REVIEW SUMMARY: The latest installment in the Ringworld saga. This time, its war.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Louis Wu awakes after spending several months recovering in an autodoc to discover he has become an unwitting tool of the Protector Tunesmith. The Ringworld is threatened by the Fringe War occurring in its space between the Humans, Kzinti, Outsiders and Puppeteers. Louis Wu must help Tunesmith protect the Ringworld.
MY REVIEW: A worthy successor to the Ringworld series from a story standpoint that starts out fast and keeps going, with a couple of small nits that bothered me.
PROS: Its Ringworld. Its Niven. It has tons of cool science.
CONS: Incongruous use of ‘new’ technology. Things happen with little or no build up.
BOTTOM LINE: Certainly recommended if you are a fan of Ringworld and even if you aren’t for no other reason than to see what happens to the Ringworld.
Ringworld’s Children opens fast with Louis Wu awakening and immediate use by Tunesmith to help protect the Ringworld from the Fringe War occurring in its system. Louis is used by Tunesmith to achieve several different objectives he can’t, or won’t, do himself. This leads to a roller coaster ride of action/reaction where Louis is confronted with a problem, he solves it and goes on to the next problem, all the while trying to break free from Tunesmith. But how do you outsmart a Protector, who is several times for intelligent and cunning than you? Ultimately, the best part of the book is final resolution of the safety of the Ringworld. Everything that happens leads inexorably to this end point and the resolution is a cool piece of storytelling. I had no idea what was happening. That and the fact that we learn a lot about Louis Wu, being a well written character, makes this book a must read for Ringworld fans and a satisfying read for those who just want to complete the series.
My complaints are two fold. Since Ringworld was first written back in the 1970’s, technology, and SF, have come a long way. There are certain tropes that have become ubiquitous in SF and Niven manages to glom them onto his Ringworld setting. These are nanotech and dark matter. Unfortunately, they felt really out of place to me in this setting. It was jarring to see modern day tech used in Ringworld, especially since it had never been there before. Although the fact that we do find out why some ships disappear when entering hyperspace near a gravity well mitigates this somewhat, the explanation felt kind of forced to me. Secondly, Niven doesn’t waste time spelling things out for the reader. Characters intuit solutions/motivations with little or no input and things happen with little build up or warning. I can see a Protector being able to jump to conclusions with ease, but everyone does in this book. I don’t mind having to puzzle out the reasons, but Niven does this almost constantly. It was tiring and left me confused more than once. I must say this is the same feeling I had reading The Ringworld Throne.
But those nits don’t drag the book down too much. Its still a fun read with a lot of sense of wonder. But I do have to wonder how much more Niven can get out Ringworld. Even though its so ginormous, Ringworld’s Children had to work to get over the ‘seen it’ feeling. It does, however, accomplish that task. I’d like to thank Yolanda with FSB Associates for providing a review copy of the book. If she hadn’t, this review would have come at a much later date!