Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Larry Niven - Crashlander

Crashlander brings together all the short stories that make up one of the more famous "arcs" in Science Fiction - the stories dealing with Beowulf Shaeffer. Or so it says on the back, however since reading this, I've discovered that there is a further Shaeffer story, which I'm glad about, because the last one in this volume is strangely unfulfilling. In the "future history" that is Larry Niven's "Known Space", Shaeffer fills an important role.

It's him who discovers that the core of our galaxy is exploding and sets the scene for the Puppeteer exodus... leading to the Ringworld Series. He also has a number of adventures that serve to set the scene for key plot elements of Niven's universe - the near indestructibility of the General Products spaceship hull for instance. He also is the father of Louis Wu - the hero of the Ringworld books.

This story collection contains one new story, and a bridging story - giving context to the last tale and taking the form of a conversation where all Shaeffer's tales are recounted - giving the excuse to reprint them. The latest story is interesting - the nuances of the writing give the game away that it's written many years after the earlier stories (people have handheld communications devices and use them frequently, unlike in the earlier works for instance).

For Niven (and Known Space) fans this will be a must have. For those interested in the development of one of the classics of Science Fiction it will be interesting. For many others, the stories might seem a bit dated.

Related Reviews

Niven - Ringworld
Niven - Ringworld's Children
Niven - Destiny's Road

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