A book best appreciated by fans who relish the minutest details of the Ringworld universe.

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FATE OF WORLDS

The next addition to the increasingly abstract and abstruse prequel to the Ringworld saga (Betrayer of Worlds, 2010, etc.).

The backdrop, in general terms, will be familiar to all series fans: To escape an explosion at the core of the galaxy, the cowardly Puppeteers launched a fleet of worlds, comprising all the suns and planets that make up their home empire, even though the wave front wouldn’t reach them for 10,000 years. The Ringworld itself, launched into hyperspace by supergenius Pak Protector Tunesmith, has vanished. Louis Wu, himself transformed into a human Protector, and his Puppeteer companion, Hindmost, also escaped from the Ringworld and now seek to reconnect with the political and military situation surrounding the Puppeteer fleet. Having resorted to some outrageous plot wrenching in the previous book to explain things up to this point, Niven and Lerner occupy more than half this volume recapping and examining, in smothering detail, what’s been going on from the very beginning of the series. Most readers will have been confused and will continue to be, since the authors must resort to yet more literary legerdemain to make it all even remotely feasible. Not the least of these issues is the presence of six or seven individual Puppeteers bearing the title “Hindmost,” the vegetarian species’ term for supreme leader. The payoff, and it’s a modest one, is a swirl of brinkmanship and struggle involving Puppeteers, humans from Earth and New Terra, catlike Kzinti, humanoid Pak, starfish group-intelligent Gw’oth and even toothy, three-eyed Trinocs—these latter apparently just so that fans of this particular species don’t feel slighted, since their presence has no bearing on anything whatsoever.

A book best appreciated by fans who relish the minutest details of the Ringworld universe.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3100-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

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THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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