I'm looking for the title of a SF novel that follows an alien civilization through technological eras as it tries to find a way to prevent the destruction of its sun. I believe the novel was published in the 1970s or 1980s. It was written in English and released as a mass market paperback.

The novel opens in the medieval technology era. The first protagonist is an astronomer whose observations of the sky cause him to realize their home solar system is in cosmological peril. (Sorry, I can't remember the specific cause of the impending doom.) The astronomer must now convince everyone of the gravity of the situation, a task made difficult by the religious institutions and political conflicts of the world.

Once the alien civilization realizes the seriousness of the problem, the novel shifts to a race against time, through technological eras, as its scientists work to find a way to save themselves from destruction.

A unique aspect of the alien civilization is that it is very biology-focused. Where humanity would have fabricated something out of metal, this civilization's technology harnesses biological engineering (selective breeding, genetic engineering, etc) to accomplish the same task.

I hope this is enough information to jog someone's memory!

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This sounds similar to the plot of John Brunner's The Crucible of Time, published in 1983. It has been previously asked about here (with no accepted answer) and here (with an author-supplied but not formally accepted answer).

As described by reviewer Raj over at GoodReads:

Each section of the book is a snapshot into the (never named) world of 'the folk', the first following the invention of the first telescope and the beginnings of astronomy, and then the discovery that their solar system is heading right into a crowded area of space, where collisions or disturbances by solar or planetary bodies would herald the extinction of their race. The rest of the book is built on this foundation: the knowledge that, in the long term, their homeworld is doomed, so they need to be able to leave it.

While not mentioned in his review, the alien species in question is an underwater race. As briefly mentioned in the Wikipedia stub for the book:

The species' unique biology and their biological technology complicate matters.

  • Agreed. Definitely sounds like Crucible of Time. – beichst Feb 15 '17 at 23:25

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