01/12/2008. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: TOR/Forge. 349 page hardback. Price: $24.95 (US), $27.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1826-8.
check out website: www.tor-forge.com
In many respects, Larry Niven's 'Known Space' is a somewhat completed reality and even the more recent additions to the 'Ringworld' aspect haven't been little more than embellishment rather jumping it to another level. I mean, when the other worlds have an almost utopian outlook then there leaves little left to challenge when Niven originally finished them where else is there to go?
With 'Juggler Of Worlds', rather than settle in the 'present', Larry Niven and co-author Edward M. Lerner have gone back to an earlier time. Some two hundred years before the discovery of 'Ringworld' as the cover proclaimer announces and touches base with Nessus, the Puppeteer alien who would later have some significance in the later novel.
We also hit bases with Beowulf Shaffer (in a tangent from his own head problems from another story) and Carlos Wu (father of Louis Wu) who have their own agendas. Principally, from the human perspective, we follow events from Sigmund Ausfaller's side, recruited into the Amalgamated Region Militia, commonly called the ARM, and his somewhat unseen rise through the ranks until he becomes very much the player. There then follows a madcap quest looking for people and finding out what is going on before circumventing it.
Telling you too much at this time would give away too many spoilers but the story is as much event-driven as character-driven.
If you're familiar with Niven's 'Known Space' books then you'll see it hits on all the right bases, including the Puppeteers exodus to avoid the eventual destruction of the galaxy to their familiarity with humans before they even met them which is a neat twist by the way. There is also more explanation of the enforced birth control on Earth and why it has to be done because fewer people want to colonise other worlds. I would have thought an over-population and inhibiting people having their own children would have been something of an incentive but we don't really see much outside of the main story to explore that particular problem.
When it comes to characters, its pointed out that ARM agents are somewhat paranoid in the carrying out of their duties yet even when Ausfaller is cured of this, I couldn't tell much difference in his character.
If anything, when dealing with such things, more is better than less and would certainly have made more sense to drive the characters or at least re-enforce how they think. 'Course, would a paranoid person spot the difference or just see it as more like themselves. As I'm not particular paranoid, I have to put this down to the story. It would also be difficult to tell apart what each co-author contributed to the overall story.
I think if you enjoyed the other 'Known Space' books that this will fill in somewhat a desire to re-visit the reality. Its closure on this particular plot-line doesn't readily open up into the next so could possibly leave a clean slate for another story.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA