The Moon Maze Game (Dream Park) Hardcover – 16 Aug 2011
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This is readable hokum, but pales in comparison to the previous volumes in the series. And is seriously let down by laziness and poor sub-editing. There are whole chunks of the narrative which feel slightly out of order (where something happens, is mentioned by a character and yet that same character finds out about that "something" a couple of pages later on), jarring repetition of adjectives within the same sentence or phrases in multiple places in close proximity. And, most gratingly...
...the authors seems to have confused *themselves* about which of the pair of identical twins they're talking about at various points in the narrative. Compare, for example, pages 269 and 287 (hardback edition), where the authors (note, not characters: The authors' own narrative voice) mix up which twin is in the gaming environment and which is not.
All in all, lazy editing drowns a mediocre story and makes the novel feel like something of a rush job.
The ideas for use of lunar resources is well thought out, eminently practical/commercial.
Having been involved with LARP, I can see the hobby's ability to go more mainstream and to be video'd - youtube is full of such already.
The thought of being able to explore an HG Wells environment is very, very appealing!
I won't give the plot away, if you enjoyed Dream Park, into Steampunk or have any connections in the entertainment industry - it's a must.
The quality of writing is very poor. I can usually gloss over minor editing flaws, but they are significant enough to jar the reader out of the flow of the narrative - one example is overuse of parenthesised sentences to explain a thought from one of the characters.
The world they painted was fascinating and full of interesting details, most which were unfortunately left unexplored. The plot had potential and I feel it could have been worked into something quite good, it did feel very rushed. It seemed to come to a very sudden end (with plenty of potential for continuing the series with some of the same characters but hopefully higher standards).
It was somewhat entertaining and an easy read, but very far from Niven & Barnes usual standards. Recommended only if you are a hardcore Niven or Barnes fan and feel absolutely compelled to read the next in the Dream Park books. Casual readers avoid.
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Alex Griffin and his wife, Millicent Summers, make cameo appearances, and Acacia Garcia and Tony McWhirter are referred to though not seen. But the protagonists are Scotty Griffin, Alex and Millie's son; and his ex-wife, Kendra. Essentially, the novel has an entirely new cast. Further, the action takes place not in Dream Park, but on the Moon at Heinlein Base -- an homage to Robert A. Heinlein's many stories and novels set on (or in) the Moon. This poses a problem for me as a reader. Niven and Barnes wrote as if with the presumption that the reader has read at least some of Heinlein's lunar stories (particularly "The Menace from Earth" and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress") and therefore understands lunar conditions without the need for explanation. Having read Heinlein's works set on the Moon, I had no trouble following things; but for someone who does not read classic science fiction, I can see more than a little head-scratching.
There are wheels within wheels in the Moon Maze Game, as there are with the other three Dream Park novels.Some of these plots make sense, especially in light of what went before in "The Barsoom Project." Others seem to be contrived, and badly at that. One thing that annoyed me was the Game Master - Lore Master relationship. Niven and Barnes attempted to recreate the antagonsim between Richard Lopez and Chester Henderson, but instead achieved only a vicious petulance, which fortunately for the book is overtaken by the actual events of the story. They seem to have forgotten one rule of the Dream Park universe: Gamers are not going to want to play a game in which ALL the players are killed out, which was the Game Master's intention. This is very much relevant, as the Moon Maze Game is being played on the Moon and very few people could ever afford to go there to play it. With a game like that, everything has to be scrupulously fair. Game Master Xavier's feud with the Lore Master and another Gamer that he thinks done him wrong twenty years ago simply does not ring true; it feels more like childish petulance.Or, as Lopez put it to Chester in the first novel, "Be your age. Where would I SELL the game that killed off Lore Master Chester Henderson?"
The characters who are Gamers and Lunies playing as Non-Player Characters, and the Lunies who live in the Moon and assembled the parts for the Game could have been developed better. While they are not cardboard cutouts, they don't have a lot of depth. The villains who are involved in a coup back on Earth and a kidnapping on the Moon are cardboard cutouts, and do not develop anything resembling depth until very late in the novel, when it is far too late for the reader to care about them. Some of the creations the Game Master created for the Game have more substance! If you are caught up in the story or one of the subplots, this won't bother you. But if you are reading it critically, it grates on your nerves. I expected better from this writing team, as they have delivered better in the past.
The plot does move right along, though, once the scene of the action shifts from the Earth to the Moon. Once Niven and Barnes get us to Heinlein Base, the action if not the characterization is everything I've come to expect from a Dream Park novel. I simply wish they had taken the time to develop the characters more completely than they did. The problems they set themselves, of non-Lunar acclimated Gamers playing an extremely complex Game (and more than one game, at that) in a climate and under conditions alien to them are all solved nicely within the parameters they set up. There is no deus ex machina, and all comes right in the end. If you are a Dream Park fan, you won't be displeased.
I simply wish Niven and Barnes had spent the time to take their story through one more draft before sending it to the publisher, that's all. That action would have turned a good read into a GREAT one.
The Moon Maze Game IMO settles into a mundane action story once terrorists seize the LARP lunar facility. Action stories are not necessarily bad, but the novel's character development is not sufficient to create good guy strong characters, and the terrorists bear a distinct resemblance to the terrorists from the 1988 film Die Hard. The rest of the novel depicts how the good guys improvise within lunar disabled infrastructure to outwit the terrorists. It's a well-written novel, but this novel differs from Larry Niven's usual fare.
One of my favorite books ever is "Dream Park", the original book in the series. This book doesn't quite come up to the level of wonder and delight as "Dream Park", but it's close. If you enjoy sci-fi mystery/thrillers, or enjoy the work of either author, you should enjoy this book.
While still not reaching the literary and plot excellence of "Dream Park", "Moon Maze" was an enjoyable journey; the story has good pace and several interesting characters. Rather than be a simple redux of the "Griffin" character, Alex's son has his own skill set and psychological impediments. In particular, I appreciated the weaving in of the game within a game concept, which permitted the utilization of true villains.
The game descriptions were one of the weaker elements: my impression is that the authors, in their struggle to lend authenticity and visual drama to the story, lost their way, a bit, with overly complex imagery and metaphors. It was almost as if they had too many tools to work with. Compared to the classic original, the writing in this area falls a bit short.
Nonetheless, the novel provides an entertaining journey; this was a good sequel and, I surmise, the final entry in the genre.