There was a series of books that I read part of back in the 1980s in trade paperback form published in the US. It was newly published then I think. It featured an alien race that had perfected nanotech and seeded the galaxy with devices for space travel that resembled huge radio antenna dishes. The area surrounding the focal point of the dish would be the portal region. Space ships that flew into that region would be transported to the focal region of another dish in the travel network instantaneously.

The portals were built by nanotech originally confined to cylinders scattered on places like the moon. Once retrieved and transported to the nearby planet, the nanotech would automatically awaken and build the portal. This would guarantee that only civilizations that had achieved some form space travel would have access to the network of gates.

Later books in the series dealt with adventures of people who started traveling through the gates and settling on the worlds they discover.

I vaguely remember leftover nanotech at the moon site then building a transmitter signaling the original alien race that the moon site had been found and then going on to start creating actual aliens on the moon to serve as first contact representatives. I may well be merging two separate stories into one. The key factor for both would be the alien nanotech deliberately seeded for first contact.

  • It's a couple of decades too late, but in The Expanse the protomolecule constructs a ring in the solar system out around the orbit of Uranus that connects to a galactic switching node to hundreds of other rings.
    – DavidW
    Jul 28, 2022 at 13:24
  • I guess 1992's Assemblers of Infinity is also too late.
    – Spencer
    Jul 28, 2022 at 22:13
  • @spencer - no - that's actually one of the books. It's definitely a conflation with another story-line though. The other story-line has actual interstellar travel by humans in it. Somehow an alien-built cylinder gets brought to earth, triggering it into building a huge radio-dish shaped device (thousands of feet tall and wide) that ends up being another portal in an interstellar travel network. I believe they identify the device as containing nanotech that do the buildout. It's possible the shuttle bringing the device to earth is destroyed when it triggers.
    – user90961
    Jul 29, 2022 at 11:42
  • @spencer - go ahead and write an answer for Assemblers of Infinity and I'll flag it as the answer if nobody comes up with a better one for the other book I was thinking of. It's a good book in it's own right.
    – user90961
    Jul 29, 2022 at 11:47


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