11 May 2012

Still November, still re-reading

Science fiction | Larry Niven

Recently re-read Larry Niven's A Hole in Space, a collection of short stories. My last post on the topic covered the first three stories.

All the Bridges Rusting is a space story based on the instant-elsewhere booths manufactured by JumpShift. Some have been put on drop-ships, whose only purpose is to absorb the enormous potential energy differences between the spacecraft here and the spacecraft out there. Some are self-transmitting ships. In the meantime, thirty years before, a slowship had set out to explore planets around Centaurus. The transfer booth ships reach first, and find the old ship is in trouble, not having made its slowdown maneuvres. Now, it's zipping along at 7% of the speed of light. Dr Robyn Whyte, ex-head of JumpShift, is faced with the impossible rescue, and how to explain it to a public no longer interested in space. Prophetic, that last. This is Larry Niven in ideas mode.

There is a Tide is the earliest Louis Wu story. Louis Wu stars in Ringworld, and in a few earlier stories. In this one, he is out alone, looking for stasis boxes left behind by the extinct rulers of space, the Slavers. He finds what seems to be the biggest one ever found, but things are not simple. Another, new alien species, has found it at the same time. Fight, flight, or gamble? This one is in way-out problems mode. Larry Niven loves tides. Read Neutron Star if you don't believe me.

Bigger than Worlds is a madcap essay, covering all kinds of giant spacecraft, why we will need them, and how they will get inevitably bigger with our overcrowding problems. Not fiction, but a tremendous display of science writing at the edge of fiction.

$16940.00 is not a science fiction story. It's about a blackmailer, and the blackmailed, and how they are tied together, and ... just read it, ok.

The Hole Man was written when the first quantum black holes were postulated. As Niven's friend Jerry Pournelle gleefully cackled later, Niven got into print about quantum black holes before Pournelle, but the science is wrong. Quantum black holes are black body emitters. Ah, dang it, it's a murder mystery. Of sorts. You realise only later that there are two murders, not one. This was an award winner.

The Fourth Profession is one of the eeriest Larry Niven stories I've read. The Monks, space aliens, visit Earth. One of them walks into a bar... OK, I should stop laughing. The bartender discovers more than he finds comfortable. Now only he can save the Earth... If you ever get a chance to read this one, do. It's Niven at his maddest inventiveness. It's also a story that showcases why Niven stories age so slowly in many ways. He was ahead of the times.

Anybody interested in more thoughts about instant-elsewhere transport? Try Harry Harrison's One Step From Earth.

Next up: Re-reading Hal Clement's Needle

No comments:

Post a Comment