High Justice

High Justice is a 1974 collection of science fiction short stories by American writer Jerry Pournelle. It was republished in an omnibus edition with Exiles to Glory in 2009 as Exile -- and Glory.

A major part of the background of these stories is the final fall of the Welfare States; Russia is never mentioned, and the US is downsliding due to inflation and political corruption. In short, Earth's civilization is about to collapse under the weight of its bureaucracies, but a new civilization is being built by determined multinational corporations. The stories were published between 1972 and 1975, and reflect Pournelle's concerns with the effects of environmentalism, welfare states, and high taxes on the ability of people to make advances in technology. At that time the Great Society, America's version of the Welfare State, was not even 10 years old.

Each short story concerns itself with the problems facing large technological tasks in the near future. These include plutonium fuel breeding, deep sea thermal power, large scale food cultivation and access to fresh water. The protagonists are the agents of multinational corporations - engineers engaged in large scale projects and troubleshooters engaged in protecting said engineers. Though economic competitors are mentioned in passing, the primary antagonists are political - untrustworthy governments and covert operatives acting on their behalf.

Pournelle's view of corporate mega-projects is similar to that of Robert A. Heinlein as expressed in stories such as The Man Who Sold the Moon, or more recently in the work of Tom Clancy. Top executives concentrate on financial risk, while engineers on the ground handle logistics and are extremely competent. Incompetent engineers get fired. There are no meddling vice-presidents, craven middle managers or deadhead employees of the sort generally found in any large technical effort-mostly because Pournelle's corporations lack trade unions to prevent their expulsion.

The projects described in these stories reflect technologies described in Pournelle's non-fiction collection, "A Step Farther Out":

  • A laser launch system for sending cargo into orbit, with MHD power generators based on rocket engines.
  • The NERVA nuclear rocket engine project.
  • Spacecraft using ion drives traversing the Solar System.
  • Asteroid mining.
  • Ocean thermal power generation with fish farming as a by-product of the artificial upwelling of cold nutrient-rich water from the deep ocean.

The short novel Exiles to Glory is a sequel, featuring two characters from these stories. Another short novel, Birth of Fire, is considered by the author to also be part of this universe, and has similar themes, though it draws more from the author's military SF. Also, Pournelle has plans to add a story he currently calls "Lisabetta" to this series.

The stories are considered by some as part of the CoDominium series, a future history stretching to the early 31st century. Certainly the themes of decay in the rich democracies are the same. The technology excludes innovations like the Langston field and the Alderson drive which are the main driving forces in the human diaspora projected for the 21st century. The publisher makes the claim that these are the stories that "started it all", but Pournelle himself considers it a separate "no FTL" universe.

Read more about High Justice:  Stories

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