Juggler of Worlds Mass Market Paperback – Jun 2 2009
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“Niven and Lerner…clearly enjoy revisiting aliens familiar from Niven’s menagerie while spinning an elaborate tale of interplanetary intrigue. Their many fans will, too.”--Booklist
"Niven and Lerner...adroitly expand upon familiar ground...and, at the same time, pour it into an entirely new bottle."--Starlog
About the Author
Larry Niven is the award-winning author of the Ringworld series, along with many other science fiction masterpieces, and fantasy novels including the Magic Goes Away series. Beowulf's Children, co-authored with Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes, was a New York Times bestseller. He has received the Nebula Award, five Hugos, four Locus Awards, two Ditmars, the Prometheus, and the Robert A. Heinlein Award, among other honors. He lives in Chatsworth, California.
Edward M. Lerner has degrees in physics and computer science, a background that kept him mostly out of trouble until he began writing science fiction full-time. His books include Probe, Moonstruck, and the collection Creative Destruction. Fleet of Worlds was his first collaboration with Larry Niven. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Ruth.See all Product Description
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Sigmund gets a human face, as his sordid past is revealed, his romantic life is considered, and his fears for the human race are discussed. And the key question; 'is he paranoid enough' is addressed. Even uglier than his role as a paranoid cop is his background as... [say it in hushed tones] a revenuer. His girlfriend is industrial grade crazy (as bad as your story is, his takes the cake). And his worst paranoid concerns for humanity fall short of the reality.
I enjoyed it immensely. This one filled in the gaps between many of the 'Known Space' stories from a very different perspective, and shed light on the wherefores and whys behind the incidents described in other works. Because of this, the criticisms of recycled material are valid, as they included much earlier work, and invalid, as the material was needed to make the story work for someone who hadn't read any of this body of work earlier. And in the end, it heads off in a new direction.
An excellent addition to the "Known Space" series, and a worthwhile read.
E. M. Van Court
*Technically*, the writing, science and linkages to Niven's "Known Space" are very good. But, that linkage leads to this book's downfall. It feels more like a connect-the-dots chronicle than a story in its own right. Specifically, for two thirds of the book, there's really no explanation of why we're reading the book. It's just one thing after another relating to material in other Niven works with nothing explaining where THIS material is going. It's not until the last third of the book (after "Fleet of Worlds" ends) that anything resembling a motivation appears.
It pains me to have to rate the book down since it should have been a very good book. But, its choppiness and lack of motivation mean I can only rate it at an OK three stars out of 5.
Forty years or so ago, Larry Niven began writing a set of stories and novels set in "Known Space" - a portion of the milky way that was at least partially explored by the human race. Since then, he has occasionally let other writers into his playground, particularly in the The Man-Kzin Wars series.
This time, Niven has collaborated with Edward Lerner to write three books about the "Puppeteers", a race of technologically advanced herd animals, and their interactions with humanity.
The first book, Fleet of Worlds, re-introduces the Puppeteers fleet of five (now six) travelling planets for readers not familiar with them, and takes place largely on those planets, as does the third book, Destroyer of Worlds. This is the second in the series, and in some ways, the most daring. It is closer to a collection of short stories than a novel, and follows the connections of Sigmund Ausfaller, an existing Niven character, with the puppeteers and the fleet of worlds.
Previously, Ausfaller had appeared in the background of several Niven short stories, most of which are collected in Crashlander. In those stories, he's a mysterious agent of Earth's "ARM" intelligence agency, who typically shows up to manipulate the hero of thoses stories, interstellar pilot Bey Shaffer. Juggler of Worlds re-tells those stories from Ausfaller's perspective, plus one story ("The Soft Weapon") from the perspective of Nessus, a puppeteer "scout" who is also a long-standing Niven character. If you have fond memories of the Crashlander stories (and I do), rereading them from another perspective is a neat experience, but if you haven't read them, some of these stories will be challenging. If you are picking this up because you are reading the "Worlds" series but haven't read Crashlander, definitely read that first. You would also be well advised to read The Soft Weapon, but that's much harder to find.
Overall, the stories worked for me. I liked the growing relationship (often behind multiple levels of deception and proxies) between the two agents, Nessus and Ausfaller, as well as their parallels. Nessus, from a race of obsessively cautious herd animals, is made a scout because he is insanely daring (for a puppeteer), and Ausfaller, from a race of curious primates, is made an intelligence agent because he is insanely paranoid (for a human). The book does a nice job of sketching out their loneliness and their ongoing intelligence duel.
I have a few gripes that prevent me from giving it five stars. First, I was a little disappointed that the "lone genius" trope applies to puppeteers too. We are told several times that the puppeteer home world has TRILLIONS of puppeteers, but we meet fewer than ten: Hindmost (the leader of the civilization); Achilles (another scout); Baedeker (a genius engineer); Nessus; and a few supporting characters.
Baedeker, in particular, is the Wesley Crusher of the puppeteer civilization. If you need a previously nonnegotiable law of physics repealed, you apparently just call Baedeker. Presumably, with a civilization of a trillion plus hyperintelligent herd animals, some kind of distributed problem solving would be the way to solve problems - imagine what you could accomplish with a well managed set of one hundred teams of a thousand scientists each, plus logistical support. Ten thousand teams? A couple lines about Baedeker using the herd would have been great.
Still, I'm very glad I read Juggler of Worlds, and really enjoyed it, particularly the chance to revisit some of my favorite stories. Read it, but read Crashlander first.
Worst case would be to read this BEFORE you read the original short stories, since it features "spoilers" from an uninteresting viewpoint. So if you haven't read the old Niven books and stories, do so, and particularly do so before reading this one.
It isn't "known space" so much as "known plots".
The Kzinti hardly entered the plot, indeed I am not sure there was a plot. Niven took us to the puppeteers' home world, "Hearth", but didn't develop it. The Outsiders were active but we learned little about them.
At least, the grammar and spelling were good.