Ringworld by Larry Niven
In 2850 AD, Louis Wu is at his 200th birthday party and thinking about how bored he is. The world has become homogeneous — everyone on Earth uses the same language, everything is available everywhere, and all the cities have lost their unique flavor. Life is dull. That’s why Louis Wu is a perfect candidate for the alien Nessus (a Pierson’s Puppeteer) who wants to take a manned spaceship to explore a strange phenomenon in space.
Nessus also recruits a Kzin named Speaker-to-Animals who is a feline alien from a warlike culture, and the beautiful 20-year-old human woman named Teela Brown that Louis Wu has been sleeping with. She’s so silly that at first it’s not clear what she offers the mission other than good looks, “conical breasts,” a giggle soundtrack, and sexual gratification for Louis Wu (this is something I hate about science fiction written by men in the 1960s), but later we discover that Nessus kno... Read More
Larry Niven(1938- )
Laurence van Cott Niven is the multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of the Ringworld series, along with many other science fiction works. He has a degree in mathematics. He lives in Chatsworth, California with his wife. Here’s the official Larry Niven website.
Ringworld — (1970-1994) Publisher: A new place is being built, a world of huge dimensions, encompassing millions of miles, stronger than any planet before it. There is gravity, and with high walls and its proximity to the sun, a livable new planet that is three million times the area of the Earth can be formed. We can start again!
Ringworld by Larry Niven
Moties — (1974-1993) By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Publisher: Writing separately, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are responsible for a number of science fiction classics, such as the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Ringworld, Debt of Honor, and The Integral Trees. Together they have written the critically acclaimed bestsellers Inferno, Footfall, and The Legacy of Heorot, among others. The Mote In God’s Eye is their acknowledged masterpiece, an epic novel of mankind’s first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre.
The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
The Mote in God’s Eye, co-written by frequent collaborators Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, is a classic First Contact science fiction story which Robert A. Heinlein called “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read.” The story takes place in 3017 AD in the future of Jerry Pournelle’s CODOMINION universe (though it’s not necessary to have read any of those books to enjoy The Mote in God’s Eye). Humans have developed the Alderson Drive which allows them to immediately jump to certain points in space. Thus they’ve been able to colonize many planets which are ruled by a single government similar to the British monarchy.
Up to this point humans have assumed they’re the only intelligent species in the universe, but an alien spaceship has just ... Read More
The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
The Gripping Hand (1993) is Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s sequel to their popular 1974 novel The Mote in God’s Eye, which you probably want to read first. This review will have a couple of spoilers for The Mote in God’s Eye.
Recall that by the year 3017 AD, humans had designed the Alderson Drive — an interstellar transporter which allowed them to jump out of our galaxy to colonize different star systems. Then they discovered the first alien species — the Moties — who were excellent engineers but did not know the science behind the Alderson Drive. The Moties must breed to survive and were quickly overpopulating their own star system. Because they represent a major threat to our species, the human space navy ha... Read More
Protector by Larry Niven
Phssthpok is a protector of his race, the Pak. For thousands of years he’s been traveling space, looking for the Pak breeders that left his war-torn planet millions of years before. This is, biologically, the only thing Phssthpok lives for and if he doesn’t find them soon, he’s likely to stop eating and die. Finally, in our year 2125, Phssthpok thinks he may have found the lost breeders, though they have evolved so differently than they would have if they had remained at home that they are almost unrecognizable. When Phssthpok meets Jack Brennan, a human who’s been mining in the outer asteroid belt, he kidnaps him, takes him to Mars, and initiates a project that will (again) change the course of human history.
It may not seem like it at first, but Protector is a novel of ideas, mostly having to do with the origin of humanity and its place in the universe. Niven’s extra-terrestrial origin of man... Read More
Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
When bored millionaire Tim Hamner discovers a new comet, he’s excited to finally accomplish something without the help of his family. Harvey Randall, who’s producing a TV documentary about the comet, expects his show to be wildly popular. And the American and Russian astronauts who are chosen to study the comet are proud to be chosen for such an important international mission.
All the experts said there was no way the Hamner comet would hit the Earth. But there are always plenty of people who are ready to panic — the type who start hoarding guns, ammo, and canned food. Then there are the types who are ready to prey on the panicky folks — doomsday cults declaring it’s the end of the world, or burglars waiting for the rich people to flee their expensive homes. When the comet does hit the earth, all those weirdos and the normal folks who are left must figure ... Read More
The Magic Goes Away — (1978-1984) Omnibus edition. Publisher: Once there was magic in the world. But hordes of selfish, short-sighted magicians have used up the mana that moved the world, and the magic goes away. Even the most powerful spells are fast becoming futile, and so Orolandes, sad Achaean with half a sword, goes on a quest in search of the lost power. But all the gods and Fair Atlantis are dead. The creatures of spirit, the unicorns and centaurs, are dying. Soon all the sparkling things will be gone from the world and only clay will remain — and those damned stupid barbarians with their damned stupid swords will win after all….
Dream Park — (1981-2011) With Steven Barnes. Publisher: A group of pretend adventurers suit up for a campaign called “The South Seas Treasure Game.” As in the early Role Playing Games, there are Dungeon Masters, warriors, magicians, and thieves. The difference? At Dream Park, a futuristic fantasy theme park full of holographic attractions and the latest in VR technology, they play in an artificial enclosure that has been enhanced with special effects, holograms, actors, and a clever storyline. The players get as close as possible to truly living their adventure. All’s fun and games until a Park security guard is murdered, a valuable research property is stolen, and all evidence points to someone inside the game. The park’s head of security, Alex Griffin, joins the game to find the killer, but finds new meaning in the games he helps keep alive.
Known Space — (1983-2010) Related to Ringworld. With Edward M. Lerner. The Intergral Trees includes The Smoke Ring. The World of Ptavvs is a story collection. Publisher: When leaving Earth, the crew of the spaceship Discipline was prepared for a routine assignment. Dispatched by the all-powerful State on a mission of interstellar exploration and colonization, Discipline was aided (and secretly spied upon) by Sharls Davis Kendy, an emotionless computer intelligence programmed to monitor the loyalty and obedience of the crew. But what they weren’t prepared for was the smoke ring — an immense gaseous envelope that had formed around a neutron star directly in their path. The Smoke Ring was home to a variety of plant and animal life-forms evolved to thrive in conditions of continual free-fall. When Discipline encountered it, something went wrong. The crew abandoned ship and fled to the unlikely space oasis. Five hundred years later, the descendants of the Discipline crew living on the Smoke Ring no longer remember their origins. Earth is more myth than memory, and no recollection of the State remains. But Kendy remembers. And just outside the Smoke Ring, Discipline waits patiently to make contact with its wayward children.
Bowl of Heaven (2012-2014) With Gregory Benford. Publisher: In this first collaboration by science fiction masters Larry Niven (Ringworld) and Gregory Benford (Timescape), the limits of wonder are redrawn once again as a human expedition to another star system is jeopardized by an encounter with an astonishingly immense artifact in interstellar space: a bowl-shaped structure half-englobing a star, with a habitable area equivalent to many millions of Earths… and it’s on a direct path heading for the same system as the human ship. A landing party is sent to investigate the Bowl, but when the explorers are separated — one group captured by the gigantic structure’s alien inhabitants, the other pursued across its strange and dangerous landscape — the mystery of the Bowl’s origins and purpose propel the human voyagers toward discoveries that will transform their understanding of their place in the universe.
A Gift from Earth — (1968) Publisher: Plateau, a colony in the Tau Ceti system, was settled by humans some 300 years before the plot begins. The colony world itself is a Venusian type planet with a dense, hot, poisonous atmosphere. It would be otherwise uninhabitable, except for a tall monolithic mesa that rises 40 miles up into a breathable layer in the upper atmosphere. This gives the planet a habitable area about half the size of California. The Captain of the first colony vessel named the feature Mount Lookitthat (from his interjection at first sight of it), and the colony became known as Plateau. After landing the slower-than-light ships, the Crew sign an agreement, called the Covenant of Planetfall, with their former passengers (who had just emerged from suspended animation and were in a weak bargaining position). This agreement gives the Crew (and their descendants in perpetuity) all control over the new colony. A system of medical care evolves, in which organ transplantation is the only method of treatment, even for cosmetic defects (such as baldness); a justice system evolves, with all crimes punishable by death, followed by involuntary donation of the decedent’s transplantable organs (including skin, scalp, and teeth). Not surprisingly, only Colonists are ever arrested for crimes; and only Crew are eligible to receive transplants. Some Colonists become dissatisfied with the system and form a dissident group called the “Sons of Earth.”
The Flying Sorcerers — (1971) With David Gerrold. Publisher: This funny and insightful science fiction classic introduces Shoogar, the greatest wizard ever known in his village. His spells can strike terror in the hearts of even his most powerful enemies. But the enemy he faces now is like none he has ever seen before. The stranger has come from nowhere and is ignorant of even the most basic principles of magic. But the stranger has an incredibly powerful magic of his own. There is no room in Shoogar’s world for an intruder whose powers match his own, let alone one whose powers might exceed his. So before the blue sun can cross the face of the red sun once more, Shoogar will show this stranger just who is boss.
A World Out of Time — (1976) Publisher: After 200 years in cryosleep, Jaybee Corbell awakens to find that his mind has been downloaded to another body and he’s in servitude to a harsh future State. After his escape via a spaceship, he traverses such vast distances — with accompanying time dilations — that he returns to Earth 3 million years later to discover a world wholly alien to the one he’d left. A.E. van Vogt wrote, “This fantastic novel is a mix of Niven hard science and a time-travel concept to boggle the mind.”
The Patchwork Girl — (1980) Publisher: Only the most beautiful girl on Luna could have sent a near fatal laser beam into the chest of the Fourth Speaker for the Asteroids. It’s an open and shut case, so investigator Gil ‘the Arm’ Hamilton will have to move fast to save her from the organ banks where criminals repay society with their body parts.
The Descent of Anansi — (1982) With Steven Barnes. Publisher: It’s the American Revolution all over again. But this time it’s a ragtag band of space colonists vs. the United States. And the fate of the world hangs by a thread — 200 miles above the earth.
The Time of the Warlock — (1984) Publisher: Magicians and swordsmen in Larry Niven’s exciting “pre-history” world fight constantly, with magicians usually gaining the upper hand, and magicians often struggle for power amongst themselves. Mana, the ultimate source of magic, has been depleted, a nonrenewable energy source, as the ancient gods die. In this tale of linked stories, the Warlock fights a swordsman, a werewolf, demons and fellow magicians. Together with a colorful band that includes a haunted Greek swordsman, a beautiful witch-sorceress, and the talking skull of a former enemy magician, the Warlock travels around the world, from what is now California to Scandinavia and to the Alps, to seek the last living god in his hidden cave, the god of love and madness.
Achilles’ Choice — (1991) With Steven Barnes. Publisher: The gods of Olympus offered a fateful choice to the warrior, Achilles — a short, glorious life, or a long, dull one. Achilles chose glory. This is the story of the Eleventh Olympiad in the late 21st century — a contest not only for glory but for survival–and of the woman who dared to compete for the highest stakes of all. The future of humanity.
Destiny’s Road — (1997) Publisher: Wide and smooth, the Road was seared into planet Destiny’s rocky surface by the fusion drive of the powered landing craft, Cavorite. The Cavorite deserted the original interstellar colonists, stranding them without hope of contacting Earth. Now, descendants of those pioneers have many questions about the Road, but no settler who has gone down it has ever returned. For Jemmy Bloocher, a young farm boy, the questions burn too hot — and he sets out to uncover the many mysteries of Destiny’s Road.
Rainbow Mars — (1999) Publisher: Five-time Hugo Award-winner Larry Niven weaves together time travel and fantasy to create an utterly unique novel on the origin of the Martian “canals.” Hanville Svetz was born into a future earth that matches the sorriest predictions of Greenpeace. With most of Earth’s original species extinct, Svetz travels back and forth in time retrieving them. Svetz learns that Mars was inhabited, and how the sapient Martian species were wiped out. He forsees that Earth could soon fall victim to the same fate.
Saturn’s Race — (2000) With Steven Barnes. Publisher: The future is a strange and dangerous place. Chaz Kato can testify to that. He is a citizen of Xanudu, a city-sized artificial island populated by some of the wealthiest men and women on future Earth. A place filled with hidden wonders and dark secrets of technology gone awry. Lenore Myles is a student when she travels to Xanadu and becomes involved with Chaz Kato. She is shocked when she uses Kato’s access codes to uncover the grizzly truth behind Xandu’s glittering facade. Not knowing who to trust, Lenore finds herself on the run. Saturn, a mysterious entity, moves aggressively to break the security breach. With interests of the world’s wealthiest people at stake, and powerful technology at it’s fingertips, Saturn, puts Lenore racing for her life, against a truly formidable foe.
The Goliath Stone — (2013) Publisher: The Goliath Stone is a visionary new tale from Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington. Doctor Toby Glyer has effected miracle cures with the use of nanotechnology. But Glyer’s controversial nanites are more than just the latest technological advance, they are a new form of life — and they have more uses than just medical. Glyer’s nanites also have the potential to make everyone on Earth rich from the wealth of asteroids. Twenty-five years ago, the Briareus mission took nanomachinery out to divert an Earth-crossing asteroid and bring it back to be mined, only to drop out of contact as soon as it reached its target. The project was shut down and the technology was forcibly suppressed. Now, a much, much larger asteroid is on a collision course with Earth — and the Briareus nanites may be responsible. While the government scrambles to find a solution, Glyer knows that their only hope of avoiding Armageddon lies in the nanites themselves. On the run, Glyer must track down his old partner, William Connors, and find a way to make contact with their wayward children. As every parent learns, when you produce a new thinking being, the plans it makes are not necessarily your plans. But with a two-hundred-gigaton asteroid that rivals the rock that felled the dinosaurs hurtling toward Earth, Glyer and Connors don’t have time to argue. Will Glyer’s nanites be Earth’s salvation or destruction?
Inferno — (1976-2009) By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Publisher: After being thrown out the window of his luxury apartment, science fiction writer Allen Carpentier wakes to find himself at the gates of hell. Feeling he’s landed in a great opportunity for a book, he attempts to follow Dante’s road map. Determined to meet Satan himself, Carpentier treks through the Nine Layers of Hell led by Benito Mussolini, and encounters countless mental and physical tortures. As he struggles to escape, he’s taken through new, puzzling, and outlandish versions of sin — recast for the present day.
Heorot — (1987-2012) By Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes. Publisher: Light years from Earth, colonists land on a planet they name Avalon. It seems like a paradise — until strange and terrifying native creatures savagely attack the Colony. It will take every bit of intelligence, courage and military-style discipline to survive…
Golden Road — (2000-2005) By Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Publisher: Set in the world of Larry Niven’s popular The Magic Goes Away, The Burning City transports readers to an enchanted ancient city bearing a provocative resemblance to our own modern society. Here Yagen-Atep, the volatile and voracious god of fire, alternately protects and destroys the city’s denizens. In Tep’s Town, nothing can burn indoors and no fire can start — except when the Burning comes upon the city. Then the people, possessed by Yagen-Atep, set their own town ablaze in a riotous orgy of destruction that often comes without warning. Whandall Placehold has lived with the Burning all his life. Fighting his way to adulthood in the mean-but-magical streets of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods, Whandall dreams of escaping the god’s wrath to find a new and better life. But his best hope for freedom may lie with Morth of Atlantis, the enigmatic sorcerer who killed his father!
Oath of Fealty — (1981) Publisher: In the near future, Los Angeles is an all but uninhabitable war zone, racked by crime, violence, pollution and poverty. But above the blighted city, a Utopia has arisen: Todos Santos, a thousand-foot high single-structured city, designed to used state-of-the-art technology to create a completely human-friendly environment, offering its dwellers everything they could want in exchange for their oath of allegiance and their constant surveillance . But there are those who want to see the utopia destroyed, whose answer to tomorrow’s best and brightest hope is mindless violence. And they have just entered Todos Santos….
Footfall — (1985) Publisher: They first appear as a series of dots on astronomical plates, heading from Saturn directly toward Earth. Since the ringed planet carries no life, scientists deduce the mysterious ship to be a visitor from another star. The world’s frantic efforts to signal the aliens go unanswered. The first contact is hostile: the invaders blast a Soviet space station, seize the survivors, and then destroy every dam and installation on Earth with a hail of asteriods. Now the conquerors are descending on the American heartland, demanding servile surrender — or death for all humans.
Fallen Angels — (1991) Publisher: As a new Ice Age imperils the world, a lunatic fringe of the environmental movement has taken control of the U.S. government. Finding themselves abandoned by the new regime, the once-thriving space colonies must now replenish their air from scoopships that illegally dive into the atmosphere. But when Alex and Gordon’s ship is hit by a missile, they are sent tumbling to Earth — only to be hunted by authorities with ghastly plans for the two….
Building Harlequin’s Moon — (2005) By Larry Niven and Brenda Cooper. Publisher: The first interstellar starship, John Glenn, fled a Solar System populated by rogue AIs and machine/human hybrids, threatened by too much nanotechnology and rife with political dangers. The John Glenn’s crew intended to terraform the nearly pristine planet Ymir, in hopes of creating a utopian society that will limit intelligent technology. But by some miscalculation they have landed in another solar system, and extremely low on the antimatter needed to continue to Ymir, they must shape the nearby planet Harlequin’s moon, Selene, into a new, temporary home. Their only hope of ever reaching Ymir is to rebuild their store of antimatter through decades of terraforming the moon. Gabriel, the head terraformer, must lead this nearly impossible task, with all the wrong materials. His primary tools are the uneducated and nearly illiterate children of the original colonists, born and bred to build Harlequin’s moon into a virtual antimatter factory. With no concept of the future and with life defined as duty, one girl, Rachel Vanowen, begins to ask herself the question: what will become of the children of Selene once the terraforming is complete.