Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Larry Niven - Destiny's Road

Destiny's Road is a return to a science fiction theme that made Larry Niven famous. Like in his classic Ringworld series, the hero of this novel is exploring an alien planet, and the reader, through Jemmy Bloocher's eyes is doing the same.

The planet Destiny was first colonised from Earth some 250 years ago. Their mothership disappeared and the landing craft also vanished, but in the process it burnt an enormous road across the landscape. The road begins as a spiral, giving the name to the small town that grows up there. But no one has ever seen the end, other than the merchants who periodically arrive in Spiral Town trading wares, in exchange for the products of Spiral Town's remaining Earth technology.

The merchants also bring something else - "speckles" - a spice like food product that humans must eat to survive, as natural life on Destiny appears to be missing some vital ingredient.

After accidental killing someone, Jemmy Bloocher flees Spiral Town and tries to travel the length of the Road. His adventures and discoveries form the basis for the book.

Sadly though, this 1997 Larry Niven novel is not a patch on his earlier work. While there is some interesting stuff, particularly the descriptions of alien life forms, and cooking them, Niven has copied too much from Ringworld. Rather like in that novel, Niven has an obsession with leading characters shagging anyone they meet. In Ringworld this was justified as an attempt by alien beings to relate to each others strangeness, in Destiny's Road it seems merely an attempt to appeal to a particular type of fan. While Niven does eventually provide the reader with a plot device to explain this behaviour, it feels like an after-thought, rather than a startling revelation.

Fans of Larry Niven will already have read this. It probably should only be picked up by newer fans trying to read all his works. It doesn't deserve the "truly remarkable" accolades on the cover and there is far better SF out there, including works by Niven himself.

Related Reviews

Niven - Ringworld
Niven - Ringworld's Children
Niven - Crashlander

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