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The Integral Trees [Audio Cassette]

Larry Niven , Pat Bottino
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Hardcover --  
Paperback CDN $14.44  
Mass Market Paperback CDN $8.28  
MP3 CD CDN $25.57  
Audio, Cassette, June 1 2012 --  
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Book Description

June 1 2012 Known Space
Leaving Earth, the crew of the spaceshipDisciplineprepared for a routine colonization assignment. But when they encountered the Smoke Ring, an immense, gaseous envelope around a neutron star directly in their path—and home to a variety of plants and animals that have adapted to the conditions of continual free fall—the crew must abandon ship and flee to the unlikely space oasis. Five hundred years later, the descendants of theDisciplinecrew no longer remember their origins—but the ship's cyborg "checker" does. And just outside the Smoke Ring,Disciplinewaits to make contact with its wayward children.
--This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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About the Author

Larry Niven has won the prestigious Hugo Award five times. He is known to millions as the premier modern author of rigorous, scientifically consistent hard SF, the champion of 'SF without a net'. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Quinn Tuft


Gavving could hear the rustling as his companions tunneled upward. They stayed alongside the great flat wall of the trunk. Finger-thick spine branches sprouted from the trunk, divided endlessly into wire-thin branchlets, and ultimately flowered into foliage like green cotton, loosely spun to catch every stray beam of sunlight. Some light filtered through as green twilight.

Gavving tunneled through a universe of green cotton candy.

Hungry, he reached deep into the web of branchlets and pulled out a fistful of foliage. It tasted like fibrous spun sugar. It cured hunger, but what Gavving’s belly wanted was meat. Even so, its taste was too fibrous . . . and the green of it was too brown, even at the edges of the tuft, where sunlight fell.

He ate it anyway and went on.

The rising howl of the wind told him he was nearly there. A minute later his head broke through into wind and sunlight.

The sunlight stabbed his eyes, still red and painful from this morning’s allergy attack. It always got him in the eyes and sinuses. He squinted and turned his head, and sniffled, and waited while his eyes adjusted. Then, twitchy with anticipation, he looked up.

Gavving was fourteen years old, as measured by passings of the sun behind Voy. He had never been above Quinn Tuft until now.

The trunk went straight up, straight out from Voy. It seemed to go out forever, a vast brown wall that narrowed to a cylinder, to a dark line with a gentle westward curve to it, to a point at infinity—and the point was tipped with green. The far tuft.

A cloud of brown-tinged green dropped away below him, spreading out into the main body of the tuft. Looking east, with the wind whipping his long hair forward, Gavving could see the branch emerging from its green sheath as a half-klomter of bare wood: a slender fin.

Harp’s head popped out, and his face immediately dipped again, out of the wind. Laython next, and he did the same. Gavving waited. Presently their faces lifted. Harp’s face was broad, with thick bones, its brutal strength half-concealed by golden beard. Laython’s long, dark face was beginning to sprout strands of black hair.

Harp called, “We can crawl around to lee of the trunk. East. Get out of this wind.”

The wind blew always from the west, always at gale velocities. Laython peered windward between his fingers. He bellowed, “Negative! How would we catch anything? Any prey would come right out of the wind!”

Harp squirmed through the foliage to join Laython. Gavving shrugged and did the same. He would have liked a windbreak . . . and Harp, ten years older than Gavving and Laython, was nominally in charge. It seldom worked out that way.

“There’s nothing to catch,” Harp told them. “We’re here to guard the trunk. Just because there’s a drought doesn’t mean we can’t have a flash flood. Suppose the tree brushed a pond?”

“What pond? Look around you! There’s nothing near us. Voy is too close. Harp, you’ve said so yourself!”

“The trunk blocks half our view,” Harp said mildly.

The bright spot in the sky, the sun, was drifting below the western edge of the tuft. And in that direction were no ponds, no clouds, no drifting forests . . . nothing but blue-tinged white sky split by the white line of the Smoke Ring, and on that line, a roiled knot that must be Gold.

Looking up, out, he saw more of nothing . . . faraway streamers of cloud shaping a whorl of storm . . . a glinting fleck that might indeed have been a pond, but it seemed even more distant than the green tip of the integral tree. There would be no flood.

Gavving had been six years old when the last flood came. He remembered terror, panic, frantic haste. The tribe had burrowed east along the branch, to huddle in the thin foliage where the tuft tapered into bare wood. He remembered a roar that drowned the wind, and the mass of the branch itself shuddering endlessly. Gavving’s father and two apprentice hunters hadn’t been warned in time. They had been washed into the sky.

Laython started off around the trunk, but in the windward direction. He was half out of the foliage, his long arms pulling him against the wind. Harp followed. Harp had given in, as usual. Gavving snorted and moved to join them.

It was tiring. Harp must have hated it. He was using claw sandals, but he must have suffered, even so. Harp had a good brain and a facile tongue, but he was a dwarf. His torso was short and burly; his muscular arms and legs had no reach, and his toes were mere decoration. He stood less than two meters tall. The Grad had once told Gavving, “Harp looks like the pictures of the Founders in the log. We all looked like that once.”

Harp grinned back at him, though he was puffing. “We’ll get you some claw sandals when you’re older.”

Laython grinned too, superciliously, and sprinted ahead of them both. He didn’t have to say anything. Claw sandals would only have hampered his long, prehensile toes.

Night had cut the illumination in half. Seeing was easier, with the sunglare around on the other side of Voy. The trunk was a great brown wall three klomters in circumference. Gavving looked up once and was disheartened at their lack of progress. Thereafter he kept his head bent to the wind, clawing his way across the green cotton, until he heard Laython yell.

“Dinner!”

A quivering black speck, a point to port of windward. Laython said, “Can’t tell what it is.”

Harp said, “It’s trying to miss. Looks big.”

“It’ll go around the other side! Come on!”

They crawled, fast. The quivering dot came closer. It was long and narrow and moving tail-first. The great translucent fin blurred with speed as it tried to win clear the trunk. The slender torso was slowly rotating.

The head came in view. Two eyes glittered behind the beak, one hundred and twenty degrees apart.

“Swordbird,” Harp decided. He stopped moving.

Laython called, “Harp, what are you doing?”

“Nobody in his right mind goes after a swordbird.”

“It’s still meat! And it’s probably starving too, this far in!”

Harp snorted. “Who says so? The Grad? The Grad’s full of theory, but he doesn’t have to hunt.”

The swordbird’s slow rotation exposed what should have been its third eye. What showed instead was a large, irregular, fuzzy green patch. Laython cried, “Fluff! It’s a head injury that got infected with fluff. The thing’s injured, Harp!”

“That isn’t an injured turkey, boy. It’s an injured swordbird.”

Laython was half again Harp’s size, and the Chairman’s son to boot. He was not easy to discipline. He wrapped long, strong fingers around Harp’s shoulder and said, “We’ll miss it if we wait here arguing! I say we go for Gold.” And he stood up.

The wind smashed at him. He wrapped toes and one fist in branchlets, steadied himself, and semaphored his free arm. “Hiyo! Swordbird! Meat, you copsik, meat!”

Harp made a sound of disgust.

It would surely see him, waving in that vivid scarlet blouse. Gavving thought, hopefully, We’ll miss it, and then it’ll be past. But he would not show cowardice on his first hunt.

He pulled his line loose from his back. He burrowed into the foliage to pound a spike into solid wood, and moored the line to it. The middle was attached to his waist. Nobody ever risked losing his line. A hunter who fell into the sky might still find rest somewhere, if he had his line.

The creature hadn’t seen them. Laython swore. He hurried to anchor his own line. The business end was a grapnel: hardwood from the finned end of the branch. Laython swung the grapnel round his head, yelled, and flung it out.

The swordbird must have seen, or heard. It whipped around, mouth gaping, triangular tail fluttering as it tried to gain way to starboard, to reach their side of the trunk. Starving, yes! Gavving hadn’t grasped that a creature could see him as meat until that moment.

Harp frowned. “It could work. If we’re lucky it could smash itself against the trunk.”

The swordbird seemed bigger every second: bigger than a man, bigger than a hut—all mouth and wings and tail. The tail was a translucent membrane enclosed in a V of bone spines with serrated edges. What was it doing this far in? Swordbirds fed on creatures that fed in the drifting forests, and there were few of these, so far in toward Voy. Little enough of anything. The creature did look gaunt, Gavving thought; and there was that soft green carpet over one eye.

Fluff was a green plant parasite that grew on an animal until the animal died. It attacked humans too. Everybody got it sooner or later, some more than once. But humans had the sense to stay in shadow until the fluff withered and died.

Laython could be right. A head injury, sense of direction fouled up . . . and it was meat, a mass of meat as big as the bachelors’ longhut. It must be ravenous . . . and now it turned to face them.

An isolated mouth came toward them: an elliptical field of teeth, expanding.

Laython coiled line in frantic haste. Gavving saw Harp’s line fly past him, and tearing himself out of his paralysis, he threw his own weapon.

The swordbird whipped around, impossibly fast, and snapped up Gavving’s harpoon like a tidbit. Harp whooped. Gavving froze for an instant; then his toes dug into the foliage while he hauled in line. He’d hooked it.

The creature didn’t try to escape: it was still fluttering toward them.

Harp’s grapnel grazed its side and passed on. Harp ya... --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting World Building Aug. 30 2003
Format:Paperback
First let me say that this edition I'm reviewing is a two for one. You get both the Integral Trees and The Smoke Ring in one volume, which certainly makes it worth the price.
Secondly, The Smoke Ring was published four years after The Integral Trees. But reading The Smoke Ring, immediately after the Integral Trees, makes it a much more enjoyable and stronger book. I doubt I would have enjoyed it quite as much had I read it four years after reading The Integral Trees.
Both of these novels are concept novels in the hard science fiction genre., which is both a strength and a weakness. Niven sets up the world he creates in The Integral Trees, and there is character development but it is a bit thin. I found the novel hard to slog through at times and frankly had a hard time conceptualizing the environment Niven creates. The Smoke Ring is a lot more fun on two accounts. First, Niven goes about exploring a lot more of the world he created. And the characters a bit more developed.
Overall, both are worth reading. If you get through The Integral Trees and really liked it, I think you'd love The Smoke Ring. If you get through the Integral Trees and liked it, but just barely, The Smoke Ring is better. If you really hated The Integral Trees and didn't get it at all, skip The Smoke Ring.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Niven's science is far-out yet still believable Feb. 11 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Are planets really necessary? This is the question that Larry Niven has asked perhaps as often as any writer in history, and he presents some more of his most fascinating answers in this marvelous sci-fi adventure novel. Somewhere in another solar system, the atmosphere from a dying planet has leaked out into a vast gas torus in which live enormous trees, anchored solely by gravity, gathering light from the sun and nutrients from the thin
atmosphere, and strangely enough, inhabited by a society of hunters and gatherers. Life has been getting tougher on the tree recently; so much so that partly in desperation, and partly out of malice, the Chairman sends an adolescent boy, a student of the sciences, and a powerful young hunter up the trunk of the tree with a ragtag bunch of misfits to find food to save the tribe - or failing that, to die trying. Following the adventures of this group provides a keen insight into their unique culture and how it has survived, but gives only a few clues as to where they came from and why. Balancing the hunting party's amazing adventures is a series of interludes featuring the Checker, a distant, computerized personality who has a strange fascination with the fledgling society. Niven's combination of dry scientific records and intimate sociological observations teases the reader into playing anthropologist, trying to piece together what exactly happened to create this situation in the first place. Beyond this, there's plenty of
action and more than a few total, out-of-the-blue-sky surprises, so readers should find this story as entertaining as it is intriguing. Moreover, Niven's ability to make his scientific points believably is unparalleled. While not as philosophically daring as Ringworld or The Mote in God's Eye, this is a top-notch sci-fi adventure for readers of all ages.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Another version of a Ring World Nov. 7 2001
By Bill
Format:Paperback
I met Larry Niven at a Sci-Fi convention back in April of 1983. This was back when Larry (Lawrence Van Colt) hated his known space series because he knew nothing he would ever write would be better than those fine stories. So, he spent a lot of time and energy on anything else but "Ringworld" and Known Space.
Larry was trying to make a new world based off the frame work established in "World out of Time". The plot is simple. People are sent into the universe with slower than light space ships. The world of the Intregal trees, of which the "Smoke Ring" is a far better name, shows how a white dwarf star circles a neutron star. The neutron star is pulling apart a Jupiter sized planet that circles in close orbit. The gases of the Jupiter sized planet supply the air for the "smoke ring". The Intregal Trees live in the Smoke Ring. The white dwarf heats the whole shebang. Got that? And you thought the Ring World was unstable!
The Characters of the plot are basic. To make a long story short, a tribe is on an Intregal tree that is slowly going out of orbit in the smoke ring. The tribe escapes the dying tree but is taken captive by another tribe that believes in slavery. Eventually, this tribe escapes from slavery and makes a new tribe on an unsettled tree.
Yep, this is fairly basic plot stuff. Indeed, when it was written the main characters were teenagers and we meet them again as middle aged adults in the "Smoke Ring", the follow up.
The Universe of the Intregal Trees and the World out of Time are depressing places. Imagine Hillary Clinton's "It takes a Village" type of thinking taking over Earth.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
3.0 out of 5 stars Another version of a Ring World Nov. 7 2001
By Bill
Format:Paperback
I met Larry Niven at a Sci-Fi convention back in April of 1983. This was back when Larry (Lawrence Van Colt) hated his known space series because he knew nothing he would ever write would be better than those fine stories. So, he spent a lot of time and energy on anything else but "Ringworld" and Known Space.
Larry was trying to make a new world based off the frame work established in "World out of Time". The plot is simple. People are sent into the universe with slower than light space ships. The world of the Intregal trees, of which the "Smoke Ring" is a far better name, shows how a white dwarf star circles a neutron star. The neutron star is pulling apart a Jupiter sized planet that circles in close orbit. The gases of the Jupiter sized planet supply the air for the "smoke ring". The Intregal Trees live in the Smoke Ring. The white dwarf heats the whole shebang. Got that? And you thought the Ring World was unstable!
The Characters of the plot are basic. To make a long story short, a tribe is on an Intregal tree that is slowly going out of orbit in the smoke ring. The tribe escapes the dying tree but is taken captive by another tribe that believes in slavery. Eventually, this tribe escapes from slavery and makes a new tribe on an unsettled tree.
Yep, this is fairly basic plot stuff. Indeed, when it was written the main characters were teenagers and we meet them again as middle aged adults in the "Smoke Ring", the follow up.
The Universe of the Intregal Trees and the World out of Time are depressing places. Imagine Hillary Clinton's "It takes a Village" type of thinking taking over Earth.
Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great concept, real characters.
Even though this story is based in a world that is almost incomprehensible to us as earthbound humans, the struggles and characters are very real. Fastpaced and exciting. Read more
Published on June 22 2002 by "naboren2"
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant concept, above-average plot and characters
Larry Niven isn't known for his thrilling plots, in-depth characterization, or purple prose. He's knows for his fantastically inventive settings, and The Integral Trees delivers... Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2001 by jmm117
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly realized concept
"The Integral Trees" is an excellent novel by science fiction great Larry Niven. Here is the premise: The earth star ship Discipline discovers the "Smoke Ring,"... Read more
Published on July 16 2001 by Michael J. Mazza
5.0 out of 5 stars Ever wish you could fly!
Well in Niven's smoke ring you can. Niven creates a world that exists within a ring of smoke created by a large planet, that is breathable and "even tastes fine". Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2001 by Dixon Whitley
1.0 out of 5 stars Larry Who??
After reading this book I realized that Larry Niven must have been killed and replaced by a pod person. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2001 by M. Runow
1.0 out of 5 stars Too complicated
I am a great fan of SF in general and Niven in particular. I love most of his other books, especially the Ringworld series, the Mote In God's Eye, World Out of Time, and all the... Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2001 by Nahum Wengrov
5.0 out of 5 stars If you loved Ringworld you will love this
Set in the known space universe, the story describes a culture of people that evolved to live in the 0 gravity world of a gas ring. Read more
Published on Oct. 15 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Niven's Integral Trees is Amazing
Integral Trees is an amazing book. Niven's use of a non-planet, natural zero g enviroment for this story is amazing. Read more
Published on July 5 2000
4.0 out of 5 stars Man, that's weird! I just love it.
This is just classic. If I could go on vacations inside science fiction books, I'd spend quite a while flying around in one of those weird trees, maybe get in some flying time on... Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2000 by Brian Altmeyer (brianaltmeyer@hotmail.com)
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