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Saturn's Race Hardcover – July, 2000

3.3 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Girl meets boy. Girl falls in love with boy. Boy turns out to be an old man impersonating his own grandson. Girl discovers diabolical plot to sterilize the Third World. Boy erases girl's memory. Intrigue upon intrigue unfolds, involving an army of ninjas, talking sharks with arms, the peculiarities of telegraphy, and a virtual Rex Stout detective who lives in an old Macintosh.

And that's just the setup for this well-developed, whip-smart mystery-thriller-love story from duo Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. But it's hard to imagine going wrong when you team up Niven's technology-loving optimism and legendary chops with Barnes's eclectic résumé (the guy's been everything from a karate columnist for Black Belt magazine to a scriptwriter for The Twilight Zone). Probably their best collaboration yet, Saturn's Race matches the pacing and unpredictability of Ken MacLeod's The Stone Canal while evoking the anything's-possible, shiny sleaziness of a Snow Crash near future.

Our protagonist--the boy-cum-grandfather--works on Xanadu, an OTEC-powered island-city floating just off Sri Lanka, part of a supranational corporate superelite. He's teamed up in a love triangle balanced by the girl who's mind he wiped and his ex-wife, a feisty security officer straight out of Stone Age Java. The population-control plot succeeds ("We can fight their grandchildren for air and water in thirty years, or we can reduce their numbers now"), but who knows what the puppet master behind Xanadu's all-powerful Council is really up to? --Paul Hughes

From Publishers Weekly

The bestselling team of Niven and Barnes (The Legacy of Heorot; Lucifer's Hammer) have produced another compulsively readable, immensely enjoyable near-future yarn. The year is 2020 and the world is run by corporate conglomerates. Beautiful, brilliant Lenore Myles has just completed her master's degree and is poised for an exciting career in biological research. She is celebrating her graduation on the wondrous floating island Xanadu. Wealthy, attractive Chaz Kato, whose foundation was instrumental in paying for Lenore's expensive education, offers her the chance to do cutting-edge research on the island and be his lover. To entice Lenore to break her current contract, Chaz gives her his security clearance, allowing her carte blanche to the island's many technological secrets. During her exploration, Lenore stumbles upon a plot to sterilize the lower classes. Horrified, unsure of who is in on the conspiracy, she flees the island without telling Chaz of her findings. Saturn, an immeasurably powerful virtual creation run by persons unknown, plants false information about Lenore's whereabouts. This data is dutifully reported to Chaz by his ex-wife, Clarice MaibangDformerly an artist from a primitive culture, now a highly placed member of the island's security team. To save Lenore from the murderous Saturn, Chaz must plug into a program designed to create "squaliens"Dsea creatures who have been augmented for greater intelligenceDand, eventually, risk everything to uncover Saturn's identity and the secret that Lenore has now forgotten. Brilliantly weaving high-tech internets, augmentation technologies and social issues into a fast-paced cloak-and-dagger action adventure, this novel effortlessly moves from the depths of the ocean to the heights of VR to create a dazzling, seamless whole. (July)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 317 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312867263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312867263
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,637,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ben Klausner on June 16, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a hard core fan of Larry Niven, I found Saturn's Race to be a huge disappointment. There is little evidence of Niven's hand anywhere in this piece, and none of his meticulous attention to detail, thought out consequences, or neatly tied conclusions. A few Niven-esque technologies are referenced (electric sleep and food yeast), but that's about it.
The plot revolves around a hidden master villan. But the discovery of his existence is lame, the steps to cover the discovery implausible (in that the destruction used is so nicely limited), and the eventual identity of the enemy is unsupported by a decent evidence trail.
The story lurches along with direction and venue changes that seem completely arbitrary. For example, the year plus interlude with the natives in Java adds nothing but pages. There are lots of concepts in the book that could be interesting if exploited, but none are really followed through.
Niven's last several efforts haven't really been up to his prime work, but this may be the most disappointing.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
You start with a great protagonist, and follow her through adventure and discovery and then she gets 'lobotimized' and the main character switches to her 'mentor'. Her great story ends and characterization in the novel suffers for the switch in characters. The mentor's story is about as interesting as an auditor trying to find out who's embezzeling money by digging through documents. It's boring and never picks back up from there. I enjoyed many of his other works, but this one is just lacking something for me.

One thing this novel does well is present near future technology and the sometimes quirky results of scientific lines of inquiry in the present age.
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Format: Hardcover
Okay, I'll admit up front that perhaps I should not write a review of this book, because I never finished it. I got as far as Page 73 and simply could not stand it any more. Stopping in the middle of any book is rare for me, but the boredome was unbearable. In fact, I only got that far because I am a great fan of Niven, which gave me hope. His "Mote in God's Eye" with Pournelle may be my all-time favorite novel. Maybe it's just because he has a different writing partner in this book, or maybe it was just an off time for him. But the spark is not there. The plot and character development were slow, tedious, and completely unrewarding. A painful read, at least the first 73 pages.
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By A Customer on September 5, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The book is very well written and poses the marching morons thesis along with the population explosion/limits to growth problem. It also provides a solution that the bad guy(s) execute.
But, in the midst of defeating the bad guy, who is such an obviously grotesque comic-book villian, the book forgets to actually make any argumenta at all against either the thesis or the solution provided. Nor does it suggest any alternatives.
If it had, it would have been 5 stars. But it doesn't, which leaves this reader thinking - Why not do it that way? Better than thermonuclear war, don't you think? Better than mass casualties from sophisticated biological war, no? Or do the authors prefer those two options with corpses rotting in the streets? Better than drowning our cities from global warming, eh? We are facing massive casualties whichever way you cut it, may as well be as nice as possible. So what IS wrong with the Kali Option?
Fact is, fellow earth-dwellers, we really are faced with exactly such a crisis. We are watching the world hit the wall right now, and we will see a massive denouement that will make the plot of "Saturn's Race" look sweet. So how can the authors argue against such a merciful course without bloodshed, in order to blunder on into a future where far worse horrors beyond imagining loom? What sort of peacock drivel-tripe philosophy is that?
This insipid generation taking control of the world just now should have started to grasp how incredibly quickly the world can spiral into war. All it takes is a few thousand people killed in the right provocation, and kaboom - it's on. This is especially true when the generations have no experience of what real war is like, only blap from TV announced by the likes of Geraldo.
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Format: Hardcover
This was an excellently paced read containing some nice tidbits of not-so-far-out tech. The story pulls you in somewhat gradually, then about half-way through, in the space of a page, you remember: "This is Larry Niven" - the thing grabs you and locks you down.
Just so I don't slight Steven, this *team* has done it again - Larry alone, and Steven alone could not create this wonderful and engaging piece. It has the same blend of hard sci-fi, mystery and sensitivity to human interaction that earmarks a Larry Niven/Steven Barnes novel. In the gadget bag there's nanotech, augmented awareness, and computer conciousness. All excitingly attainable.
If you are a Niven fan, or just out for a good read, you will not be dissapointed - even considering you will have to buy this book and the other new release "The Buring City".
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The comment about being a profound disapoointment, rang true for me too. There is no inspiration here; just alot of formulaic pc ideas that have no life, no depth, no breadth to them; they are never fleshed out, just a string of descriptives: Capuccino, PC, the Kaypro, The Osborne, MAC lives! O comeon, there's more to sci-fi than reading PC Week.
Alot of reading this book is like going to Fry's Electronics in Sunnyvale & not FINDING the diy computer kits; just the brand name pre-assembled off-the-shelf pcs & wondering why everyone is talking about this place; as a Niven (and Fry Electronics :-) fan I felt as though I had been rooked; it was incredibly boring and drawn out to get ....where?
I honestly could not recommend this book that takes 10 chapters to get to some kind of plot & then jumps someplace before you totally understand what's happening.
Buy it used if you must; read it at your own peril.
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