heavily disrupted by the closures of major military bases. Some of the people have a goal...to find a mysterious, hidden super-computer to help them calculate a solution to the world's problems. Of course, the computer may not exist, and if it does, there may have been a good reason to hide it. Along the way, the central character attempts to use the search itself as a way to help his people. Bandits, bankers and politicians all attempt to interfere, each with their own forms of dishonesty. Piper was not a computer specialist or a futurist, or else his far future computers probably would have evolved past punch tape output, but his knowledge of people made this an interesting story. I would recommend it to people who have read and enjoyed Asimov's Foundation books.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Appelcline

    Piper's The Cosmic Computer is an interesting artifact of its time. It crosses a lot of genre lines, and the result isn't really scientific enough to be a modern science-fiction novel, but that doesn't make it any less interesting. Overall, it's an intriguing story of a civilization rebuilding itself, with some tomfoolery along the way. The characters are weak, and I'd like to see a bit more action. I also some qualms that the ending of The Cosmic Computer falls a bit close to Isaac Asimov's fam Piper's The Cosmic Computer is an interesting artifact of its time. It crosses a lot of genre lines, and the result isn't really scientific enough to be a modern science-fiction novel, but that doesn't make it any less interesting. Overall, it's an intriguing story of a civilization rebuilding itself, with some tomfoolery along the way. The characters are weak, and I'd like to see a bit more action. I also some qualms that the ending of The Cosmic Computer falls a bit close to Isaac Asimov's famous Foundation trilogy. Nonethelesss, this remains an interesting look at Piper's Future History. I wish there was more of it!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael4771

    Many people think of older science fiction works as they would a star trek episode, ie stupid and uninteresting. However my immersion into the science fiction of the past has confirmed quite the opposite to me. This book is no exception. It is packed with both adventure and intelligence. Sure, H. Beam Piper couldn't have imagined what a computer would look like in the future, but that doesn't stop the reader from enjoying the book. Or it shouldn't, in my opinion.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

    Amusing, goofy space opera about the search for a massive computer not unlike the systems that would be imagined by Asimov in the Foundation trilogy. I listened to the Librivox edition as read by Mark Nelson. https://librivox.org/the-cosmic-compu...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    Action-adventure juvie with socio-politics thrown in for good measure... Heinleinesque, if not quite as entertaining.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Havens

    I found that this book was a beautiful piece of writing without a doubt. H. Beam Piper has the wonderful tendency to write all of his books in the same world at different times, and this book is no exception. Tiny references to the other works of Mr. Piper can be found throughout this book, with a background character here and a memorable planet there. These details are nice for long time readers, but what really caught my eye while reading this book was the fact that it shows everything about t I found that this book was a beautiful piece of writing without a doubt. H. Beam Piper has the wonderful tendency to write all of his books in the same world at different times, and this book is no exception. Tiny references to the other works of Mr. Piper can be found throughout this book, with a background character here and a memorable planet there. These details are nice for long time readers, but what really caught my eye while reading this book was the fact that it shows everything about the world, the good and especially the bad. The characters are well defined, and you can tell exactly what their actions would be in almost any situation. Though the world lies in the future, this is a book that shows our own past and how we could have handled it. If you must read any single book from the sci-fi genre, The Cosmic Computer is one of the best possible choices.

  16. 5 out of 5

    SJ Shoemaker

    This may be the most realistic and yet laughably cartoonish science fiction book I've ever read. The entire book revolves around a massive super computer called Merlin. No one knows where this computer is, having been lost to the ages long ago. No one is even sure who built it or what it's capable of. The greatest piece of technology, more advanced than anyone's wildest imagination is about to reappear after a hiatus long enough to have it exist only in myths and urban legends. It could be smart This may be the most realistic and yet laughably cartoonish science fiction book I've ever read. The entire book revolves around a massive super computer called Merlin. No one knows where this computer is, having been lost to the ages long ago. No one is even sure who built it or what it's capable of. The greatest piece of technology, more advanced than anyone's wildest imagination is about to reappear after a hiatus long enough to have it exist only in myths and urban legends. It could be smart enough to run the governments of the world, dangerous enough to wipe out life itself--it might even be so advanced that it has gained sentience... and yet all anyone cares about is making a profit.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Buck

    The Cosmic Computer, originally titled Junkyard, Planet is the fourth work I've read recently by H. Beam Piper. I started with a short story, The Return, which was very good. Then I read Little Fuzzy, also very good. Uller Uprising and this one, The Cosmic Computer, were both disappointing, compared to the first two. So Piper is a mixed bag. Theodore Sturgeon was right when he said, “Sure, 90% of science fiction is crap. That's because 90% of everything is crap.”

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Kind cool story about economics/moral choices based in a future where a galactic war ended and the economies of key places needed a reboot. Interesting result in the end. Not perfect, though. I felt it lacked characterization. Solutions to engineering problems came a little too easily for my taste.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    A fun classic sci-fi novel. Set in the same universe as his Fuzzy series.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Manuranga Perera

    retro-futuristic feel-good

  21. 5 out of 5

    Zach Miller

    Liked it, not too great at anything, but its 1960s.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Terry Mills

    Another good one! Another good Si-Fi from Piper. I have yet to find a Piper book that I did not like. But this is one of the best.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mckinley

    Contains bits of Graveyard of Dreams short story.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Charles Mcclung

    If you like books written in 50's style this is a good read

  25. 4 out of 5

    IMHO

    Classic Science Fiction from the Golden days. It never gets old. A MUST READ SELECTION

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    O, for the future that was! I grew up reading 50s and early 60s science fiction, and while I don't think I read The Cosmic Computer, it is definitely the future I remember. Let's call it Greatest Generation in Space, all the best of the 20th Century and none of the problems. Mankind has spread to the stars, bringing along love for industry, exploration and exploitation. (Really, that wasn't a bad word back then, it just meant using something that's waiting to be used.) Many of Piper's characters a O, for the future that was! I grew up reading 50s and early 60s science fiction, and while I don't think I read The Cosmic Computer, it is definitely the future I remember. Let's call it Greatest Generation in Space, all the best of the 20th Century and none of the problems. Mankind has spread to the stars, bringing along love for industry, exploration and exploitation. (Really, that wasn't a bad word back then, it just meant using something that's waiting to be used.) Many of Piper's characters are prospectors or similar, rugged individualists who are very proud of their capabilities and independence. They love hard work and making money; they can operate any weapon, vehicle or industrial machine (they are men, after all) but might need a little training for something fancy, like a computer. Industry of the space future seems oddly like that of the Industrial Revolution, scaled up a bit and with some new alloys to replace the brass and cast iron. The reactor has gone cold? Shovel in more plutonium! Need a spaceship to go off-world mining? No problem, a gang of men with welding torches can put one together in a few weeks. (Chewbaca would be so happy there.) As for social structure, the space future is a lot like the US Midwest of the 1950s, with towns (states) connected by hyperships instead of railways. Names are mostly European, with a few Asian surnames thrown in, you know, for diversity. (He never says what happened to the Africans in the move to space, but I'm pretty sure they were replaced by robots.) Men work (using industrial machinery, mostly, though farms still seem to be manual labor) and women stay home. Someone has to press the selector buttons to make breakfast, after all. Piper's future has an overarching government, the Terran Federation, which seems well-intended as an organization for mutual trade and peace. Local government is often cast in a bad light - a necessary evil at best, often contemptible. No one who can do anything useful would take a government job, after all. Law enforcement is frequently shown as lax, and so naturally everyone travels armed - sidearms in town, heavy weapons when traveling abroad. Now for the story: Conn Maxwell's home planet of Poictesme has pretty much gone bankrupt (they used unsecured paper money, the fools!) and while the local export crop (brandy) fetches a good price offworld, the makers are dependent on traders who don't pay much. The only other significant export is abandoned military materiel, which seems in much abundance due to the planet (and whole system) having been a major supply area for a big war some fifty years previous. (This is the source of the original publication name, Junkyard Planet.) Conn is the great hope of his hometown, a talented young man who was sent off-planet to get a good education, so that he could come home and solve the big problem of the day. What, rebooting the economy and fixing the trade issues? No, of course not - the big problem is to find the huge military computer that was abandoned along with all that other war stuff. If they can find MERLIN, they figure, the computer will solve all the other stuff. Conn and his father make the search for MERLIN into a stone soup scheme: yes, what we want is the huge computer that will solve everything, but to find it we need to build new ships, restart the factories and generally get the planet working again. It's a great plan and there's lots of fun, hard work and heavy weapons fire along the way.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kat Hooper

    Originally posted with links at Fantasy Literature. http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi... Conn Maxwell is returning to his impoverished backwater home planet, Poictesme (a nod to James Branch Cabell), after years at the university where he studied computer science. The leaders of Poictesme sent him to school so that he could learn about MERLIN, a legendary supercomputer that is thought to be located somewhere near their planet. They believe that if they can find MERLIN, they will have the info Originally posted with links at Fantasy Literature. http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi... Conn Maxwell is returning to his impoverished backwater home planet, Poictesme (a nod to James Branch Cabell), after years at the university where he studied computer science. The leaders of Poictesme sent him to school so that he could learn about MERLIN, a legendary supercomputer that is thought to be located somewhere near their planet. They believe that if they can find MERLIN, they will have the information and guidance they need to raise the economic power and status of Poictesme back to its former glory. It used to be an important military outpost but it was abandoned by the government when the war ended. Some farmers remain (they produce a highly prized brandy) along with all the stuff that the military left behind. Now that Conn has returned, the search for MERLIN can begin. But there are people on Poictesme who don’t believe in the legend. There are others who don’t want to find MERLIN — they are afraid of what a supercomputer might do to them. And there are still others who only want to find MERLIN for themselves. Conn must work with all of these people — and some of them are his own family members — to try to do the best thing for his planet. And that might mean telling a big lie! The Cosmic Computer, also published as Junkyard Planet, is the third book in Piper’s TERRAN FEDERATION series, but it can stand alone. (I have not read the previous novels, Uller Uprising and Four Day Planet.) The Cosmic Computer is a fun science fiction quest story that has a lot going on despite its short length. There’s plenty of science and technology — robotics, engineering, astronautics. Some of this is quite dated because the book was published in 1963, but one of Piper’s female characters is a roboticist (the “real” women don’t like her, of course). There’s also lots of business, economics, sociology, religion, politics, and psychology. Plus, space battles! It’s a little hard to believe that the people of Poictesme couldn’t figure out another way to make their planet prosper (it will be obvious to any reader). The reveal at the end is really hard to swallow, too, but this is still a nice adventure story with an interesting premise, some exciting exploration, and a couple of unexpected plot twists. The Cosmic Computer has some obvious parallels with Asimov’s ROBOT and FOUNDATION stories. The Cosmic Computer is now in the public domain. I got the Kindle version for free and then purchased the audiobook for $1.99 with Amazon’s Whispersync deal. Jeffrey Kafer’s narration is quite nice.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dianne Owens

    I haven't posted a book review in a while due to studies. In lieu of recently cutting down on my workload, I decided to listen to Mark Nelson's Librivox reading of The Cosmic Computer, the fourth of his readings that I've had the pleasure of listening to. It is also the third H. Beam Piper novel, set in the Terro-Human science fiction universe. This is the same setting as novels such as Little Fuzzy and Four-Day Planet. I ended up listening to the novel during my walks along the ocean. GIST Conn I haven't posted a book review in a while due to studies. In lieu of recently cutting down on my workload, I decided to listen to Mark Nelson's Librivox reading of The Cosmic Computer, the fourth of his readings that I've had the pleasure of listening to. It is also the third H. Beam Piper novel, set in the Terro-Human science fiction universe. This is the same setting as novels such as Little Fuzzy and Four-Day Planet. I ended up listening to the novel during my walks along the ocean. GIST Conn Maxwell arrives back home from a sponsored off-world information-gathering trip to Terra to find the rumored top secret war-time supercomputer Merlin. He is received by his sponsors, including his father, and feeling that it would dash their hopes decides not to tell them that he couldn't dig up anything useful. Conn's father Rodney Maxwell confronts his son in private soon after and the two conceive of a plan to reboot the planet of Poictesme's economy by using the belief in Merlin's existence to spur commerce, exploration and manufacture. So begins the rather messy regeneration of Poictesme. THOUGHTS With all of H. Beam Piper's novels, The Cosmic Computer is told with humour derived from human behaviour and logic. The story flows easily, and we see how something so simple can snowball near out of control within a short period of time. It is the juggling of many tasks that often creates conflict for Conn and his father, and their pact to secrecy is put to the test many times throughout. Another trait of H. Beam Piper's novels is the art of the conspiracy. Whilst we see some of this with Conn and Rodney Maxwell's plan to some extent, we also see the machinations of the various antagonists also creating obstacles for the plan. The motivation for one of the players also adds in another problem relating to the nature of Merlin, an invention that Conn and Rodney are doubtful even exists. There are clues to his identity right from the beginning, but I don't want to spoil that part. Another aspect of H. Beam Piper's novels is technology and violent conflict. To the case of Merlin, it might seem laughable given the reality of Moore's law and in micronization in general. Whilst we see Piper's descriptions of technology such as computers often being limited to his own era, this did not take away from my enjoyment of the novel. CONCLUSION I really liked this novel. The characterizations, plot and action worked like a charm. I also extend my thanks to Mark Nelson for taking time out to record so many classic audiobooks, especially silver-age science fiction. I highly recommend this novel to lovers of science fiction and humour.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Richard Tongue

    I'm a big fan of H. Beam Piper, and this, I often think, is his 'second book' after Space Viking, but though this is a good read – a fun romp, really, with the usual depth of setting that you would expect from one of Piper's books, I'm going to have to confess that on some levels, this is a rather disappointing read. For one simple reason – the protagonist, while likeable enough, never fails. He never puts a foot wrong, he never makes a mistake, even his guesses turn out to be right. On the one I'm a big fan of H. Beam Piper, and this, I often think, is his 'second book' after Space Viking, but though this is a good read – a fun romp, really, with the usual depth of setting that you would expect from one of Piper's books, I'm going to have to confess that on some levels, this is a rather disappointing read. For one simple reason – the protagonist, while likeable enough, never fails. He never puts a foot wrong, he never makes a mistake, even his guesses turn out to be right. On the one key issue at the heart of the book, while he makes an error of judgement – it doesn't seem to matter in the long run. The core of this book is the hunt for the computer 'Merlin', capable of predicting the future through psychohistory. The lead, Conn Maxwell, has been sent to Earth to train as a computer technician, at considerable expense to the rest of the community, and has returned with the news – which he opts to keep to himself – that there is no Merlin. Instead he uses the ghost of Merlin to cause his fellows to greater and greater pursuits in an attempt to rebuild the planet, until – he actually finds Merlin in the end. It's all good, if not great, but don't read this book for the plot. Read it for the world-building. This was Piper's forte, and it really shows through here. He establishes a world in decay, a world that was dragged out of obscurity to become a staging post for the armies of the Terran Federation, only to be forgotten again once the war was over. The attitudes of the people, the imagery of the world – his father as a prospector for military equipment, which he sells by the ton! - all of it works wonderfully; to the point that when things begin to pick up, there is almost an air of disappointment that the world of the start of the book is gone. It's a good read, a good quick read, but merits careful attention, especially at the beginning.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rollie Reid

    This is a book with twists at the beginning and end. Conn Maxwell has been sent to Earth to go to school and to look for information on a Super Computer named Merlin. The story starts the day he arrives home. After all his study, he no longer believes there is a Merlin, but he has found information on many old abandoned military facilities, and that knowledge is going to make everyone in his home town rich. Everything is going swimmingly, and they are recovering lots of gear, and preparing ships. This is a book with twists at the beginning and end. Conn Maxwell has been sent to Earth to go to school and to look for information on a Super Computer named Merlin. The story starts the day he arrives home. After all his study, he no longer believes there is a Merlin, but he has found information on many old abandoned military facilities, and that knowledge is going to make everyone in his home town rich. Everything is going swimmingly, and they are recovering lots of gear, and preparing ships. The find a shipyard and hope to build a starship. Conn is hoping that they will be able to export the local brandy and make everyone rich, and then everyone can forget about Merlin. But what if Merlin is real? I won't go on in order to avoid spoilers. This is a fun romp of a book. First published in 1963, and if that era does not set your heart aflutter, then you are not really a fan of science fiction. H. Beam Piper was a hugely influential figure in those early days of science fiction, and this is one of his more influential book. Fun to read and free on KIndle.

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