Tag Archives: Larry Niven

First Monday Book Day: Paranoia Strikes Deep

Mother Nature has a deathgrip on the Far West this week, with a forecast high of 112 deg. F. for my neck of the woods today, after 109 on sunday, 104 saturday, and 101 friday. The high school jazz camp closed out Friday evening with a gig at the local pizzeria, playing in an outdoor courtyard. Amazingly, only one kid got sick. The crowd plowed through about 20 gallons of ice water, along with lots of beer and 'za.

This miserable weather did not stop me from my appointed task, however. I know how much this post means to all of you...

So, yea, I finished a book this month. Actually, I finished two books: Last month's selection as well as this one's. Both just so happened to have been co-written by Larry Niven. I guess I'm on a kick.

This month's pick is one of the prequels to Niven's 1970 classic, Ringworld. Juggler of Worlds was the second of a sequence of prequels. Luckily, it did not matter. This book stands on its own as an entertaining, well-crafted and complete story, particularly if you have not read a number of Niven's prior Known Space works with which this one overlaps/intersects (for a decidedly less positive interpretation, see this capsule Kirkus review). I think we've pretty well established that I am easily entertained.

Anyway, I found the adventures of paranoid-schizophrenic genius superspy Sigmund Ausfaller to be quite entertaining. Earth, for not-well-explained reasons, suffers from what its world government regards as severe overcrowding and some fascistic governmental interference in individual liberties, despite possession of FTL technologies that enable interstellar colonization. Interspecies politics and machinations are the focal point of this volume, but it is not nearly so deadly dull as that might seem.

What are you reading?

First Monday Book Day: Beowolf in the skies

Hey, what what! I'm back with a book post, and on time for a change.

This month's selection was a page-turner from those icons of hard-core, oft-times military-glorifying sci fi, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, along with that odd duck of sci fi, an African American male, Stephen Barnes, a frequent Niven collaborator, also well-published in his own right. Published in 1987, The Legacy of Heorot is very much and very self-consciously a retelling and retooling of Beowulf, set on a far-away world where a small cadre of human colonists are trying desperately to establish a foothold. (indeed, Heorot is the name of King Hroðgar's mead-hall and palace).

Like I said, a page-turner. The pacing is taut with tension, both sexual tension between the Beowulf-protagonist and another character, and dramatic tension as the story's perspective shifts between protagonist and alien antagonist(s). As is typical with Niven/Pournelle stories, the science is pretty solid and used to good, dramatic effect. The action is frenetic and compelling, but well-interspersed with dialog, descriptive exposition, and character development. This book would make a tremendous foundation for a summer blockbuster horror flick. I wonder why no one has tried to film it yet?

What are you reading?