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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Much better than the first enstallment.
Published 5 months ago by RossoRacer

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What on earth happened?
Benford, Niven and Tor received a bit of a critical lambasting for "Bowl of Heaven", the first half of this novel-in-two-pieces. First of all, there was the problem that the first book was released without much mention that it was only half a book - many people were annoyed to reach the end of "Bowl of Heaven" without reaching the end of story. Secondly (and more...
Published 9 months ago by Grant Hutchison


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What on earth happened?, 27 April 2014
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This review is from: Shipstar (Hardcover)
Benford, Niven and Tor received a bit of a critical lambasting for "Bowl of Heaven", the first half of this novel-in-two-pieces. First of all, there was the problem that the first book was released without much mention that it was only half a book - many people were annoyed to reach the end of "Bowl of Heaven" without reaching the end of story. Secondly (and more importantly in my view) there was a real problem with inadequate proof-reading and poor continuity - times and distances changed constantly, characters were in two places at once, that sort of thing.
So you'd think that, with the second volume still in preparation when the first was published, there would have been a concerted effort to sort out the continuity problems. They're still there, though, albeit less florid. The dimensions and design of the Bowl of Heaven are still oddly mutable, and the timetable for its flight rather handwavey; characters display knowledge on one page that they don't actually find out until a few pages later.
And there are gross inconsistencies with the first book. One (the reclassification of Wikramsingh's Star from F9 to K2) is accompanied by a bit of retconning to undo what was clearly an error. But the second book also writes in a journey that didn't take place in the first book, and introduces a feature of the underside of the Bowl of Heaven that was clearly not present in the first book.
Here and there, new plot elements are whacked unceremoniously into place. It's time to get this bunch of people back to the starship, there's a need for a way of communicating with these aliens ... bang bang, done, let's move on. Elsewhere, characters keep telling each other the same stuff over and over again, in case we didn't catch it the first time. And other plot elements simply peter out inconclusively - both books refer constantly to the human subconscious mind, contrasting it with the Undermind of the Folk, but then, well, nothing much happens that particularly relates to that. (It does provide one neat pun, however, which only really works with the American spelling of "storey". Benford refers to the subconscious as the "understory" of the conscious mind.)

I'm left wondering what on earth happened - Benford and Niven usually just aren't this careless, and just don't mess up their plotting this way. It feels rushed - like two authors collaborating against a deadline they couldn't comfortably meet, a book being shoved out before it was entirely ripe.

On the upside, we explore more of Benford and Niven's "Big Smart Object"; some characters, particularly the starship captain, turn out to be more interesting that we thought; there are more aliens (albeit strongly derivative of Niven's Outsiders and Benford's Starborn); there's some good descriptive language (mainly from Benford) and some good action scenes (mainly from Niven, to judge from the very disparate writing styles).

But it could have been so much better, with more time and tighter editing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Failed experiment, 9 May 2014
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RobR (Nottinghamshire England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Shipstar (Hardcover)
When Bowl of Heaven cam eout I gave it an over eager 4 star rating. In retrospect I shouldhave been less generous.

I'm a life-long Niven fan and I have enjoyed Benford, especially his Galactic Centre novels, and so I was expecting more. I've tried to figiure out why Shipstar and it's forerunner Bowl of heaven haven't worked as well as they might and I can only come to the conclusion that as collaborators they weren't able to quite gell.

The story isn't too bad but it nevere eaches any really sort of inventiveness, we've seen all this before. And the plot is pretty ordinary. That said, there's somewhere to explore and one or two of the characters are more interesting than I previously thought.

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the read but not as much as I'd have liked.

I just hope that Niven has one more gem up his sleave before he has to hang up his writing boots; maybe a stand alone, written by him exploring some very strange galactic location, or one final collaboration with Pournelle... One can dream.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 9 Aug. 2014
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This review is from: Shipstar (Hardcover)
Much better than the first enstallment.
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Shipstar by Larry Niven (Hardcover - 8 April 2014)
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