While The Mote in God’s Eye is easily one of the best Science Fiction novels of all time, this sequel is barely worth slogging through. All the epic elements are lost, the few good ideas aren’t developed properly and it is just plain boring. Shame.
Note: In the United Kingdom it was released with the title “The Moat around Murcheson’s Eye”.
Slightly bizarre novel about a world where the greens have won and technology is, if not exactly outlawed, at least frowned upon. The lack of industry has brought on a new ice age. As a couple of astronauts (they stayed up there after the revolution) are stranded on Earth, undercover SciFi Fans come to the rescue. A lot of fun.
In this classic short story, a mercurial genius poet linguist is on Mars as part of an expedition. He delves deep into the mythos of the ancient (and still existing) Martian civilization.
Zelazny’s story is astonishing in its beauty. The use of Book of Ecclesiastes to illustrate the ennui felt by the Martians is genius. The prose is masterful and gorgeous. It is not a long story, but it lingers.
The sequel to the outstanding The Weapon takes places a decade and a half later. Kenneth Chinran has assumed a new identity and is living peacefully with his now teenage daughter. However, he is found by the Freehold special forces and asked to do one more mission. Kimbo Randall, a member of his team that Ken thought had died during the attack on Earth, has resurfaced as an assassin for hire. We follow Ken and his new associate Silver as they chase down Randall across several planets.
The action takes place on Grainne, Mtali, Caledonia, Novaja Rossia and even Earth. It is interesting to revisit the places that were featured in The Weapon, especially Williamson’s over the top oppressive Earth. The action is constant and excellent, with Chinran’s first arrogant person voice a sardonic guide.
Ken Chinran is a tortured soul. He is reviled on Earth as the biggest killer in history, and feels personally responsible for the death of billions during the war. His daughter gives him a reason to live. Williamson very skillfully explores Chinran’s soul and his bleak outlook without sliding into corniness. This story is a journey of redemption, of sorts, and the last few dozen pages surprised me greatly. Almost to the end, I thought it was just a very good chase novel, but the ending raised it to another level.
As in so many of Niven’s later works, there is a great backstory, but the novel falls short of the mark. A large offshore colony is dabbling in genetic engineering. There is a great feeling of hope that mankind will have a bright future. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen. Not very good, but it has some cool ideas and settings.
In this novel, Olympic athletes are allowed to “enhance” their bodies, to the point that they will not survive more than a few years after the competition. Unless they win, that is, in which case they join the ruling council and are “linked” to a neural interface that fixes the issue. Mildly entertaining.
California Vodoo Game (sometimes published as “The California Vodoo Game”)
The novels are set in a theme park named “Dream Park”. Dream Park uses holograms and other methods to create completely lifelike environments for adventures. For example, one can become a group of medieval knights on a quest, and be totally immersed in the experience. The novels are very enjoyable, with some nice twists to the tale. It is also interesting to see how role playing as a sport evolves from the first to the last book.
Well, he certainly is a scatterbrain, as he readily admits in the introduction. Although I feel that Niven’s writing has been in a steady decline for the past couple of decades, his short fiction and especially his articles are always great fun. Like N-Space and Playgrounds of the Mind this is a mix of new and old short fiction, book excerpts and articles. Enjoyable reading for the Niven fan.
If you’ve never read Larry Niven, these two collections are a great place to start. They are both a mix of essays, short fiction, and excerpts from novels. If you’ve already read practically all of Niven’s work, there is not a lot of new material, but the convention essays still make the books worth the read.
On a distant colony planet, a boy grows up wondering why the original colony ship departed many generations ago, at the same time scorching a road into the distance with its fusion drive. No knows where the road leads. The planet has a shortage of potassium and an upper class distributes what turns out to be potassium in exchange for their ruling status.
The ideas underlying the story are very clever. Unfortunately the story itself is confusing and hopelessly. I could barely finish the book. Given the neat premise, I wish Niven would have written an outline and contracted some other author to write the actual book.
In this standalone sequel to Fleet of Worlds, ARM agent and professional paranoiac Sigmund Ausfaller is obsessed with the enigmatic Puppeteer race. The book follows his career from recruitment to ultimate savior. It is a long and complex tale that touches on many points and characters covered in Niven‘s Known Space stories from decades past.
Fleet of Worlds is a pretty decent book. More importantly, it really took me back to the Niven’s classic Known Space novels and short stories. Juggler of Worlds unfortunately does not live up to its prequel. The plot is razor thin. The objective seems mostly to fill in the gaps between various Beowulf Schaeffer stories. Cute for the Niven fan, but it falls wells short of what I expected.
A new novel in the Known Space universe, “Fleet of Worlds” fills in some gaps in the story of the Puppeteers and the migration of their worlds (the “Fleet of Worlds”). It tells the previously unknown story of a society of humans living with the Puppeteers without knowledge of their heritage. The Puppeteers have some deep, dark secrets revealed. There are some excellent descriptions of Puppeteer society. We are also introduced to a younger Nessus, the Puppeteer featured in Ringworld.
It is a good story, and long awaited for any fan of Known Space. Unlike the third and fourth Ringworld novels, it really manages to capture the tone of the main Known Space novels. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the environment. Note, though, that you you will have a hard time following without at least having read Crashlander or Neutron Star (Crashlander reprints all the stories from Neutron Star).
This outstanding short story collection mostly contains stories that are set in deep space, as opposed to his other collections where the setting tends to be planetbound. The first is the excellent “Rammer” (which formed the basis for A World Out of Time), in which a man revived from cryogenic sleep is forced to pay his debt to society by going on a centuries long mission to “seed” potential colony worlds. There is also an essay on space habitats, including Niven’s Ringworld concept.
This novel, illustrated in the original editions, features Gil “The Arm” Hamilton, the detective protagonist of the stories in Flatlander (most of which were published earlier in “The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton). A woman is accused of murder and Gil must clear her name before she is executed and ends up in the organ banks.
The novel is rather short but a solid story from Niven at the height of his powers. If you can get hold of one of the original editions, the illustrations are have a nice retro feel.
This little hardback volume doesn’t contain a lot of new stories, but it does give a good insight into the mind of Larry Niven. The hilarious stories from science fiction conventions are priceless. Recommended only for the hardcore Niven fan.
This collection is a mix of Known Space stories, Draco Tavern stories and unrelated stories. There’s some great stuff in here, including the outstanding Dry Run, in which a man is doing a dry run with his dead dog in preparation for disposing of his wife’s body. Vintage Niven.