Saturday, November 16, 2013

Overheard in the Hallway...

RX: "You have read Niven, haven't you?"

Me: "Maybe some of the Man-Kzin wars stuff, I think? And the first Ringworld book."

RX: "My god, it's like you were raised by wolves. I sometimes think you haven't read any science fiction at all..."

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

My respect for Ms. X just went up another 5%.

Bob said...

I have to say that some of the later Ringworld books are pretty boring. I think if I had to limit my Larry Niven Known Space reading I'd pick Ringworld, The Ringworld Engineers, Neutron Star and Protector. That's the core of his saga, right there.

The Scribbler said...

I am a big fan of Niven. I just re-read The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand. Ringworld was a fascinating world, though something of a boring story. I love it anyways of course. I haven't actually read any of the Man-Kzin stuff. Footfall and Lucifer's Hammer are both excellent... His short stories and novellas are pretty great. I especially like the ones centering around the Draco Tavern. Inferno was awesome, as was Protector.

I do seem to have a preference for the stuff he writes with Pournelle, but hardly all.

Paul, Dammit! said...

I'm with Bob here. It gets Formulaic- Niven is really hit or miss, and has had a couple of almost-awesome books that crapped out in the middle.

Joel said...

What Bob said, and I enjoyed the Niven/Pournelle potboilers well enough. But I can't quite get on board with the idea of Niven as the very embodiment of SF.

greg said...

The first Niven/Pournelle I read was Lucifer's Hammer, and then The Mote in God's Eye, which are both Top 20 list type reads.

Footfall is close to comparable to those, but I don't put the rest of their stuff on the same level.

Overload in Colorado said...

Tam,
I get the feeling you were more of a Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber reader.

Professor James Moriarty said...

Larry Niven was the gateway to Sci Fi for me. Because Star Wars doesn't really count.

I discovered 'The Integral Trees' at 12 years old. I had to look up what an integration sign was, because my redneck parents didn't know (God Bless them). Science Fiction had its claws in me and I never looked back...

On a Wing and a Whim said...

Hey, I've never gotten to the mote in god's eyes or footfall either - or ringworld, for that matter. After having "The Classics" shoved down my throat at school (not the old dead greek guys, but deconstructionist post-modernist lit-er-a-chure), I have quite an allergy to anything labelled "this a Classic!"

The integral trees was really fun in concept, and Fallen Angels gets funnier and scarier as I've grown up... especially all the parts that I thought were parody but I'm seeing people trying to make come true.

Roberta X said...

I wasn't so much holding Niven up as a ne plus ultra of SF as I was suggesting he's a core SF writer, one of the "baseline" folks who most people who like the stuff could be expected to have read. Andre Norton, Alan Nourse, Fred Pohl, H. Beam Piper, Pournelle -- of course SF readers have read them, the same way mystery fans have read Chandler or John D. MacDonald.

Or, I guess, not.

(BTW, I read Lieber and Moorecock, too; and Haggard and both Robinsons and all three Smiths.)

Ygolonac said...

*Three* Smiths? Doc, L. Neil, George O., Cordwainer... George H. wasn't a real standout in the field, but I just discovered that I can blame NYPD 2025 on him, so I guess he moves even further down the list.

(Customers who read NYPD 2025 (by "Hal Stryker") also purchased: brain bleach.)

For Niven, I started with Tales of Known Space and scavenged bookstores and rubbish sales for *years* to find more.

Ygolonac said...

Arrrgh. Totally forgot about Klarkash-Ton, but then he was much more a fantasist.

Chris said...

Footfall was worth the read just for the line near the end:
"Nuke 'em til they glow, then shoot 'em in the dark."

During Con-stellation, I won a drawing along with about 8-10 other fans to get an hour with Niven. Fascinating guy. But I don't remember all of it because one of the others there was a lovely young woman in a hall costume ("Alien Slave Girl") that consisted of all-over blue body paint and damn little else. Pournelle is a hoot off the cuff, too, even when sober.

Mark Alger said...

I remember reading some of the Niven Known Space stories in magazines. Each one was a tiny, pellucide drop of wonder. That may be the kind of thing that's hard to recapture years on.

Shorter: Ya hadda been there.

M

Mike_C said...

@Bobbi: I'm fascinated to see that Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke aren't on your list, not that I disagree with you. (Piper, yes! Absolutely belongs on the list of standards.) Personally I'd add Poul Anderson, and possibly (thanks to Eric Flint, who I've complained about elsewhere due to what I think is his bad influence on David Weber's Honorverse, but credit where it's due for his editing of and more importantly getting republished) James Schmitz.

Niven is sometimes fun, and part of the Known Space series is definitely worthy of canon status, but I've often been irritated by what I see as facile and overly simplistic plot twists (how Beowulf Shaeffer gets his own back against the Puppeteers, for example) as well.

@Miss D: "After having "The Classics" shoved down my throat at school..." There are books I absolutely despise, I think due to having been made to read them, then being told what to think about them (as in "write an essay on this book, and if you don't give the Cliff's Notes analysis you will be penalized"). I often feel that I should re-read books such as Lord of the Flies (what do Piggy's glasses symbolize anyway? Uhm, his bad vision?) or The Scarlet Letter as an adult and decide if they are truly hateful overrated works, or if that was just because of the context in which I read them. Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Roberta X said...

Mike, the Big Three go without saying.

Oh, yes, four Smiths. Forgot one.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I hear about "flash mob robberies," I remember Niven's story "The Permanent Floating Riot Club." Technology has many uses, some good, some bad, some evil; but technology will always be used for many purposes.

Anonymous said...

For those not in the know Jerry Pournelle has his own blog over at: jerrypournelle.com/jerrypournelle.c/chaosmanor/ ... you know what to put ahead of that. Niven apparently lives in the same neighborhood, and when politics and social constructs aren't being talked about, works of theirs or projects, etc., are the norm. Great read.

Yrro said...

I've tried to read Niven... he's the perfect example of the problems with even a lot of good science fiction. His ideas are *amazing*, but that's all his books are. He never seemed to care to populate his crazy ring worlds with interesting characters or his books with plots.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Bro, do you even LIFT?

JebTexas said...

Yrro, I don't know what you're reading, but Teela Brown, the product of genereations of lucky lotery winners? The entire Kzin species, with their carniverous tendencies? Beowulf Shaeffer, the Casual Tourist? I don't know how much more interesting one can get.

Niven's work is set with absolutely the bare minimum of words chiseling out the ideas he puts forth. His newer offerings I find myself re-reading just to catch all the nuances. The older I re-read just to visit again. The Ring World has been, and will continue to be a yearly staple on my bookshelf, along with TLOTR and others.

jim in houston said...

"Footfall" is the most fun alien-invasion novel I've ever read. And having been born and raised in Missouri, I'm generally in favor of nuking Kansas. But the most fun I ever had with Niven-Pournelle was the time I was talking with my Master's in Lit editor about Dante, and I mentioned that I had met and chatted with John Ciardi (THE translator of Dante) before my rather spectacular exit from academia. She thought that was very cool and then I completely lost her when I told her my favorite version of the Divine Comedy was Niven and Pournelle's 1976 "Inferno." Which is a really funny take on Dante, about a science fiction writer who dies and goes to Hell. It actually stacks up well compared to the "classic" version and is funny as hell besides.

Ed said...

What? No Ray Bradbury or Kurt Vonnegurt?

The SF book that sticks out in my mind from teenage reading is Walter Miller's "A Canticle For Liebowitz":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Canticle_for_Leibowitz

Somehow, my desire to read SF passed with the end of the Apollo program:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_program

wheelgun said...

Hmmm... Le Guin? Sheri Tepper? Connie Willis? "Earthsea" and "The Left Hand of Darkness" should put Le Guin on everybody's short list.

Marion Zimmer-Bradley is not mentioned? Though much of her stuff isn't really SciFi, the Darkover Series probably fits the category (or some of it anyway).

Does Attwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" count as Sci Fi? One of the most disturbing books I've ever picked up.

Not even Silverberg, Chalker or Dickson get a mention? Phillip Jose Farmer? (Riverworld is a fascinating place.)

Or the pulp stuff I couldn't stand like Harry Harrison's "Stainless Steel Rat." Though I can see that it isn't "required reading."

Or the whole Pern series. (I kept waiting for "Stray Cats of Pern." It was about the only thing McCaffery didn't write.) Though the "Ship Who Sang" was interesting.

If all you read is Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein, you are going to read about a lot of (for the time) futuristic technology, scary aliens, etc. Which is certainly where SciFi was in the 50s. But that isn't the sum of science fiction. (Willis' "The Doomsday Book" has 1 bit of scifi technology, and a whole bunch about being human and a little about faith.)

Marja said...

I love most of the collaborations Niven has done with Pournelle, his solo stories not quite so much, or rather I like the short stories he has done solo but his solo novels not so much.

But Fallen Angels, Footfall, Lucifer's Hammer, the Heorot series, Inferno (which reminds me I still haven't bought the sequel, thanks for the reminder), oh yes. And the Dream Park series with Steven Barnes were pretty enjoyable too (and now I see there is a fourth book I haven't read yet in that series. Sorry, need to go to some online book store now).

Professor James Moriarty said...

Kurt Vonnegut? Marion Zimmer Bradley? Margaret "All your Wombs are belong to us" Effing Attwood?

Really? Really!?

Let's not go getting all crazy here people...

Tam said...

wheelgun,

"Does Attwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" count as Sci Fi?"

It's fun to call Atwood an SF writer because she stamps her foot and throws the cutest snit fit. ;)

Bram said...

Protector - You will never look at aging the same again.

The short-stories are great - particularly in the Known Space setting.

Tam said...

Also, I can't read Chalker anymore. Dude is just way too pervy.

Matt G said...

I gotta admit, the Ringworld stuff was kinda boring to me, too. I'm just a lame-ass dystopian novel reader, I guess, because I like his partnerships with Pournelle.

Steve said...

Wheelgun - ' "Earthsea" and "The Left Hand of Darkness" should put Le Guin on everybody's short list. '

The Earthsea world (at least the first three that I read in the late 70s) are more fantasy fiction than science fiction. Left Hand of Darkness, yeah, I suppose that could be SF. I never finished it, though. Just couldn't get into it.

John B said...

Neutron Star, and Tales of Known Space, I picked up at the supermarket. I got some more at the secondhand -remember those?- bookstore, Then I set out to complete the collection. I was current up to 1981 or so. Then he and Pournelle bought a belt-fed word processor!

Peter B said...

I get a kick out of Niven and Pournell's riff on Dante. But then I discovered Chaucer in one of Fred Saberhagen's Berserker stories.

rick said...

Delany's novels are all fascinating in how the sci-fi is merely window dressing for the psycho/social discourse. And he writes short stories as well as anyone, including Zelazny.

chrismc45 said...

Tam, too bad you have not 'really read Niven'. I want to give you a slew of distraction. Please advise on sending you a pile (not all, just my pile) of Niven paperbacks....Ringworld, short-story compilations, the best Beowolf books....etc. I will clean a shelf, and Bobbi can get off yer back. I can't send ammo, best next is books.
Cheers;
chris dot mcconville at bluestarsilicones dot com