Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: Fate of Worlds ~ by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

fate of worlds

Review by John for: Fate of Worlds ~ by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

Another ambitious and excellent galaxy-spanning novel from Niven and Lerner – the conclusion to the award-winning “Ringworld” and “Fleet of Worlds” sagas.

About: Ringworld, the most stunning and mystifying discovery in known space, has suddenly and inexplicably vanished, leaving three competing war fleets battling over supremacy of – nothing! Most troubled by the disappearance are the Puppeteers, whose densely populated fleet of planets is speeding away from the explosion of the galactic core. The meddling Puppeteers fear, with plenty of reason, that the armadas will turn their attention away from the Ringworld and towards the Puppeteers’ retreating planets. Unfortunately, the Puppeteers are beset by political strife caused by their megalomaniacal ex-leader; they are also secretly controlled by an alien race which may care little about the fate of the planets.

Meanwhile New Terra, a human colony which was set up by the Puppeteers but which has now broken away, also takes an interest in the Ringworld’s disappearance. Its current leaders are keen to stay isolated from the troubles, but its legendary (and now disgraced) ex-Defense Minister and protector sees a way to use the strife to help re-connect New Terra with its long-lost home planet, Earth.

A human adventurer and an exiled Puppeteer spent years on Ringworld before its disappearance, and they may hold the key to technological marvels which could help ensure the survival of the Puppeteer race. But the two face a myriad of political, technical and personal hurdles – not least of which is the Puppeteers’ determination that New Terrans must never find out the truth about their own history.

John’s thoughts: This is the fourth of the Ringworld/Fleet of Worlds novels that I have read (I think there are nine in total?) and I have totally enjoyed each one of them. As I said in one of my earlier reviews “Niven and Lerner spin great stories that have complex plots, intrigue, strong characters, a creative foundation of believable technology and really well constructed worlds and races. They clearly give a lot of thought to the alien races that they create, and the attention to detail adds a lot to the stories”. Having now read the latest and last in the series, I still couldn’t put it any better - so I won’t even try!

Fate of Worlds shares many of the alien races and plot foundations of the earlier novels, but gives extra emphasis to the artificial intelligence systems that have been developed. As the AI systems evolve at pace, I couldn’t help being reminded somewhat of Webmind from Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW novels - which certainly is no bad thing.

Do you have to read the previous novels in the series to enjoy this one? Absolutely not. While there is a progression to the novels and many connections, one thing that impressed me was that each of the four that I have read works as standalone piece with a clear beginning and ending. The extra nice thing about this one is that it ties together an awful lot of story threads in a coherent way. That is no mean feat given the complexity of the series.

The book isn’t much over 300 pages in length, but there is an amazing amount of complex plot, intrigue and detail crammed into those pages; and it isn’t tough to read. I found myself quickly drawn into the story and then read on whenever I had the opportunity. Will this really be the last in the series? Well, the book cover and marketing blurb say so, but I can see at least three parts of the story which could provide the foundation for future novels, so who knows.

I’d rate this book four stars. If you are a fan of Niven or Lerner, then this book is a “must read”. You won’t be disappointed. I’d also recommend it to anyone who enjoys hard science fiction.

Tor Books; 8/21/2012; Hardcover; 320 pages.

For reviews for two of the other books in this series, link to the titles of the books:

Fleet of Worlds ~ original publication year 2007 (Trade paperback edition – 2011)

Betrayer of Worlds(October 2010)

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