This book has no discernible story. There are some good ideas but they are squandered. I wish these two geniuses would have hired some young fireplug to do the actual writing off their outline. That way their cool concepts would have made for a legible novel. Niven & Pournelle are just not the team they used to be.
The Gripping Hand – Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
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”.
Footfall – Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Lucifer’s Hammer – Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Fallen Angels – Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle & Steven Barnes
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.
The Legacy of Heorot – Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle & Steven Barnes
Saturn’s Race – Larry Niven & Steven Barnes
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.
The Descent of Anansi – Larry Niven & Steven Barnes
Achilles’ Choice – Larry Niven & Steven Barnes
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 areÂ “linked” to a neural interface that fixes the issue. Mildly entertaining.
The Dream Park Series – Larry Niven & Steven Barnes
- Dream Park
- The Barsoom Project
- 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.
Scatterbrain – Larry Niven
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.
N-Space and Playgrounds of the Mind – Larry Niven
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.
Destiny’s Road – Larry Niven
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.
Note: This is set in the same universe as The Legacy of Heorot and Beowulf’s Children, but there is no connection between the stories beyond that.
Juggler of Worlds – Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner
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.
Love the cover though.
Fleet of Worlds – Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner
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).
A Hole in Space – Larry Niven
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.
The Patchwork Girl – Larry Niven
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.
Niven’s Laws – Larry Niven
Convergent Series – Larry Niven
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.
All the Myriad Ways – Larry Niven
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.
Inferno – Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
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’s Children – Larry Niven
In the fourth Ringworld novel, Louis Wu is, as usual, conscripted to do a powerful being’s bidding. In this case it is the Protector Tunesmith.
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.
The Ringworld Throne – Larry Niven
Louis Wu must deal with a couple of crises on the Ringworld.
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.
Rainbow Mars – Larry Niven
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.
The Flight of the Horse – Larry Niven
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.