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Bowl of Heaven Hardcover – October 16, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


Bowl of Heaven is the first installment of what will be the biggest sci-fi saga since—well, since ever. If only more of us could share the authors’ visions, and optimism.”

The Wall Street Journal

“It’s easy to settle in and enjoy the sci-fi smorgasbord served up by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven. . .There's a lot to savor. Fans of so-called “hard science fiction” will enjoy the descriptions of ionic scoop fusion drives and all the solar-powered gadgets put to practical use during deep space exploration.”

The Associated Press

“If you like hard SF with mind-stretching ideas—both physical and psychological—then you definitely want to read this book.”

“It’s been more than 40 years since Ringworld and nearly that long since the Galactic Center Saga knocked our socks off, and I wonder how much it takes these days to render us barefoot and gaping at the scale and scope of an imaginary world. . . . But Benford & Niven have given themselves the space (conceptual and page-count) to spread out. Bowl of Heaven has room to accommodate both the thrill-ride and head-scratching sides of its sub-tradition, and I think when the second half appears, this new effort by two of the Old Masters will hold its own just fine.”

“First-time collaborators Niven (Ringworld series; coauthor, Beowulf’s Children) and Benford (Timescape; Galactic Center series) have combined their award-winning talents for storytelling to create a series opener that should find a welcome reception from fans of the authors as well as those who love hard science and mental challenges.”
Library Journal

“A solid work that will appeal to fans of classic hard SF.”
Publishers Weekly

Praise for Larry Niven:

“Niven lifts the reader far from the conventional world—and does it with a dash.”
—Los Angeles Times

“The premier hard-SF writer of the day.”
—The Baltimore Sun

Praise for Gregory Benford:

“Benford is one of our best.”
—Greg Bear, bestselling and award-winning author of Eon

“What sets Benford apart from most of the high-tech literary herd is his gift for characterization and language, his refusal to let gadgets overwhelm the people in his stories.... Benford never lets his characters become the animated cardboard cutouts that afflict too many hard science fiction stories.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

About the Author

GREGORY BENFORD is professor of physics at the University of California, Irvine, and lives in Irvine. Benford is a winner of the United Nations Medal for Literature, and the Nebula Award for his classic novel Timescape

LARRY NIVEN is the multiple Hugo and Nebula Award–winning author of the Ringworld series, along with many other science fiction masterpieces. His Beowulf’s Children, coauthored with Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Chatsworth, California.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765328410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765328410
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (234 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #521,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Boring characters and boring book.
Amazon Customer
And in any event, this Gregory Benford/Larry Niven collaboration is essentially Ringworld 2.0, except it's not nearly as good.
Clay Kallam
There are a few unanswered plot lines at the end of the first book, but not in the sense of a cliffhanger ending.
Kendell K. Jordan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

231 of 257 people found the following review helpful By Scott R Crittenden on October 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Not only is it a draft, which I discuss in detail below, but it's only the first volume of an indeterminately long series. Nothing about the book description, nothing in the dust jacket flaps, nothing on other book selling sites (b&n, sfbc) suggests that this is anything but a complete story except the last page which proudly announces that volume two will appear soon. How is this not a blatant attempt to trick people into paying (let me guess how many volumes) three times?

Rant, part one, complete. On to the content.


This is not a finished product:

(1) On one page Tananareve is roughly picked up and thrown into a holding tank. One the very next page, she's with the other group on the other side of a diamond wall. Two drafts of the 'landing party is broken in two' event, perhaps?
(2) There are two different descriptions of the treatment of one person's serious injury which immediately follow each other. Said treatment describes *the* injury in two different ways and it is treated by two different people. Either the first person shoved the metal rod back into the guy for the next person to take out again, or this is two different drafts of the same event.
(3) At one point the captain leaves the bridge and a page or less latter leaves the bridge again. Did he get lost? Or is this two different drafts?
(4) Near the end of one chapter an offhand comment is made that communications from Earth stopped 100 years ago for no apparent reason. Yet a few chapters later we are treated to a page of discussion of the latest communication from Earth as if it were a routine event. So this *published version* hasen't even decided if the Earth has gone missing or not?
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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on October 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Larry Niven has often worked in collaboration, and it's good to see him working at all, given his age. Not many writers born in 1938 are still kicking out science fiction. Gregory Benford might have manned the laboring oar but, having been born in 1941, he's not much younger. Ignoring the trendiness of modern sf, Benford and Niven have crafted an old-fashioned story of space exploration and first contact. Unfortunately, while I have enjoyed much of Niven's writing and at least some of Benford's over the years, Bowl of Heaven does not match the best work of either author.

Bowl of Heaven begins as a promising (albeit conventional) "scientists journey to a new world" story. In the prolog, they are preparing to leave on their newly tested starship. As the novel begins, Cliff Kammash is awakened from an eight decade sleep, well before the ship is scheduled to reach the planet they have named Glory. Cliff, a biologist, thinks it odd that he has been awakened to opine about an unusual star the duty crew have observed -- odd until he realizes that the star is partially surrounded by a hemisphere, an object that was clearly manufactured. For reasons they can't explain, their ship has been losing velocity, and the knowledge that they aren't going to make it to Glory alive prompts them to investigate the bowl-covered star. The bowl is actually a vast (and literal) starship, using the star as its source of propulsion. Once they are inside the bowl, Cliff and his buddies discover an ecosystem the size of the inner solar system.

The plot then follows two branches as half the landing crew is captured by feathered aliens while the other half escapes. Both branches morph into wilderness survival tales as the two groups investigate the planet.
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110 of 127 people found the following review helpful By G. Maisano on October 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed the Ringworld books so I foolishly ignored the tepid reviews and read Bowl of Heaven. Might be better titled "Bowl of Purgatory" because the poor reader, after being drawn in by a fairly interesting beginning, finds himself wading through a swamp of meaningless action performed by unlikable characters. We are supposed to believe that these people are highly trained space travelers? A troupe of Webelos would do a better job of establishing contact with an alien civilization. These people spend pages and PAGES doing nothing but squabbling, running away, hunting and eating. After a few chapters you are rooting for Big Bird to just finish them off and put us out of our misery. Bowl World sounded promising but it is no where near as interesting as Ringworld. The aliens are derivative and bird races have been done much better elsewhere. And despite long monotonous descriptions the reader has a hard time visualizing the so-called wonders of Bowl World. The authors bend over backwards to get a dinosaur in there but the place is still as exciting as Sesame Place.

This book is a vivid example of how writers with formerly good reputations can become lazy, churn out utter dreck and yet be published. If an unknown author had written this any publisher would have thrown the manuscript in the trashcan and not even bothered with a form letter because he/she knew that such an unimaginative, untalented author had no chance of ever being published. It is mind boggling that a publisher is actually paying for a sequel. Benford and Niven are probably laughing their behinds off.
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