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Shipstar: A Science Fiction Novel Hardcover – April 8, 2014

3.6 out of 5 stars 148 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Bowl of Heaven Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Masters of artifact-based world-building, Benford and Niven have created a fascinating structure, the Bowl, and added politics, varied alien societies, and advanced technologies. The first team sent down to the Bowl escapes with the help of some snakelike aliens. The other team has escaped Folk custody and flees across the Bowl, aided by the Sil, another humanoid species. Assumptions are challenged; a threatening message comes in from Glory, the SunSeeker’s original destination; and the secret origin of the Folk comes out. There are creatures living in and on the Bowl beyond human imagination, with their own goals, and the Folk have overstepped their role as enforcers of equilibrium among the many species of the Bowl. The humans are a disruptive influence, too chaotic for this closed system, and by the end of the book, everything will be different on the Bowl and the SunSeeker. From its origin, in a vast engineered world, to the concluding social upheaval, the story is a solid adventure and entertaining speculation on the lives of alien creatures. --Regina Schroeder

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"The story is a solid adventure and entertaining speculation on the lives of alien creatures."―Booklist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765328704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765328700
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #362,796 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When Bowl of Heaven came out I gave it an over eager 4 star rating. In retrospect I should have been less generous.

I'm a life-long Niven fan and I have enjoyed Benford, especially his Galactic Centre novels, and so I was expecting more. I've tried to figiure out why Shipstar and it's forerunner, Bowl of Heaven, haven't worked as well as they might and I can only come to the conclusion that as collaborators they weren't able to quite gell.

The story isn't too bad, but it never reaches any really sort of inventiveness, we've seen all this before. And the plot is pretty ordinary. That said, there's somewhere to explore and one or two of the characters are more interesting than I previously thought.

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the read, but not as much as I'd have liked.

I just hope that Niven has one more gem up his sleeve before he has to hang up his writing 'boots'; maybe a stand alone, written by him, exploring some very strange galactic location, or one final collaboration with Pournelle... One can dream.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you think you know your tech sci-fi stuff, here is a story to expand your imaginings. It is the only tech sci-fi that I've read that provides CAD modeling illustrations at critical technical concept junctures to describe what it would otherwise take a 1000 words to explain poorly. The story has the legs to follow in the tradition of Arthur C. Clarke's Rama saga plus Stephen Baxter at his best. This kind of mental fodder entertainment is hard to find and it pops. The first installment of this story, The Bowl of Heaven, was badly panned by reviewers. I didn't read it because of the hammering. At first ... I wasn't getting in to Shipstar and was thinking the Bowl of Heaven reviewers had nailed it. Then about 50-100 pages in, it hooked me.

Any sci-fi that pushes the boundaries of basic concepts gets my attention. Shipstar does that on many levels with theory made manifest, a crisp narrative, and reasonably well developed characters. The book is carried by the author's extrapolations into far future technology, the fringes of today's theoretical speculation.

This is a step function change-up on the static dynamics of the Dyson-sphere or Ringworld-like constructs. Shipstar is an ancient, dynamically integrated sun and semi-sphere relic ... thus ... the `Shipstar'. The relic is propelled through the galaxy using the star as the engine. The Shipstar has magnanimously collected whole civilizations into its near-Earth habitable construct where there exists sentient rules and hierarchy. The relic has the surface area of tens of thousands of Earths and remains only sparsely inhabited by the relic's strange collection of 'adopted' life forms.

The human ship that stumbles up on the relic is a deep space expedition that happens on the relic.
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Format: Hardcover
In the afterword to “Shipstar” (Tor, $27.99, 415 pages), co-author Gregory Benford (with Larry Niven) refers to the massive Bowl that is the main topic of this book and its predecessor, “Bowl of Heaven,” as a Big Smart Object. And in so doing, Benford pretty much reviewed both of these books – which by the way, should be read back-to-back, as if they were one volume. The authors don’t fill in any blanks, and in fact I had completely forgotten two major characters were married until it was brought up during the final pages of book two.

Regardless, though, these two volumes are in fact one Big Smart Object, with a lot of what passes for the plot being discussions of how the Bowl (an incredibly massive object that cruises the galaxy) works, and how a jet from its accompanying star is generated and controlled. The characters fade into the background as the technical ideas flow, and then Benford and Niven add more and more aliens to the mix to further muddy the waters, and distance the reader from the supposed protagonists.

Then again, folks don't buy Benford/Niven books for nuanced characters and subtle shades of emotion -- those who have bought Benford/Niven books in the past, though, know what to expect.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When I bought "Shipstar" and began reading it on my Kindle, I almost stopped and put it down. The beginning was very, very confusing. But I discovered that was because I hadn't read "Bowl of Heaven" and didn't realize "Shipstar" was part two of the story. I'm glad I kept reading it and in the end I enjoyed it very much. I enjoyed it so much that now I've purchased "The Bowl of Heaven" to read and the Whispersynch connected audio. There seem to be people who really haven't liked either book. I'm not one of them. Read "Shipstar", but only after you've read "Bowl of Heaven".
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There's an over abundance of really awkward techno-babble throughout the book - and that detracts from the flow - the actual story is a good one and it moves along at a reasonable pace until the last third of the book when all of a sudden things start to move very quickly and worse, as the end of the book approaches, they go even faster and faster... so much so that the events at the ending almost don't really make sense, It's also clear that while this is supposedly the second of a two novel saga,that at least a third has to follow or there will be so many questions left unanswered that it would be ridiculous. As said, the story is interesting (albeit despite attempts to separate the 'bowl' from the Ringworld, there are many similarities in structure) and the ideas involved are original and interesting, but the way it's written - especially the flow at the end - makes things begin not to make sense (and the techno-babble which in my opinion also increases greatly towards the end, compounds that).That's a 3 1/2 Star above.Good enough to read, but could have been a whole lot better.
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