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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Juggler of Worlds by Niven and Lerner

Juggler of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner. New York: Tor, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-7653-1826-8

Must reading for any fan of Niven's “Known Space” universe, a collection of short stories and novels, set in a future history of Niven's devising. Although Niven has allowed many other writers to contribute through the Man-Kzin Wars anthologies which he edited.

However, most of the plot/story line in Juggler of Worlds will be old hat, known territory, to Niven fans. That's because they are essentially the Beowulf Shaeffer stories retold from the perspective of Sigmund Ausfaller, paranoid ARM agent, and less often from the perspective of various Puppeteers, the aliens whose influence Ausfaller is constantly fighting.

Only the final few chapters (don't ask me how many exactly) provide any new plot developments, new to me, at least. I can't guarantee that even they are truly new, but I don't recall having encountered them before. Still, it's still a must read for Known Space fans; I won't change that opinion.

So what is the ARM? It stands for Amalgamated Regional Militia, and it is the action “arm” (pun obviously intended) of the United Nations, the primary earth-based government body once human-kind has made it out into the stars. Why is Ausfaller paranoid? Because that's part of his occupational toolkit. He happens to have been born that way. ARM agents that aren't dope themselves into a paranoid condition when they're on the job. Natural paranoids like Ausfaller are chemically corrected when they're NOT on the job.

This is not the place to try and fill you in on Known Space background, history, and timeline. For that, visit the Wikipedia article on the topic, or The Incompleat Known Space Concordance, or perhaps, Niven's own Known Space web site. Or better yet, just go read the books. You won't find (in my view), any better science fiction, anywhere.

Dependent as I too often am on what happens to show up on the new book shelf at my local public library, or what I encounter in various periodicals and other sources, I wasn't aware (or was at best only casually aware) that Niven had already co-written a previous new Known Space novel with Lerner, titled Fleet of Worlds, and released in 2007. The name rings a vague bell, so I guess I must have seen it somewhere, but haven't gotten around to reading it, obviously. This is an oversight I must try and remedy soon! Meanwhile, Juggler of Worlds is highly recommended.

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