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Showing 1-10 of 200 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 286 reviews
on July 2, 2014
The concept of the book was awesome. A half sphere world using the sun to propel itself across the universe that a crew of human explorers find. I've liked everything else that Niven has done and I expected a solid read here.

The book started off solid. The science was interesting and the characters leaving earth showed good potential development.

Then it went quickly downhill. Once they reached the bowl the aliens were boring and strangely inept. They constantly talk about the vastness of the land then fail to really take advantage of it with any type of interesting descriptions. It is supposedly home to many different alien species that you rarely see and when you do they are boring and glossed over. The human technology is strangely advanced over what it should be and they escape dangerous situations way too easily.

The pacing is crappy at the end and the author fails to paint a good picture of the world. The book also ended at a weird point. There was no cliff hanger or major scene or build up. It just ended. I'll definitely not be buying the next book in the series which I had very high hopes for.
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on April 12, 2013
Trilogy, implies a series of works, like a box of cookies, for example, one after the other. Benford and Niven instead break off a piece, and offer one third of a story, not the same thing. The set up is simple - a ramscopp starship wanders into a solar system sized artifact. In a way that is unbelievable, they simply fly up the tail-pipe, no fuss no muss, and ta-da. Immediately the crew fits out a "lander" and twirls off to land on - someplace nearby we suppose (I mean its the size of a solar system, how long would that take to flit around in) . They get divided into two groups, fleeing weird bird like aliens (think giant, crabby, technicolor turkeys in a variety of sizes), and that is that.
On the ship, people grump about the food (meal # 47, again) and don't do a lot except think about ways to destroy the object (its just the size of a planetary orbit after all, simple). On the ground, group one, lead by a grumpy biologist runs loose like a bunch of prison escapees - no plan, no goal, no clue, no reason to fill up all these pages, Group two, led by plucky girl engineer is captured but also escapes and, etc. And The aliens, well they worry about waving their feathers in the proper way, very much like Victorian women communicating with fans.And by the way, in an artifact perhaps the length of the earth's orbital diameter from one end to the other -- travel in dirigibles, and don't use the phone, or...its just nuts.
Thats it.
A huge rotating word, powered by a captive sun, hurtling through space for millions of years, and ... zipski. No cities, no technology ("robots" operate out of sight underground, loading freight trains - although why and with what, who cares). Meanwhile in the "bowl" group one wanders around, and around, and around more, ignoring some tantelizing prospects like they don't exist - ruins, nothing to eat here, more ruins, no reason to stay and look around, nothing to eat there either.
It's troubling that another recent book by a senior name in SF had this "menu" obsession. Does social security not give them enough to eat? Did retirement open a door to a new world they've skipped before - "bowl" for example answers the age old question of "what do you use for toilet paper on an alien world, when you are lost in the woods?" - whooo, at last that one is settled. Now what herbs do you cook alien fish with.
NIven wrote almost the same book decades ago (Ringworld) and in about the same length told an exciting story, with rich, and developed, and not always food-obsessed characters, who wandered in a mix of high tech wonderland. ruins, and jungle with mystery, and adventure, and...a beginning, a middle, and an end, even a set-up for more to come, if you wanted it.
This book fully expects that you will fork out for one or two more volumes to even get a story, skip it until paper, or but it used for a penny, and instead read Ringworld to see how it used to be done.
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VINE VOICEon November 15, 2014
I really enjoyed this book about a colony sleeper ship that gets waylaid on their way to Glory, a planet identified as a potential new home for humankind. Members of the ships crew ae awakened early when the human on awake duty finds a humongous bowl shaped object in space. At the same time, the sleeper ship seems to be using too much energy, so much that their ability to reach Glory may be affected.

Ship's Captain, Redwing, is awakened, and a team is sent to the surface of the Bowl to make contact with any aliens and negotiate for supplies. The aliens provide not to be friendly, however, and capture part of the team. The other members of the team manage to escape and begin a journey across the surface of the bowl.

It's an exciting book and seems to be a thoughtful depiction of humans in a situation that is beyond their imagination. The helplessness of the people left behind on the ship, who know their people are in trouble but are unable to help them, is palpable.

Very well done! If you enjoyed Ringworld or the Species Imperative books by Julie Czerneda, you will probably enjoy this book.
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on December 11, 2014
The Wall Street Journal review-bite on the cover says, "The biggest sci-fi saga since — well, since ever." Which pretty much just shows that the Wall Street Journal barely knows epic SF from a hole in the ground.

The fact is, Bowl of Heaven is mostly a rewarmed mish-mash of themes and ideas from Ringworld, Rendezvous with Rama, and Pohl & Williamson's Cuckoo saga, that really doesn't break any new ground. It's not a bad read ... but the honest truth is that if you've read *ANY* of the books it copies its ideas from, it's dull and derivative, and breaks no new ground. And frankly, "The biggest sci-fi saga since — well, since ever"...? Um, I can think of at least a dozen "sci-fi sagas" off the top of my head that DWARF Bowl of Heaven in scale. Just for starters, Iain M. Banks' Culture series, Glen Cook's Starfishers trilogy, Jack L. Chalker's Well of Souls series, Harlan Thomas' Sixth Sun series, and almost anything Steven Baxter has ever written. OK, so Bowl of Heaven is set on *one of* the larger space-travelling artifacts in SF. But really, that's its only claim to grand scale, and it really doesn't make effective or even particularly believable use of it. The vaunted "shipstar" is a mere mcguffin. A *grand* mcguffin, certainly, but still a mcguffin, not used (yet, at least) to anywhere near its full potential.

If you haven't read any of the books or authors I've mentioned above, don't be afraid to read Bowl of Heaven. But if you have, then prepare to be disappointed.
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on November 6, 2012
I really enjoyed this collaboration between Benford and Niven. The two authors styles worked well together and the evolution past ringworld to half of a Dyson sphere used as a space ship was so much fun...but to just stop writing and leave me a little note saying the next book in the series is in the works, well I find that close to unacceptable. I am not going to stop buying and reading Mr. Niven's works and I have planned on going back and getting some of Mr. Benford's solo work. But I would truly appreciate an end to each section rather than an abrupt stop, and if this is the manner you are choosing to use perhaps you could warn us during the purchasing procedure that this is not a complete novel and more sections, chapters, whatever will be written. I bought every book in the Fleet of Worlds series I own all the Ringworld novels and I know each and everyone stands by itself not just as chapter in a greater novel.
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on December 23, 2013
I gave up on this book. All I could think was "this is just ringworld again". Not only has Niven told this story, but he did it better in the Ringworld series. I may go back and try it again later, but I was not impressed.
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on July 6, 2014
Not ready for prime time. The plot starts at a rapid pace (about that of a short story) but then bogs down into artificial angst as we find new aliens literally behind every bush and tree. Characters are not well developed. The book is rife with examples of poor editing. Previously described events are re-described with no explanation. I expected much more from two such fine authors from whom I have taken great pleasure in previous works. This one just turned boring and stayed there. I am not curious enough about the end of the story to slug through the sequel. Maybe this would have been better if the entire story had been written as one story. I get the feeling that they're trying to sell the same book twice.
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on May 9, 2016
This book is mostly about the physics of running a Really Big Object which , in this case, is a bowl of AU proportions. There are people involved to connect the reader to something other than how this Thing works, but there is little empathy/compassion for their situations as they are pretty one dimensional. So I never felt part of what was happening...just an observer. The Aliens were, well, alien and rather like the bowl they seemed to be the result of some brainstorming "what could aliens be like, and let's include them in the story." The idea of intelligent dinosaurs capable of constructing something like the Bowl was several steps too far for me and entered the realms of fantasy, not sci-fi. The only decent bit of interest was the Folk's method of enhanced communication...liked that idea of feather shaping and color shading to convey emotion/nuances etc.
I skipped read a lot of the book basically because I found it un-engaging and too often boring.
Niven's Ringworld was, for its time, vastly more challenging and thus more interesting.
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on August 11, 2016
These are two of the best writers in sci fi, and I enjoy their work. But this book, the first of two, doesn't come up to their normally excellent standards. Oh, the plot is very compelling, it's being a first contact story with a (in some ways) highly advanced culture, and the possible origin of this culture (no spoilers) really grabbed me. But the story is painfully slow in its development. (Were they being paid by the word?) Far too many pages are spent dealing with dialogues and the pasts of the protagonists instead of advancing the plot. I suspect that a 'Readers Digest' condensed version of this book (if there were such a thing) would be a far better read without compromising the story line.
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on April 6, 2017
Not Niven's finest effort, and Benford isn't as good a writer as Niven.

Rehashes a lot of themes from Ringworld, and the 'aliens' are repeatedly compared to Earth species and therefore less interesting.
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