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Neo-opsis Review

          Fleet of Worlds and Juggler of Worlds

Larry Niven and Edward M Lerner

          Fleet of World starts off with an interstellar craft full of human colonists, who are captured by two headed aliens and forced to be slaves. A hokey ‘Saturday afternoon movie’ sounding premise, to be sure, but Niven and Lermer pull the story off well. The story jumps ahead hundreds of years, switching between stories of the humans living as slaves and stories of the ‘wild humans,’ as the aliens refer to free humans.

          Juggler of Worlds deals primarily with UN special agent Sigmund Ausfaller and his ability to use his clinical paranoia as a tool to track human and alien conspiracies. This expands upon a theme brought up in Niven’s short story, “Madness has its Place.”

          The two novels weave through Niven’s pre-existing Known Space stories in interesting ways (touching on such stories as “Procrustes,” “The Borderland of Sol,” “There is a Tide”), and showing us more of the lives of such characters as Carlos Wu, Beowulf Shaeffer, Nessus the Puppeteer (best known from Ringworld) and the above mentioned Sigmund Ausfaller.

          Some of the events from other stories, such as “At the Core,” are hinted at briefly, while we’re immersed in and shown different details of the events from other stories. A notable example is the interactions with the events in the story “The Soft Weapon” (1967). The short story was told from the perspective of the human character Jason Papandreou, where as the novel Juggler of Worlds takes us through some of the events from the perspective of Nessus the Puppeteer instead.

          While there is a fair amount of new content in these books, they could be considered akin to TV shows that do the clip episode, where they have no new ideas. They just use clips from previous episodes, tied together with lines like, “hey do you remember when...” I didn’t feel cheated at all by this, because these novels expand upon the ‘clips’ and show us the stories from different perspectives with additional details. It didn’t feel like just a rehash. It felt a new view of the stories from a different perspective.

          While reading, I had the impression that part of the authors’ intent with these novels was to correct or explain what might look like inconsistencies or technical inaccuracies throughout the series. These books are well recommended for fans of the minutia of the Known Space series.

          These books will likely be enjoyed by people who haven’t read any of the other Known Space stories, but I expect they work better if read by someone familiar with at least some of the series.

          The third book in this collection, Destroyer of Worlds, is in print.

Larry Niven. Canadian Publishers and Writers Party. Worldcon 2009, Montreal.


                Review by Karl Johanson

Originally in Neo-opsis issue 19.


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