Destroyer of Worlds (Known Space Series)

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Worlds closer to the galatic core than Known Space are ?or were? home to intelligent speciers.  Some learned of the core explosion in time to flee.  Destroyer of Worlds opens in 2670, ten years after Juggler of Worlds closes; with refugee species fleeing in an armada of ramscoops in the direction of the  Fleet of Worlds.  The onrushing aliens are recognized as a threat; they have left in their trail a host of desolated worlds: some raided for supplies, some attacked to eliminate...

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Destroyer of Worlds (Known Space Series)

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Worlds closer to the galatic core than Known Space are —or were— home to intelligent speciers.  Some learned of the core explosion in time to flee.  Destroyer of Worlds opens in 2670, ten years after Juggler of Worlds closes; with refugee species fleeing in an armada of ramscoops in the direction of the  Fleet of Worlds.  The onrushing aliens are recognized as a threat; they have left in their trail a host of desolated worlds: some raided for supplies, some attacked to eliminate competition, and some for pure xenophobia. 

Only the Puppeteers might have the resources to confront this threat—but the Puppeteers are philosophical cowards... they don't confront anyone.  They need sepoys to investigate the situation and take action for them.  The source of the sepoys?  Their newly independent former slave world, New Terra.     

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The final volume of Larry Niven's Ringworld prequel trilogy began with a massive galactic core explosion bang. As hoards of refugees frantically escape, they create chaos that stretches from planet to planet; star to star. The standalone sequel to Juggler of Worlds lives up to every expectation. Now in mass market paperback.

Publishers Weekly
Fleeing a massive explosion at the galactic core, a human colony and their allies, the alien Puppeteers, discover they are not the only ones desperate to outrace destruction in the third prequel to Niven's Ringworld saga (after 2008's Juggler of Worlds). Thssthfok, a ruthless Pak, will do anything to safeguard his clan after Pakhome is destroyed. Paranoid human agent Sigmund Ausfaller and Puppeteer Baedeker are sent to investigate a distress call from the Gw'oth, who have detected a suspicious ship headed toward the Fleet. Sigmund agrees to work with the Gw'oth, but he's concerned that their insatiable drive for scientific development may make them an even bigger threat than the Pak. With the authors working hard to knit together backstory, this one is primarily for fans of Niven's Known Space setting who will enjoy seeing past puzzles made clear. (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
Wrap-up of the far-future trilogy (Juggler of Worlds, 2008, etc.) set 200 years before the discovery of Niven's ever-popular Ringworld. The cowardly, herd-minded Puppeteers discover that a gigantic black hole at the center of the galaxy threatens to engulf all life. So they flee, launching entire planets across the void. The ferocious, single-minded Pak are also fleeing the core explosion, plundering and destroying as they go. Paranoid genius Sigmund Ausfaller, originally from Earth, has contacted another developing civilization. The Gw'oth aren't that smart individually, but they can form superintelligent mind-melds of up to 16 individuals. Er'o, one of the components of the 16-plex Ol't'ro, agrees to help Sigmund investigate the Pak. Intriguingly, humans and Pak turn out to be related-not that it matters in a universe where no species trusts any other. Individual characters aren't particularly convincing, but the depth of the various species' backgrounds and motivations more than compensate. Sigmund's problem: How to persuade the pusillanimous Puppeteers to take action against the rapacious Pak while allowing the supersmart Ol't'ro to help?Old-fashioned cerebral science fiction, with a huge array of fascinating aliens, subtle interactions between them and knotty problems for them to solve.
From the Publisher
"Wide screen galactic scope, nifty super-science, crafty aliens, corporate corruption and cover ups, and a multi-leveled spy vs. spy vs. spy mystery with little being as it first appears make Juggler of Worlds a first class examplar of pure SF entertainment."

SFSite on Juggler of Worlds

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781441717306
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/10/2009
  • Series: Known Space Series
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 10 CDs, 12 hrs 30 min
  • Pages: 10
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 5.76 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry Niven is the award-winning author of the Ringworld series, along with many other science fiction masterpieces, and fantasy novels including the Magic Goes Away series. Beowulf's Children, co-authored with Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes, was a New York Times bestseller. He has received the Nebula Award, five Hugos, four Locus Awards, two Ditmars, the Prometheus, and the Robert A. Heinlein Award, among other honors. He lives in Chatsworth, California.


Edward M. Lerner has degrees in physics and computer science, a background that kept him mostly out of trouble until he began writing science fiction full-time. His books include Probe, Moonstruck, and the collection Creative Destruction. His other collaborations with Larry Niven include Fleet of Worlds. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Ruth.

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Read an Excerpt


Intelligence was overrated.

Not unimportant, merely not the everything that many made intelligence out to be. Intelligence leapt instantly, inexorably, from the merest observation to subtle implication to profound deduction to utter certainty. Intelligence laid bare the threats, vulnerabilities, and opportunities that lurked everywhere. Intelligence understood that other minds all around raced to similar conclusions—

And that countless rivals would take immediate action thereon.

To become a protector, awakening into intelligence, was to lose all innocence, and with it the ability ever to let down one’s guard.

But  here, now, so very far from home, things  were different.

Thssthfok stood alone atop a glacial vastness, clad only in a thin vest, worn for its pockets rather than for warmth. His hard, leathery skin was proof against the cold, at least for short periods. A portable shelter stood a few steps away, his shuttlecraft not much more distant.

The air was clean and crisp and bland in his nostrils. The oceans of this pristine world teemed with life, mostly  single- celled, but the land remained barren. There were no native predators to fear  here. As for protectors, the most formidable of predators, within a  day- tenth’s travel, there was only himself.

The children and breeders Thssthfok lived to protect  were all on Pakhome, incommunicably distant. Their safety had been entrusted to kin and further guaranteed, to the extent that was possible, with hostages, promised rewards, and dire threats. Without such mea sures,Thssthfok could never have come. That would have been unfortunate, for if this mission succeeded, all in clan Rilchuk might enjoy the greatest possible protection—

Release from the endless wars of Pakhome.

The only sound, but for the wind, was the whir of powerful electric motors laboring to extract deep core samples. Locked into the glacier was a story eons in the making, written in layers of ice, traces of ash, and microscopic bubbles of trapped gases.

Thssthfok was  here to read it.

The concentrations of trapped gases would speak of the evolving climate. The traces of ash would reveal the frequency of volcanic eruptions. Occasional dustings of rare metals like iridium would disclose the impacts of large meteors. Patterns in the thickness of layers would speak to .uctuations in ocean volume and worldwide ice cover. That information, and the detailed observations of newly emplaced satellites, and the mea sured orbital pa rame ters of this world . . . together they would reveal much about the long- term suitability of this place.

For this world offered far more temperate climes. Suitably prepared, much of the land here might be as pleasant as the great savannahs on which the Pak had  evolved—if present conditions persisted. Planetary engineering took time and great resources. To relocate the entire clan— hundreds of protectors and many thousand children and  breeders— would be a massive undertaking. Thssthfok had crossed a hundred  light- years to answer a single question: How variable was the climate  here?

He needed core samples, drilling as far back in time as he could get. A climate forecast rooted only in today’s data was no more than a guess, and no basis for casting the fate of everything he held dear. The ice would yield its secrets, but the ice refused to be rushed....

And so, remote from danger, removed from any clues to the circumstances of his breeders, Thssthfok was safe.  Safe— unlike almost anywhere, anytime, on  Pakhome—to disregard the outside world. Safe to ignore past and future. Safe to immerse himself, unprotectorlike, in an unending present. Safe to return to an age before thought.

Safe to dream of his time as a breeder . . .


He remembered hunting and mating and .ghting and exploring, always with zest. He remembered being curious about everything and understanding almost nothing. He remembered his pride in the ability to fashion a pitiful few tools: sharpened sticks, chipped- stone implements, straps cut from cured animal hide. He remembered staring, awestruck, into camp.res. He remembered conversing with  family— if the concepts expressible in a few hundred grunts and gestures could be called conversation.

The world then was ever new and exciting and usually inexplicable. Sometimes, when people died, a reason was obvious: torn by wild beasts, or fallen from a great height, or impaled on a spear. But many deaths came without warning or reason, with only the onset of bad scents to explain.

For scent was everything: how one found or avoided one’s enemies; how one bonded with one’s family; how one was drawn to mates and knew one’s own children.

He remembered the rich, warm scent of family. Every person had a unique smell, and yet the subtleties of that aroma declared one’s lineage for generations. He was not called Thssthfok then. There were no names, for names  were not necessary. To smell relationships suf.ced.

Scent was everything, and death was everywhere, and life—

Life was intense.

Lightning and starlight, seasons and tides, the ways of beasts and the wants of the mysterious beings occasionally glimpsed at a distance (and even less often, intervening) . . . all  were unfathomable and wondrous.

For all their poignancy and grip, those memories  were indistinct. A breeder merely dipped a toe into the great sea of sapience.

And then, one day, as happened to all breeders who reached a suitable age, he smelled . . .


Heaven was another vague concept for breeders. As they threw rocks and spears, so, obviously, far mightier beings hurled the lightning. Who but gods could carry sun and moon across the sky? Who but gods could arrange the stars and command the phases of the moon? Perhaps, as many thought, the gods descended from heaven and took mortal form to visit their people. It would explain the mysterious strangers and their magic implements. And since heaven was surely a better place, it would explain why the mysterious strangers came so seldom.

Heaven, it turned out, was not in the sky.

Heaven was a tree, scarcely more than a shrub, ordinary in every way, passed many times before, entirely familiar. On that day it exuded a scent of irresistible potency. Suddenly he had found himself prone at its roots, scratching with his bare hands at the rocky soil. The smell urged him forward, downward, indifferent to torn .ngernails and .ayed skin and the blood streaming from his hands. He must .nd—

He did not know what.

Fingers digging madly found a gnarled, yellow-orange length of tree root. The scent grew overpowering. When next he was aware of himself, his stomach was painfully engorged. His jaws worked mindlessly on a mouthful of something almost too .brous to chew. He was .at on his back beside a length of exposed tree root, from which a few  rough- skinned tubers still clung. Sap oozed where more tubers had surely been ripped loose. In some dim recess of his thoughts, he knew it was a tuber like these on which he helplessly gnawed.

All around was a stench that part of him wanted to .ee and part of him recognized was somehow himself. That his very scent could change was terrifying. Yet another part of him noted, with unusual clarity, that whatever had overcome him had left him helpless. This reek, if it repelled others as much as himself, was all that kept away his enemies.

The new smell was already fading, changing to yet another odor, something strangely right for him. How could that be? What more had changed? In a panic, he explored his body.

His hair had fallen out in clumps, from head and chest and limbs. His knees and elbows and hips protruded, magically become enormous. The knuckles of his hands  were sore and enlarged. His mouth felt odd, the skin pulled unaccountably taut. When, fearfully, he explored with the hand unencumbered with a  half- eaten tuber, his lips and gums  were becoming one. His cheeks felt like cured animal hide. He patted his chest and legs and other arm. They, too, were becoming tough. He peered fearfully at his most personal parts— and they were gone!

He howled, his anguish muf.ed by a mouthful of the root that had maimed him. And yet . . . Despite pain and shock and confusion, he could not help but notice: His thoughts had never been clearer. He continued to chew.

THE DRONING OF MACHINERY CHANGED pitch as another deep ice core neared the surface.

Thssthfok returned from the eternal present of a breeder into this present, awakening into a deep sense of loss. Breeders felt. Then, he had been one with the land, one with his family, passionate about every experience.

Intelligence was a pale substitute.

Only one emotion remained to him, all the more intense for subsuming the rest: He must protect those left behind. Not his  children— for they were long gone, whether dead or transformed like him by tree- of- life root— but their children’s children’s children, and their children besides.

As many generations must pass again before Thssthfok would return, while by ship time, coming and going at near light speed, hardly six years would have passed. He himself would have aged even less, his biological processes slowed to near immobility in cold sleep.

Scent and memory were inextricably linked. With home fresh in Thssthfok’s thoughts, the sterile, scentless air above this windswept ice oppressed him. Perhaps he would return for a while to the expedition’s main base on the  south- temperate continent, where the geologists and biologists labored. There he would .nd the scents of relatives, if only the weak emanations of other protectors. Shipboard, at least, there  were synthesized scents. The best work of perfumers paled beside the heady, blended redolence of home and family, but it was something.

A thunk announced the arrival from deep below the surface of the latest ice sample. Working with tongs lest any detail be lost to the heat from his hands,Thssthfok put the slim cylinder into a clear, insulated bag. The layers had been automatically scanned, the results already displayed, but Thssthfok studied the ice for himself. When it came to winnowing pattern from noise, no machine could compete with eye and brain and eons of evolution.

Correcting effortlessly for the compression that varied with depth,Thssthfok pondered the strata in the ice. Some layers were thicker than others, the precipitation at this spot a clue to the extent of snowfall worldwide. At a glance he discerned cycles upon cycles upon cycles.

Sun and moon and neighboring planets, each in its own way, each at its own pace, tugged on this world. And so the shape of its orbit changed, and the tilt of its axis, and the slow precession of its axial tilt. With each shift, the strength of sunlight varied across the globe.

Of such minutiae are climates made.

As had the samples before it, this latest core spoke of ice ages. Orbital variation explained most and volcanic ash layers the rest. The ice gave no reason to expect another ice age for many thousands of years.

Almost certainly, Pakhome would face an ice age sooner. If Thssthfok was lucky, that next ice age would arise from Pakhome’s own astronomical cycles, long after his death. (If he was  unlucky— well, with only normal luck— war would be what killed him. War killed most protectors. The competition for resources was ever .erce.)

A part of Thssthfok would .nd an ice  age—especially one hastened by a nuclear  winter— fascinating, but he was a protector more than climatologist. With his family at risk, too distant to defend, the prospect .lled him with dread. Even a limited nuclear exchange would make the temperate zones uninhabitable for many years. Every family from those regions would set out to conquer new living space for his breeders. The struggles for equatorial territory would be brutal.

Rilchuk, the island of Thssthfok’s birth, the home of his family, straddled the equator. Their land would be prized. Breeders with the wrong scent— his  family!— would be slaughtered by any conqueror.

Thssthfok thought: I must .nd a New Rilchuk, whether on this planet or another, a place to shelter my descendants for many generations.

If I am not already too late.

As he had a hundred times since reawakening from cold sleep, Thssthfok suppressed that qualm. Let doubt once blossom and he would lose the will to live. It was better not to dwell on circumstances that could not be known.

He refocused on the ice core with renewed dedication. In his bones, he knew: This is the world. The sooner he could prove it, the sooner he could bring his descendants from—

Within a sealed vest pocket, Thssthfok’s radio shrieked. It was tuned to the command channel, and the harsh warble was unambiguous: immediate emergency recall.

Recall? Thssthfok needed deeper cores to prove this world safe. To make his breeders safe. Even to wrap the ice cores properly and recover the drilling equipment would take half a day. He took out his radio. “Commander, request another day. The cores—”

Bphtolnok, commander of the mission, was stationed on their orbiting ramscoop. That the commander was Thssthfok’s grandfather’s sister would merit no favors. Everyone on the mission was family.

Bphtolnok cut off Thssthfok. “Aboard in two  day- tenths, or be left behind.”

Excerpted from Destroyer of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner.

Copyright © 2009 by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner.

Published in November 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and

reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in

any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Customer Reviews

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( 44 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Destroyer of Worlds is kind of having Gulliver fleeing amidst the Batttlestar Galactica crowd.

    By 2670 those who predicted the explosion at the galactic core remain in flight. Humans and their allies the Puppeteers are desperately leaving the destruction expanding rapidly dead zone in a mass exodus.

    However, at the same time of the mass flight, a third species the Pak also tries to escape after their world Pakhome was destroyed. Pak operative Thssthfok will do whatever it takes to save his species. He and others raid frightened worlds to steal supplies leaving pandemic corpses behind. When a distress signal from Gw'ot reaches the leadership the human-Puppeteer alliance, agent Sigmund Ausfaller accompanied by Baedeker investigates as an unmarked vessel heads towards the fleeing armada. Reluctantly Sigmund works with the Gw'oth to learn who is inside the ship, but he distrusts his new allies more than the Pak as he understands the ruthlessness of the latter but not science above all else of the former.

    Destroyer of Worlds is kind of having Gulliver fleeing amidst the Batttlestar Galactica crowd. A decade since the Juggler of Worlds, the mass exodus is in full swing, but enemies exist causing havoc at a time when chaos does not need deadly outsiders to create more of it. Obviously for fans of the Known Space universe who will fully relish the prequel saga of the Puppeteers and humans running from the core meltdown but newcomers will be lost in space.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    Known space

    Our last master of science fiction and the wonderous universe he has created doesnt get any better than this

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  • Posted April 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Cows in Space - but better

    Great Storyline. I believe the reader benefits from reading "The Fleet of Worlds" before starting this one, but the "Destroyer of Worlds" stands on its own. The story develops around a galactic tragedy that forces several alien races to vie for survival, at times at the expense of the other races.
    If you are a Sci-Fi enthusiast you will appreciate the thoughtful construction of the races, and the characters therein. Anyone can make a character reptilian or insect-like. What the authors have done in this case is present the thoughts and behavior of the characters as a consequence of their race. The "Citizens" act like others from their race, not like mishapen humans. This consistency allows the reader to get lost in the fantasy.
    The plot is strong. This is not a thriller, but by every measure, it is an adventure. There are enough twists and surprises to keep you reading, even when the clock says it is time to put the book down.
    One negative was the very end. I like my heroes to ride off in the sunset, or at least retire, satisfied with their victory. I will say no more, because my only frustration was in the very last page, and I do not care to spoil it for those interested in pursuing this interesting novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great sequel, well written.

    If you like the Ringworld series you'll enjoy this sequel. Well written, transitions well, and great insight on PAK.

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  • Posted December 28, 2009

    Welcome return to Known Space

    This is a must read for fans of Larry Niven's Known Space universe. The third in the "Worlds" miniseries, this chapter continues with Sigmund Ausfaller in his new life amid the Puppeteer fleet. I enjoyed this book much more than Juggler of Worlds which became dull for me at times. Destroyer has less exposition and more plot...a page turner right to the end.

    Destroyer is also an extension of the Protector series so you'll want to have read those first. Expect references to Beowulf Shaffer, Carlos Wu, and Lucas Garner as well. The Gw'oth in the book weren't particularly interesting, but the Pak make up for it. Niven has always done an excellent job bringing realism to the super-intelligent protectors.

    The best and worst thing about Niven's works is that all his main characters have the same personality. Be it Louis Wu, Beowulf Shaffer, Sigmund Ausfaller, Gil Hamilton; they all feel like the same person. Fortunately, I love this fact. I feel like they could all be my best friend, or that they represent the best in me. After reading a Niven piece, it feels like I'm smarter, and the feeling lasts for days.

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