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This was a book I read recently, probably somewhere around 2000. As stated, a planet which had been part of a multi-system polity had lost contact. I think it was a few hundred years before but not sure. They discover a huge space station/ship in the outer solar system which is able to manufacture whole starships for them, and in fact, can even duplicate itself. If I recall correctly, the facility had been hidden away specifically for them, rather than randomly abandoned.

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  • Was the book a recent novel when you read it in 2000? Or an older story you read in 2000?
    – NJohnny
    Commented May 12 at 19:06
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    I read lots of SF from 1920s to 2020s and this had the feel of recent(ish) novel.
    – OmnivoreNZ
    Commented May 12 at 19:29
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    Funny how people's definition of "recently" varies. Your "recently" is about 24 years, while I saw someone else post about their "old" house built in the mid 1990s... :)
    – FreeMan
    Commented May 13 at 15:28

2 Answers 2

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It sounds suspiciously similar to a book by Michael Freeport - A Faded Star.

  1. Lost contact with multi-system polity - Check:

A forgotten colony of humans live on a water world circling a tiny, faded star on the edge of the galaxy. The crew of their newest flagship, the Rampart, encounters an alien scout who is being chased by a dangerous foe. The encounter shakes the beliefs held by the people of Lashmere. (...) These may be the last humans in the universe.

  1. Few hundred years - Check:

“Aeternum arrived in system five thousand six point three one standard years ago. Construction of shield shell took seven point eight hours. Placement of signal reflectors took an additional zero point two hours. Systems were placed in dormancy mode for remaining time interval.

  1. Using an Ancient Artifact they find something left for them specifically in another star system - Check:

Greetings, humans. Welcome aboard the manufacturing ship Aeternum. This ship has been placed here to ensure the survival of the human colony placed in the planetary system designated Lashmere. Genetic analysis indicates within acceptable limits current occupants of Aeternum are humans from same. Preparing for system startup. Passive radiant shielding expanding. Passive sensors tie-in with networked computer.

I read this book after encountering it, as a suggestion, in yet another story-identification question here on SE, but I am unable to find it on my own - however hero DavidW rescued me from that bit of ignorance pointing to here.

I was initially skeptical of this author and books (this is a series), but was pleasantly surprised. I recommend.

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  • If you want people to evaluate your answer, include the spoilers. There is s spoiler format to hide them. Otherwise there's no proof that this matches. Commented May 17 at 11:59
  • @OrganicMarble - Done. Why no one can take someones word for it, it's always "sources, sources"? ;-)
    – AcePL
    Commented May 17 at 16:39
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    It's almost like people on the internet would just make stuff up! Crazy, I know. Commented May 17 at 16:46
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    You can't find it because the author's name is spelled wrong: "Micheal Freeport" instead of "Michael Freeport." It's here
    – DavidW
    Commented May 17 at 16:50
  • Yes! That's it. Thanks heaps. Marked as answer.
    – OmnivoreNZ
    Commented May 17 at 19:21
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This is a not too uncommon trope in SF.

I think this is probably at best a partial match, but H. Beam Piper's The Cosmic Computer matches some aspects of your question. You can read it for free at Gutenberg.org

The story is a fine example of the "competent man" trope, so common in mid-1900's SF. It is set in the far future, when other star systems have been colonized and the subsequently established Terran Federation has collapsed after inter-system war.

In the story, the main protagonist Conn Maxwell, is returning to his home planet named Poictesme after studying computer science on Earth. Poictesme is a backwater world which makes its living from exporting brandy and medical and armament supplies left behind by the military after the war, during which Poictesme was a staging post for the one side in the war. After the collapse of the Federation, Poictesme is partially isolated and crumbling into poverty and barbarism.

Conn is the "great hope" for a group of people (called the Fawzi gang after their political leader Judge Fawzi) on Poictesme who hope that he can tell them about the titular Cosmic Computer supposedly used for calculating battle strategy during the war and based on Poictesme, which the gang hope can be used to predict economic supply/demand for them and make them rich. During his studies he doesn't find the location of the computer, as was hoped, but he does find the location of several supply depots, including a spaceport, which he then uses to launch a planetary come-back by leveraging the supplies and and space-port to find spaceship manufacturing plant on the airless 4th planet of the Poictesme star. During this he strings the gang along telling them the computer must exist and convinces them to invest money into his ventures. They find the factory, and a bunch of spaceships, and get them all running again.

His work provides jobs and much needed education for the young population on Poictesme and stages the start of the planetary come back.

SPOILER ALERT: Eventually, they find the cleverly concealed computer in the walls of one of the supply depots and it is exactly as predicted. They use it, and find that Conn's planetary plan is exactly what the computer predicts is needed to return the planet to greatness and re-form the Federation.

Parts that match: Factory off-planet, slowly losing contact with outside universe after being part of polity.

Parts that don't: Factory (and computer) not deliberately left for them, just left-overs from the war. No out of contact at all, just more difficult than formerly.

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  • But they aren't exactly isolated, though. They're still engaging in interstellar trade, and Conn has just been studying on Earth. OTOH, there's no harm in promoting awareness of H. Beam Piper stories. ;)
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented May 12 at 11:06
  • Upvoted, but there is another significant point of difference and that is Poictesme isn't a lost colony, indeed Conn Maxwell and "Mike Shanlee" return from Earth on a trading ship at the start and the Ourobouros sets out there towards the end.
    – DavidW
    Commented May 12 at 11:08
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    I love "The Cosmic Computer" aka "Junkyard Planet", but this was a much more recent book, and the 'manufactury' was a single installation in space, rather than an industrialised moon.
    – OmnivoreNZ
    Commented May 12 at 19:25
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    @OrganicMarble I agree, which is why I said "at best a partial match"
    – bob1
    Commented May 13 at 0:32
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    @OrganicMarble I was under the impression that partial matches are encouraged on this particular site because it is not unknown for details in the question to be wrong or not fully fit the accepted answer. Now, I'm aware that this is a overly generous loose fit to the question, but I've had similarly loose answers turn out to be the correct one.
    – bob1
    Commented May 13 at 3:41

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