I enjoyed the Ringworld books so I foolishly ignored the tepid reviews and read Bowl of Heaven. Might be better titled "Bowl of Purgatory" because the poor reader, after being drawn in by a fairly interesting beginning, finds himself wading through a swamp of meaningless action performed by unlikable characters. We are supposed to believe that these people are highly trained space travelers? A troupe of Webelos would do a better job of establishing contact with an alien civilization. These people spend pages and PAGES doing nothing but squabbling, running away, hunting and eating. After a few chapters you are rooting for Big Bird to just finish them off and put us out of our misery. Bowl World sounded promising but it is no where near as interesting as Ringworld. The aliens are derivative and bird races have been done much better elsewhere. And despite long monotonous descriptions the reader has a hard time visualizing the so-called wonders of Bowl World. The authors bend over backwards to get a dinosaur in there but the place is still as exciting as Sesame Place.
This book is a vivid example of how writers with formerly good reputations can become lazy, churn out utter dreck and yet be published. If an unknown author had written this any publisher would have thrown the manuscript in the trashcan and not even bothered with a form letter because he/she knew that such an unimaginative, untalented author had no chance of ever being published. It is mind boggling that a publisher is actually paying for a sequel. Benford and Niven are probably laughing their behinds off.