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Some science fiction novels encompass all of human history and human destiny. No other genre has such enormous scope. A friend of mine and I were discussing stories where the main plot device is a discovery that human origins are much more interesting than some out-of-Africa migration of hunter-gatherers on this boring old planet. Here's my list of the most interesting stories of this type that I have read recently. (These are all from Baen Books, mostly because I got hooked on their free online library.)


By James P. Hogan:
- Inherit the stars (http://www.webscription.net/p-584-inherit-the-stars.aspx): A strange-looking spacesuit containing the body of a man who died 50,000 years ago is discovered on the moon. (Available in the Baen Free Library--just click on the "Read online" link in the middle of the page, or you can download the entire thing in several different formats.) This book started off a little slow, but once I got into it, I found it rather absorbing. How did this ancient astronaut get there, and what does that mean? This book is the first of a series, and I have not yet read the other novels in the series.

- The Cradle of Saturn (http://www.webscription.net/p-89-the-cradle-of-saturn.aspx): It turns out we do not understand planetary physics as well as we thought we did, and there are a few surprises which may force us to re-evaluate some events recorded in ancient history--and what is happening now.... This book I found very interesting at the start--lots of interesting concepts--but I was less interested in the action stuff at the end. This book is the first of a two-part series, and I did not find the sequel nearly as interesting (it seemed to have no new concepts, only action-adventure).

Hogan was an engineer who wrote his first novel (which happens to be the one I mention here, Inherit the Stars) as a bet with his officemates at work. He was interested in Velikovski's crazy theories about how catastrophes in the solar system influenced human history, and he makes good use of them in his novels. They may not be good hard science, but they make for good hard science fiction.

By David Weber:
- Mutineer's Moon (http://www.webscription.net/p-291-mutineers-moon.aspx): In a routine exploration flight over the moon, a pilot testing some advanced gravitational sensing devices is sucked in by a gigantic concealed battleship which is now controlled entirely by a computer mind. Incapacitated during the ancient Fourth Imperium of Man, the ship is now repaired and at battle readiness after tens of thousands of years. And so are some of the soldiers of the Fourth Imperium who mutinied from it millenia ago. (This book is also in the Baen Free Library.) This is the first book of a three-part series (the sequels are also available for free). I thought the other two in the series were ok but not as good; they had few additional new ideas, but were decent adventures.

David Weber is mostly known for his military SF, and this book has a good amount of that as the plot develops. I thought the concept of this book was fascinating, and I've re-read it a number of times.
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