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Building Harlequin's Moon Hardcover – May 19, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Fans of both hard and softer, psychological SF will welcome veteran Niven and newcomer Cooper's well-written tale of a 60,000-year layover in space, in which physical challenges of world building are matched by social challenges of collaboration among disparate groups. After arriving in an inhospitable solar system, the Earth Born, colonists on an interstellar journey, need to refuel their ship, John Glenn, with antimatter. Since they lack laborers, the Earth Born construct a moon where they can build a particle collider and raise a work force, the Moon Born. Destined to be abandoned, the Moon Born struggle to gain as much knowledge and technology as they can before the Earth Born depart. Some of the technology includes artificial intelligences, whose unrestricted use caused the Earth Born to flee Earth in the first place. Niven and Cooper provide complicated characters, particularly the AI, which struggle with realistic moral dilemmas. If the novel loses a bit of its emotional credibility in a compressed climax, it errs on the side of telling a rich story completely in a single volume.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The John Glenn is marooned due to a massive design flaw. Passengers and crew want to get to Ymir, where fellow colony ships should await, but need antimatter for power. So they spend 60,000 years terraforming Harlequin's hundreds of moons into just one, Selene. Since they need more workers, they start a colony. But they forget their responsibility to their children, the Moon Born, and come to regard them as, basically, slaves. Moon-Born Rachel, trained in terraforming by Selene's designer, Gabriel, has spent her life in awe of the Council of John Glenn. After Gabriel convinces the other Earth Born to let her come to the ship to further her training, she finally realizes that the Earth Born are blind to everything but leaving Selene--including the fate of the Moon Born. As relations between Earth Born and Moon Born deteriorate, Rachel becomes a bridge between them. Exploiting Niven's classic flare for world building, he and Cooper craft an entertaining epic with subtexts concerning cultural obsessiveness and the fear and worship of science. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
The background is of a ship fleeing technology run wild in the solar system. IT is headed out to establish a new colony at Ymir. En route, something goes wrong and the ship just barely makes it to a less than ideal system. Those who are awake realize that if the ship stays there it and humanity is doomed but they no longer have enough antimatter fuel to get to their destination. They must make some.
Making the fuel is a difficult proposition. They need a planet to build a collider and the system they are in has only gas giants. They also need labor and cannot afford to squander the skills of the colonists in cold sleep; their skills will be needed at their final destination. So it is that they come up with a bold plan. They have terraforming expertise. They decide to use the moons of Harlequin to build a big enough moon to sustain life, breed people to do the labor and head for their real destination. This is a plan that spans more than 60,000 years. They accomplish this by going into cold sleep between critical phases; When they are awakened, they are rejuvenated.
The ugly part of this scheme is that there will be no room on the ship for the workers that are bred for the labor; they will be left behind on a system doomed to fall apart without constant aide from the starship. They are being bred to work and then die. The workers have only a vague notion of all of this. They do know, however, that they are treated better by some of their overlords than by others. Stresses build that endanger everyone and, possibly, the existence of humanity itself.
This is a well written book whose characters seem like real people. Even the villains have a few good qualities and the good guys have their bad moments. It is a pleasurable read and goes quickly, leaving the reader to want to know what happens next.
Can we have a sequel?
The attraction to Building Harlequin's Moon is based on the name Larry Niven, but this is a collaboration and while Niven's voice finds its way into the novel Brenda Cooper's is quite evident as well. The problem with having Niven's name on the book is that there are some high expectations that come with that. Having read a lot of different Niven solo novels as well as collaborative efforts of his with Pournelle and Barnes it's easy to see the differences between his solo work and his collaborative work. Often his collaborators fill out various character details that Niven leaves by the wayside as he explores the ideas that drive the plot. In this book the central character is a young girl, which one would assume is written by Cooper primarily.
While Building Harlequin's Moon entertained me it certainly didn't awe me with big ideas like in some of Niven's Known Space novels or keep me on the edge of my seat as in some of his collaborations with Pournelle. It's not really a hard sci-fi novel, which for the average reader is a good thing as often hard sci-fi has less character depth.
Overall, the book was a bit predictable in plotting and the ending felt abrupt, but in general the pacing was good and I found myself interested in the main characters of Rachael and Gabriel. I could see recommending this to my wife who isn't usually a sci-fi buff. It's not an overly complicated story or weighed down by science geek stuff, but the science that is in there is interesting and serves the story well.
The story is told from all sides and allows us to experience their dilemmas from all angles.
A good story, well told.
He is my Pantheon next to Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Zelazny and co.
If you are looking for a Known Space book, this is not it.
If you are looking for a hard science fiction book, this is not it.
The story is not convincing, not the plot nor the characters.
There is no riddle, no twist, no exploring like I'm so used to find in Larry Niven books.
I want a refund.
BTW, before reading this book I've read "The Draco Tavern". I've read in the past most of the stories in the book (it's a collection), but it was a joy reading it. And now I've started reading "Fleet of Worlds". I'm only on page 24 and from here I'm going right back to reading it.