This short story and essay collection contains some of my favorite stories of all time. For example Becalmed in Hell is about a man and his machine partner exploring Venus. It has a very clever psychological twist. Inconstant Moon, which won the Hugo in 1972, is about a couple of people inferring a great disaster on the far side of the world. Epic stuff. Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex is a hilarious essay about the problems Superman would have mating with the hypothetical woman “LL”. It may be one of the funniest things ever written. You can read it here in its entirety.
Author Allen Carpentier is at a science fiction convention when he falls out of the window of his hotel room. He finds himself in Hell. Determined to grasp control of the situation and achieve redemption, he starts on a journey through a slightly modified version of Dante‘s hell, guided by a man called Benito.
The idea behind this novel is classic. A modern retelling of Dante’s Inferno! Great fun despite the subject matter.
Ringworld and The Ringworld Engineers are some of the best hard SF books ever written. On the other hand, The Ringworld Throne was an enormous disappointment, and given that I expected to dislike this offering. I was pleasantly surprised. The characters are well defined as usual with Niven, and the story, while not too complex, runs along nicely.
The days of truly epic tales from Niven seem to be over. Nowadays, he writes little idea pieces like this one, or collaborates with other authors. If you enjoyed the first two Ringworld novels, you will like this one. However, I think it would be impossible to read without having first read the other ones, and probably some of the other Known Space stories.
This direct sequel Ringworld and The Ringworld Engineers has none of the good qualities of the two first books. It is confusing, unfocused and adds nothing Known Space. Avoid it.
In this novel-length sequel to The Flight of the Horse, time traveler Svetz continues his adventures. Unfortunately the story is both confusing and unengaging.
In this, hilarious short story collection, time traveller from the future Svetz has to go back in time and collect fauna from our time in order to populate the ruler’s zoo. Unfortunately, the time machine has the unexpected side effect of making him chase after mythical creatures. The horse is actually a unicorn and so on. The past is a fantasy version of the real past. Poor Svetz has to contend with quite a few mishaps with dragons and the like. A lot of fun, much of it with Svetz as the punchline.
Shoogar is the greatest wizard his primitive village has ever known. Then a strange new wizard literally drops from the sky. Of course, they new wizard comes from a very advanced culture. Mayhem ensues.
There is a lot of humor in this book as magic meets technology. There are also many more or less good puns. I enjoyed it but it is far from a must read. The joke gets a bit old.
Not Niven’s best collection, but it still contains quite a few entertaining stories. This is a mix of free-standing short stories, some written in collaboration with other authors, and some shorts in Niven’s Draco Tavern setting.
This short story anthology is a sequel to The Magic Goes Away. While a bit more enjoyable that the first book, it suffers from the same basic problem. The idea of magic as a dwindling resource is clever but wears out its welcome too quickly.
In ancient times, there was magic in the world. But the supply of mana, on which magic is based, is dwindling. Creatures with magical metabolisms, such as dragons, are in serious trouble, and in general the world is becoming a less mystical place. A group of adventurers sets out to find the last remaining source of mana.
The idea underlying the novel is very clever. Unfortunately it is not very good. It is based on the short story Not Long Before the End but the idea doesn’t scale very well to a full length novel.
Set in the same universe as A World out of Time but only very tenously connected to that novel, these series of two should be read as a set. The novels are set in which is not really a world. A “smoke rIng” of atmosphere and biomass orbits around a neutron star, forming a huge but habitable donut-shaped space. In other words, no gravity. Humans have colonised this “smoke ring” in various ways. Enjoyable, but more for the wickedly cool setting than for the stories.
Note: These are now also published in an omnibus edition.
Set in Niven’s Known Space, more specifically on the world of Plateau, where the only habitable location is Mount Lookitthat, an area half the size of California that rises above the toxic clouds that range the planet. The crew of the initial colony ship set up an elitist society in which “crew” are first class citizens and “colonists” are lower class. This distinction is particularly noticeable when it comes to medical care. Capital punishment is used even for small offenses. Convicted criminals are harvested for their organs, thus allowing “crew” to extend their lives with transplants. Then a ship comes from Earth with some disruptive new technology.
While not one of the more flamboyant Known Space novels, it is cleverly constructed around some very intriguing ideas. Classic Niven.
This novel is an expansion of the short story Rammer from the collection A Hole in Space. Jaybee Corbell wakes up after having being cryogenically frozen after death Now he must repay his debt to society (being cured of his cancer and woken up cost a lot of money) by piloting an exploratory ramship to seed planets around the galaxy, a mission that will take centuries. He rebels and takes his ship on a long tour of the galaxy at relativistic speeds, ending up back on earth millions of years later. Reminded me a little of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, except for the lack of a means for return.
While the short story that formed the basis is fantastic, this novel length expansion, while solid, falls a bit short of the mark.
While he has written several good novels, Steele is at his best in the shorter forms, and this novelette is no exception. In fact it won the Hugo Award in its category in 2011. This story is both charming and interesting.
A long running anthology series with stories set during the Man-Kzin Wars in Larry Niven’s Known Space universe. Niven started this thing up because while the Wars were very significant in the history of Known Space, he himself was not adept at writing about conflict. Niven has written some of the stories but most are by other authors. The writing ranges from average to excellent. Recommended if you are a fan of Known Space.
All the Gil “The Arm” Hamilton stories collected in one volume with a previously unpublished story. These are good SciFi murder mysteries set in the Known Space universe. It just goes to show that Niven has a devious mind. As he says himself, SciFi murder stories are tricky since the reader must know all the “rules” of the environment in order to have a shot at solving the mystery himself.
Note: Most of the stories were previously published in “The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton”.
Chronologically the first of Niven‘s Known Space books, and also his first published novel. An alien who has been frozen in stasis for eons is awoken. He comes from a former master race (quite literally) and poses a grave danger to humanity.
Solid adventure SciFi with some very clever concepts.
Note: Various editions have the title with or without initial “The”.
These three very loosely connected novels span thousand of years. Nagata writes competently about a future in which humanity is first technologically lifting itself off earth, and finally scattered about a hostile universe. I enjoyed them even though Nagata does two things which annoy me. The first is that the novels are in parts rather boring. Nothing much happens. The other thing is that she can be very depressing. Vast especially makes me feel just a bit too small in a vast (heh) universe.
The third and final book in the Society of Humanity series sees Ray Longknife leading a exploratory expedition, and getting lost. The expedition finds the descendants of a ship’s crew thought lost three hundred years ago. But all is not as it seems. The planet is literally alive with remnants of an ancient civilization. And it’s not happy.
Unlike the somewhat flawed predecessor volumes, this is a very respectable story. The “planet as supercomputer” elements are interesting, as well as the evolution of the individual characters components of that computer. The contrast between the arriving expedition and the locals is also well done, with a good grasp of factional politics. All in all, a great conclusion to the series.
Harry Dresden is a private investigator of sorts. He is actually a wizard living in modern Chicago. In this novel, a mysterious woman hires him to find her husband. At the same time, in his capacity as police consultant on “unusual” cases, he is called in to assist in investigating a mysterious murder and soon finds himself implicated. To make matters worse, the White Council, a governing body of sorts for wizards, thinks he is guilty of crimes against the laws of magic.
The novel reads like a noir detective story, down to the lack of funds and burning of bridges with the police. The wizard and magic aspect makes for an interesting wrinkle. Unfortunately, however, it does not make the book interesting enough. Dresden is a interesting character and well crafted, but after a while the book became a bit predictable. The whole thing is too deeply steeped in noir thriller cliché. Shame really, as the whole thing is based on a cool concept.
The Dresden Files series formed the basis for a short lived TV series of the same name.
Compared to the first book, this one is far more focused. There is a clear feeling of moving forward instead of flying about all over the place.
The Society of Humanity, more or less representing the “core” worlds, is at was with the “rim” worlds, where political power is wielded by a ruthless dictator. We follow protagonists from both sides of the conflict.
While it has some interesting battle scenes and good characterization, the plot is scattered and weak. As in the early Longknife books, I was left reeling by a rich backstory which wasn’t adequately fleshed out. I had to pay real attention to seemingly throwaway comments from minor characters to fill in the social and political background. The book did serve as a decent introduction to the next two installments, introducing the main players.
Mike Moscoe is more well known writing as Mike Shepherd. The Society of Humanity series is set several decades before the Kris Longknife books.
The third Takeshi Kovacs novel is just as violent and X-rated as the previous installments. Morgan has not lost his gift for film noir cool and deep cynicism. So far so good. However, while Altered Carbon was a tightly written masterpiece and Broken Angels had an intriguing plot device, Woken Furies is much less focused. Sometimes it seems like Morgan is just taking the reader on a guided tour of Kovacs’ old stomping grounds on our hero’s native Harlan’s World. Granted, the guided tour is very very good, and Morgan’s prose flows smoothly, but some plot elements deserved more attention and it all seems a bit contrived. For starters, more could have been done with the duplication of Kovacs.
Takeshi Kovacs is back in a new sleeve. This sequel to the incredible Altered Carbon puts Takeshi in the middle of a little war. The plot is not as strong as the one in Altered Carbon. While the previous novel is a film noir/detective story, this one learns more towards a Clarke-esque sense of wonder story. Unlike Clarke, however, it is focused of the failures of humanity to leave its flawed past of violence and greed behind. The characters are very strong and the prose is top notch. Still, it left me with a feeling that Mr. Morgan tried to stick a story around a thought he had, and the revelations at the end are a bit too construed to add coolness to the plot.
Still, if you like action filled cyberpunk, you will enjoy it.