Glorious by Gregory Benford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Remember reading adventures where a full team goes in to explore a strange new world and only a handful come out alive? Where very strange creatures with even stranger motives tease and tempt you into situations you know you shouldn't be in, but you're just TOO CURIOUS to resist?
Yeah, I love those adventures, too. A believed that they were becoming a lost art form. And maybe they are... at least in SF where they used to be so abundant. New Worlds, New Aliens! (as opposed to the much more common: New worlds, New Aliens to kill!)
Well, I'm happy to say that the old art form is back, at least for these three Bowl of Heaven novels by Gregory Binford and Larry Niven. More, I think this third book does it even better than the first two.
In the afterward, I should point out that they are not adapting the old Big Dumb Objects clause to their immense technological marvels, but Big Smart Objects. This is an adventure where we newcomer humans encounter vastly long-lived civilizations who maintain their enormous structures intelligently.
In Glorious, the system where both the Bowl and the Humans had been traveling to when they got entangled in each other's stories is now in sight. Humans make first contact (for various reasons I won't spoil) and are embroiled in both a physically awesome structure and a wildly complicated social structure featuring TONS of intelligent aliens. If I thought the amount of livable surface area in Bowl was amazing, the one in Glorious is even more amazing (and MORE interesting).
And these aliens don't deign to talk to anyone else in the universe unless they use gravimetric waves. As in, communication through a series of herded black holes, manipulated in such a way as to transmit vast distances without ever breaking the current laws of physics. This is the old-style SF, after all, where real science rules. :) :)
No spoilers, but I was glued to my page. I was just as curious as the characters on the page and I might have made all the same mistakes, too. It's always a free lunch for SOMEBODY there. Of course, that usually means that you're the meal. :)
Good stuff! Big ideas all over the place and fun all the way through!
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