I ground my way through this one in a little over a week, and I’m afraid to say, it was a grind.
This is a return to Larry Niven’s Known Space universe that he wrote so much about in the 60’s and 70’s. It aims to fill in some the gap between the adventures of Beowulf Schaeffer and Louis Wu’s exploration of Ringworld about 200 years later. This book is the first in a trilogy that is examining that timeframe.
I’d say the main two characters are Sigmund Ausfaller (an ARM – think Homeland Security zealot of the UN) and our old friend, Nessus the Puppeteer. However, we also see quite a few of the old standbys from Known Space, including Beowulf Schaeffer, Carlos Wu, and the flatlander called Elephant.
Getting to see some additional adventures of these folks was nice, but like I said, it was a grind to get through this book. Why? For starters, it’s a little on the long side, about 450 pages in print, and secondly, remember all those familiar characters? Well, we see them going through the same old adventures Niven wrote about back in the 60’s and 70’s as short stories.
It’s not a straight text drop-in or anything. Rather, it’s more of a “meanwhile, back at the ranch” thing, and I’ve got to tell you, it’s boring back at the ranch, especially when you already know what’s happening out with those neutron rustlers. It was like “see that really exciting thing over there? Well, don’t look at it. Nope, we’re gonna stay right here and talk about it afterwards.”
I can see that given how the plot went, this was somewhat necessary, but it still felt very, very boring. I almost gave up on it twice, and every time I thought that surely we had gotten though all the old stories, it turned out that no, there was still one or two more that I’d forgotten about.
Anyway, finally about two-thirds of the way through the book we get into really new material instead of life back at the ranch. That part was pretty good, and it was nice seeing what happened to some of the characters as well as a few more reveals about the Known Space universe.
Probably the highest praise I can give it was that it managed to revisit all those old stories without doing any obvious retcons. This lack of retcons is about the only reason I’m considering reading the rest of the trilogy. I figure that we’re past all the retellings by now, so the second and third books should be all new material. But if they start messing with Louis or the Ringworld, I’ll try to find a Kindle-friendly version of throwing the book against the wall.