Juggler of Worlds
by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Cover Artist: Stephan Martiniere
Review by Mel Jacob
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765318268
Date: 19 August 2008 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The latest novel by Larry Niven and Edward Lerner, Juggler of Worlds, features two people in conflict both trying to preserve their respective species. Sigmund Ausfaller a paranoid member of the U.N. security force, and Nessus, a scout and Citizen of Hearth, mislead one another in their quest for survival.
Sigmund's extreme paranoia enables him to outthink many of the U.N.'s enemies and even the staff who would betray it. He seeks to understand and block moves by the Puppeteers, the dominant species of Hearth to which Nessus belongs. Another species, Kzinti, giant cats, also hate humans and, even though defeated many times, seek any means to regain control of the Known Space.
When antimatter destroys the supposedly indestructible hull of a space ship, Sigmund wants answers. The Puppeteers manufacture and sell these hulls. They must pay an indemnity for the loss. However, Sigmund wants to know how the owner of the ship, wealthy industrialist Gregory Pelton, and his pilot Beowulf Shaeffer survived and returned to Known Space.
Nessus seeks to distract Sigmund, fearful he might find Hearth and its surrounding planets, now in flight from the pending destruction of the galaxy in the distant future. He subverts U.N. personnel, funds projects that could destroy Earth, and lays false trails for Sigmund. Despite being a member of a cowardly species who would rather run than fight, he braves a confrontation with the Outsiders, an elder alien race. The Outsiders have provided the technology used by the Puppeteers to move Hearth and its associated planets, as well as the hyperdrive used by space ships for faster than light travel. Their new demands shock Nessus and create new problems for him.
The Outsiders live in space and follow starseeds. The latter seek unstable suns. Puppeteers have discovered a way to attract starseeds so they can contact the Outsiders as needed. The Outsiders demand high cash payments for technology, but the authors provide no explanation of why and what such a race would do with money.
This novel follows Fleet of Worlds, a prequel to Niven's Ringworld series. As with any Niven work, heavy science and complex characters make for a challenging read. At times the narrative drags, but Niven and Lerner provide plenty of action to hold the reader's interest. The novel provides more insight into the development of characters in the Ringworld series.