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Ringworld's Children
Larry Niven
Tor hardcover $24.95

review by Jim McFarlen and Michael McCarty

Larry Niven has done it again. He has taken the reader back to Ringworld, an engineering marvel of such immense proportions, that it could easily outshine its inhabitants and their adventures, if both of the latter weren't so well developed. In the last outing, Louis Wu had to save this garden of hominid diversity from its own Protector, whose actions to keep his 'children' secure were allowing the instability of Ringworld to increase to a point of it coming apart. Being home to trillions of hominid species, and having a star at its centre, the destruction of Ringworld would be of epic proportion.

Now Ringworld is threatened not only by the single mindedness of its protectors, but also by the Fringe War; a game of one-upmanship that exists between ARM agents, Kzinti, and Outsiders, all who have discovered and are monitoring this manufactured world. The combatants don't care about the protection of hominids, but about the technology that created and manages a world that surrounds a sun, even at the cost of the marvel itself. In the previous book, The Ringworld Throne (1996), the protector Bram destroyed any ship from space that came too close. When his actions no longer served Ringworld in the long run, Bram was challenged by another protector. With Louis' help, the more cautious Tunesmith defeated Bram and took control of the Repair Center, responsible for the repair, maintenance and control of Ringworld.

Louis is human fugitive from ARM that was kidnapped and brought to Ringworld years before by a Pierson's Puppeteer. ARM, the United Nations police force, holds a monopoly on scientific discovery by limiting access to new technology. Once they find out about Ringworld, ARM must ensure they secure it for themselves. In an uneasy alliance, Louis Wu and the Hindmost (a Pierson's Puppeteer) again work 'together' to ensure the integrity of Ringworld however their plans must glide beneath the radar of Tunesmith, Louis's previous ally.

The fourth book in this saga and eight years since The Ringworld Throne, Ringworld's Children could easily have been an exercise in revenue generation. However the storyline is strong and the immediacy of the plot captures readers and puts them in the middle of interplanetary social and political struggles. Previously, the role of the life-sized maps of Earth and Mars on The Great Ocean were explained. Now Louis' association with another protector and a visit to The Other Ocean provides insights into protector society and what is behind the drive to protect their family bloodlines.

Niven's stories are often nested within worlds that have peculiar rules of physics associated with them and the same applies here. However, the 'facts' don't get in the way of the fiction. The characters were fleshed-out well and the plotline flows smoothly toward its inevitable end, with Louis Wu at the heart of it all.
Ringworld's Children

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