Friday, November 12, 2010

Fleet of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

Fleet of Worlds
It's been a long time since I read any of Larry Niven's books. I have volume upon volume on the shelves, but the last few years most of what he's written hasn't been all that great, even though he pairs up with different writers to try new things. That said, this one was actually not too bad. Not a classic, but readable and somewhat interesting.

The book opens with a ramship from Earth finding a roving ice world out in the middle of nowhere, galactically speaking. When they send a radio signal to the world to contact anything that might be living there, they are attacked by monstrous robots, scene over.

We cut to several hundred years later, on a scout ship crewed by Colonists, humans who are the descendants of the humans on the ramship, raised in ignorance of their true history, and owned by Citizens, the Puppeteers from the Tales of Known Space stories by Niven. The Puppeteers discovered that the Galactic Core was exploding, and would eradicate all life near their home worlds, so they used highly advanced technology to send their homeworld and colonies on a long journey to escape the catastrophe. When they were contacted by humans, at first, they captured their vessel to prevent them from reporting back to Earth on the location of the Puppeteer home world. Their treatment of the passengers and their descendents all logically follow from that.

The crew of the scout ship, Kirsten, Omar and Eric, and Citizen Nessus are on a mission to assess the planetary systems in the path of the migration, to see if any pose a danger now or in the future to the Citizen home worlds, the Fleet of Worlds. Kirsten discovers some odd things on the mission, that lead her to believe that she and her fellow Colonists have been lied to about their past, and most of the book details the crew's efforts to find out the truth.

One minor flaw in the book, if I remember my earlier Niven: When Beowulf Shafer is hired to investigate what could possibly have penetrated an impenetrable General Products hull, manufactured by the Puppeteers, he discovers that it was the tides from a black hole. The Puppeteers never conceived of tidal forces when they created the hulls because their home world had no moons, therefore no tides. In FoW, one scene clearly describes the tides on one of the worlds, caused by the combination of the other worlds' gravitational forces. Just a niggling inconsistency for me.

Over all, not a bad book to while away these chilly fall evenings.

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