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Playgrounds of the Mind Mass Market Paperback – July 15, 1992


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 696 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction (July 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812516958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812516951
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,686,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A followup to last year's N-Space , this large and varied collection from hard science fiction master Niven displays the strengths and the weaknesses of that subgenre. With stories such as "The Soft Weapon," in which the hero must solve the mystery of an alien artifact to save himself and his companions, and "Becalmed in Hell," where two explorers on Venus find themselves in peril, Niven provides the old-fashioned SF pleasures of intellectual problem-solving and rigorously depicted astronomical wonders. The "Draco's Tavern" series of brief thought-pieces, set in a multispecies spaceport bar, explore larger philosophical questions. But in focusing his attention on accurate scientific detail and describing the marvels of space, Niven often neglects matters of characterization and literary style, and his marginalization of female characters is unfortunate. Excerpts from Niven's novels are included, but they aren't long enough to convey the feel of the larger works, and the self-congratulatory, repetitive snippets of autobiography and science fiction convention memories add very little. Readers should stick to the short stories, many of which are exemplary hard science fiction; "Ramer" and "Wait It Out," for instance, are especially rewarding.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

A retrospective look at the author's short science fiction.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

LARRY NIVEN is the multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of the Ringworld series, along with many other science fiction masterpieces. He lives in Chatsworth, California. JERRY POURNELLE is an essayist, journalist, and science fiction author. He has advanced degrees in psychology, statistics, engineering, and political science. Together Niven and Pournelle are the authors of many New York Times bestsellers including Inferno, The Mote in God's Eye, Footfall, and Lucifer's Hammer.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Hartley on December 20, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a collection of his works, this is by definition typical Niven. His work is often an intellectual exploration of the practical implications of playing with some stock science-fiction concepts. Sometimes these are technological innovations, sometimes they are quirky but realistic aspects of physics. Always they are presented in intelligent and engaging ways, and always with a sense of fun.
It's amazing how well this style crosses over into the few works of fantasy he has created, some of which are included here. Again, we see the meticulous but effortless presentation of a very firm set of rules by which magic is allowed to operate, and then he has a ball exploring the dynamics of the system he has put in place.
There are no pretentious profundities in Niven's work. His writing concentrates on what he loves the most - the intellectual game of playing with an idea. As with some other good science fiction, this implies that characters sometimes take a back seat. This is particularly the case in his older and shorter works, obviously, and this collection perforce contains a preponderance of those.
An intelligent author who clearly loves science and astrophysics, and is educated enough to use them to his advantage in surprising but entirely believable ways.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jim Luebke on November 10, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Larry Niven is one of the most inventive Scifi writers ever to live. His work is always brimming with ideas, from Ringworld --a million mile wide habitable ring around a star (a poor man's Dyson sphere) to Moties, a physiologically asymmetrical species made up of biological castes who each represent an aspect of intelligence (communicators, tool-users, decision-makers) or society. It is difficult if not impossible to find authors with more ingenious premises.
Unfortunately, the narrative matrix these gems are embedded in, while often very good, is too-frequently merely average scifi. Plotlines and characters are often clunky, and clearly there simply to provide a setting for his brilliant ideas. Ideas that fit twenty pages are stretched to two hundred, or at best, patched together with other equally bright ideas that are not a perfect fit.
The solution? A book of short stories and clips like Playgrounds of the Mind. This is a collection of the jewels, cut and polished. The selections are short very sweet. Long narratives, instead of being sacrificed for the purity of the premise, are dispensed with entirely. The ideas shine out on their own.
Other recommendations: N-Space (another book of shorts), The Mote in God's Eye (with Pournelle; probably his best novel), Inferno (with Pournelle; personal favorite, but that's just me).
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Larry Niven's collection of book excerpts, short stories and essays on science and fiction is a continuation of his earlier collection, N-Space. Niven is known for his Big Ideas and for dialog and characters that don't stand in their way. Few are better at inventing convincingly-alien alien species. But individuals come across as "a credit to their species" rather than as complex personalities. This book mixes representative Niven fiction and his perspectives on writing it.

My four favorites from the forty-nine chapters are:

"The Soft Weapon" is an excellent single-story sample of Niven's fiction. It explains several actual scientific principles, features exotic alien technology, and centers around solving a problem. Everyone behaves true-to-type: The Puppeteers value caution and cowardice, the Kzinti value honor and physical courage, and the humans value "monkey curiosity" and clever solutions. Guess who comes out ahead?

"The Dreadful White Page" is a short short story that lays out Niven's perspective on writer's block. It makes its point.

"The Green Marauder" is a science fiction bar story set in the Draco Tavern. Typical to such stories, the seen-it-all-before human bartender makes casual conversation with an alien and picks up a startling insight.

"Works in Progress" excerpts and discusses The Mote in God's Eye and Fallen Angels, which Niven is working on while writing this book.
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By Blue Tyson on December 8, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A bit of a hodge-podge collection. To go along with some decent stories, Niven has whacked in a bunch of book excerpts. Good advertising, perhaps, but he also does write an intro about the book to tell how it came to be and seems to be picking pieces to illustrate what he is saying.

However, luckily for this book's rating there is more here than this. There are articles about things like Mega-Dyson spheres, on reviewers, and other pieces like that that improve the score. Even an Irish coffee recipe for a large batch, of all things.

Playgrounds of the Mind : A Teardrop Falls - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : from Inferno [short story] - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Playgrounds of the Mind : Rammer - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : Becalmed in Hell - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : Wait It Out - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : A Relic of Empire - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : from Lucifer's Hammer [short story] - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : The Soft Weapon - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : The Borderland of Sol - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : from The Ringworld Engineers [short story] - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : What Good Is a Glass Dagger? - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : from The Magic Goes Away [short story] - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : The Defenseless Dead - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : from The Patchwork Girl [short story] - Larry Niven
Playgrounds of the Mind : Leviathan!
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