Juggler of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M Lerner
Larry Niven’s Known Space stories were like crack cocaine to me growing up. A huge, sprawling history of the future filled to the brim with exotic aliens, wacky spaceships and gadgets, and vast otherworldly landscapes was the perfect escapist fantasy.
But most of the Known Space stories were written 40 years ago, and collaborations between aging science fiction authors have a (shall we say) uneven track record. It was with a sense of dread that I picked up Juggler of Worlds, but how bad could it be?
Juggler of Worlds is a novel that retells many of the original Known Space tales (which were already linked) from the point of view of one of the minor recurring characters. In many ways this is a bit of a cop out – no new parts of Known Space are opened up, almost the entire plot is recycled. Rather than huge and sprawling, Known Space seems to have contracted Star Wars disease; there seem to be only 6 people in the entire universe doing anything interesting.
Having said that, as exercises in picking over the bones go this isn’t actually terrible. It has been so long since I read the stories that revisiting them from a different angle is actually a pleasure and the writing has not suffered from being a collaboration, if anything it is better than ever with more rounded characterisations. It still isn’t a great book, and anyone unfamiliar with the original source material is probably going to be lost, but it could have been worse.
Recommended if (and only if) you like this sort of thing.