The Ringworld Throne (Known Space Series)

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Overview

Come back to the Ringworld . . . the most astonishing feat of engineering ever encountered.  A place of untold technological wonders, home to a myriad humanoid races, and world of some of the most beloved science fiction stories ever written!

The human, Louis Wu; the puppeteer known as the Hindmost; Acolyte, son of the Kzin called Chmeee . . . legendary beings brought together once again in the defense of the Ringworld. Something is going on with the Protectors. ...

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Overview

Come back to the Ringworld . . . the most astonishing feat of engineering ever encountered.  A place of untold technological wonders, home to a myriad humanoid races, and world of some of the most beloved science fiction stories ever written!

The human, Louis Wu; the puppeteer known as the Hindmost; Acolyte, son of the Kzin called Chmeee . . . legendary beings brought together once again in the defense of the Ringworld. Something is going on with the Protectors. Incoming spacecraft are being destroyed before they can reach the Ringworld.  Vampires are massing. And the Ghouls have their own agenda--if anyone dares approach them to learn.

Each race on the Ringworld has always had its own Protector. Now it looks as if the Ringworld itself needs a Protector. But who will sit on the Ringworld Throne?

"Niven's work has been an intriguing and consistent universe, and this book is the keystone of the arch. . . . [His] technique is wonderfully polished, his characters and their situations are nicely drawn . . . wraps up (maybe) a corner of a very interesting universe."
--San Diego Union-Tribune

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An honored SF writer returns to his best-known creation: the artificial world, built far from Earth by aliens over a half million years ago, in the form of a ring 600 million miles in diameter, hosting an astonishing multitude of inhabitants and cultures. This third fictional voyage to the Ringworld (after Ringworld, 1970, which won both the Hugo and the Nebula for best SF novel of that year, and Ringworld Engineers, 1980) offers two stories crowded into one. A motley array of hominid inhabitants are seeking to defeat a plague of vampires. Meanwhile, returning hero Louis Wu is battling what effectively is a plague of Protectors (superbeings common to many Niven novels) whose rivalries threaten Ringworld's existence. The battle against the vampires is the more exciting of the two stories, filled with action, scenes of the Ringworld and explorations of ritualistic interspecies sex. Wu's pursuit of the Protectors displays Niven's deft hand at portraying aliens, but the dialogue that fills in the backstory slows the narrative. Niven still ranks near the top of the SF field, but this outing is likely to satisfy determined Ringworld fans more than other readers. (June)
VOYA - William J. White
Larry Niven's Ringworld (Ballantine, 1970) and its sequel, The Ringworld Engineers (Phantasia, 1980), introduced readers to a curious astronomical anomaly: a ring of incredibly strong metal encircling a sun-like star with a radius about that of Earth's orbit. The inner surface of the ring, molded into shapes like rivers, mountain, and oceans, is inhabited by a variety of humanoid peoples. The first two Ringworld novels detailed the adventures of Louis Wu, two-hundred-year-old human with a taste for travelling, and his companions (human and alien) as they explore the Ringworld. In each of those novels, the plot is fairly straightforward: having crashed on the Ringworld, the travellers must find a way to repair their ship and depart; in the sequel, Louis Wu returns to the Ringworld and must attempt to repair it to prevent instabilities in its orbit from causing it to crash into the sun. The plots, for the most part, simply serve to motivate Louis Wu's encounters with the strange environment and peoples who inhabit the Ringworld. In The Ringworld Throne, Niven seems to be attempting to flesh out some of the Ringworld societies introduced in the first two novels, as well as to account for some of the technical difficulties involved in keeping a 597,000,000-mile circumference ring in place around a star. Ultimately, it is the weakest novel of the three. The plot is somewhat incoherent, bouncing back and forth between subplots that are unrelated and not terribly interesting. Part of the problem is the alien societies which Niven describes. Essentially simple villagers at various levels of technology, the members of the various cultures that Louis Wu encounters seem to speak, think, and act the same way: there is a failure of the sociological imagination here, which is disappointing because of the extraordinary technological inventiveness that went into creating the Ringworld in the first place. The secrets of the Ringworld that are revealed are not terribly startling, and the characters are not terribly engaging. Niven has done better, and it is perhaps time for him to leave the Ringworld and move to different, unexplored territory. VOYA Codes: 2Q 4P M J S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
Library Journal
Vampires gather, the Protectors interfer with other species, and someone is destroying incoming spacecraft, forcing Louis Wu to return to become Ringworld's Central Protector. The glossary, cast of characters, and Ringworld parameters orient new readers to the series (Ringworld and The Ringworld Engineers). Highly recommended for sf collections.
Carl Hays
Another sequel to "Ringworld" (1970) is cause for celebration. The year is 2882, and something ominous is happening on Ringworld, the 600-million-mile artifact encircling a sunlike star 250 million light-years from Earth. Incoming spacecraft are being destroyed, the predatory humanoids known as vampires are breeding in alarming numbers, and the Ringworld Protectors, who normally stick to their own kind, are at war with other species. Enter Louis Wu, the 200-year-old human scientist who discovered Ringworld and has been sailing its oceans since saving it from almost certain destruction some time ago. Assisted by his faithful puppeteer and "kzin" sidekicks, Wu makes investigations that lead to the uncomfortable conclusion that Ringworld may need a single Protector chief to solve its problems--a position for which Wu becomes an unwilling candidate. The story suffers occasionally from having too many characters and hardly equals the fascination of its predecessors, but any addition to Niven's famous series should attract plenty of readers.
Kirkus Reviews
Third in Niven's famous Ringworld series (The Ringworld Engineers, not reviewed), set on a colossal space habitat that forms a complete ring, 600 million miles in circumference, around its sun, and comes complete with cleverly engineered days and nights, seasons, oceans, mountains, and what-all. Earth explorer Louis Wu has been trying to evade the surveillance of the Hindmost, a manipulative alien puppeteer who, despite his advanced technology, is trapped on the Ringworld. Nevertheless, the Hindmost observes everything that occurs, especially—in the first (intriguing but largely irrelevant) section—how a motley band of assorted humanoids somehow pool their talents to wipe out a bothersome nest of Vampires. In the second section, exciting but very hard to follow, the Hindmost notes with interest that a powerful Someone seems obsessed with protecting and maintaining the Ringworld. And soon both Louis and the Hindmost are being controlled by a protector, Bram, a Vampire transformed by a virus and a particular diet into a superbeing. Neither is Bram alone—and the problem is that protectors of different species instinctively fight to protect their own species' genes. Someone, however, must take control of the Ringworld to ensure its survival. . . .

Notably schizophrenic and confusing but inventive enough that Ringworld admirers will surely wish to investigate.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345412966
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1997
  • Series: Known Space Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 328,165
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.85 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry Niven was born in 1938 in Los Angeles, California. In 1956, he entered the California Institute of Technology, only to flunk out a year and a half later after discovering a bookstore jammed with used science-fiction magazines. He graduated with a B.A. in mathematics (minor in psychology) from Washburn University, Kansas, in 1962, and completed one year of graduate work before he dropped out to write. His first published story, "The Coldest Place," appeared in the December 1964 issue of Worlds of If. He won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1966 for "Neutron Star" and in 1974 for "The Hole Man." The 1975 Hugo Award for Best Novelette was given to The Borderland of Sol. His novel Ringworld won the 1970 Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1970 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1972 Ditmar, an Australian award for Best International Science Fiction.
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt: Chapter One: A WAR OF SCENTS

A.D. 2892

Cloud covered the sky like a gray stone plate. The yellow grass had a wilted look: too much rain, not enough sun. No doubt the sun was straight overhead and the Arch was still in place, but Valavirgillin hadn't seen either for twenty days now.

The cruisers rolled through an endless drizzle, through high grass, on wheels as tall as a man. Vala and Kay rode the steering bench; Barok rode above them as gunner. Barok's daughter Forn was asleep under an awning.

Any day now--any hour--

Sabarokaresh pointed. "Is that what you've been looking for?"

Valavirgillin stood up in her seat. She could just see where the vastness of grass turned to a vastness of stubble.

Kaywerbrimmis said, "They leave this pattern. We'll be seeing sentries or a harvesting party. Boss, I don't understand how you knew they'd be Grass Giants here. I've never been this far to starboard myself. You, you're from Center City? That's a hundred daywalks to port."

"Word came to me," Valavirgillin said.

He didn't ask more. A merchant's secrets were her own.

They rolled into the stubble and turned. The cruisers rolled faster now. Stubble to right, shoulder-high grass to the left. Far ahead, birds were wheeling and diving. Big dark birds: scavengers.

Kaywerbrimmis touched his handguns for reassurance. Muzzle-loading, the barrels as long as his forearm. Big Sabarokaresh eased back into the turret. The top of the payload shell housed the cannon, and that might be needed. The other wagons were swinging left and right, covering Kay's wagon so that he could investigate in safety.

The birds wheeled away. They'd left black feathers everywhere. Twenty big birds, gorged until they could hardly fly. What might feed so many?

Bodies. Little hominids with pointy skulls, lying some in stubble, some in uncut grass, stripped of most of their meat. Hundreds! They might have been children, but the children among them were even smaller.

Vala looked for clothing. In strange terrain you never knew which hominids might be intelligent.

Sabarokaresh dropped to earth, gun in hand. Kaywerbrimmis hesitated; but nothing sudden popped out of the grass, and he followed. Foranayeedli popped a sleepy head through the window and gaped. She was a girl of sixty falans or so, just reaching mating age.

"Since last night," Kay said presently.

The smell of corruption wasn't strong yet. If Ghouls hadn't arrived before the birds, then these victims must have been slain near dawn. Vala asked, "How did they die? If this is local Grass Giant practice, we want none of it."

"This could've been done by birds. Cracked bones, see? But cracked by big beaks, for marrow. These are Gleaners, Boss. See, this is how they dress, in feathers. They follow the harvesters. The Gleaners hunt smeerps, firedots, anything that digs. Cutting the grass exposes the burrows."

--Feathers, right. These feathers were black and red and purple-green, not just black. "So what happened here?"

Forn said, "I know that smell."

Beneath the corruption: what? Something familiar, not itself unpleasant ... but it made Foranayeedli uneasy.

Valavirgillin had hired Kaywerbrimmis to lead the caravan because he was local, because he seemed competent. The rest were his people. None had ever been this far to starboard.

Vala knew more of this place than any of them ... if she was right about where she was.

"Well, where are they?"

"Watching us, maybe," Kay said.

Vala could see a long way from her perch at the bow of the cruiser. The veldt was flat, the yellow grass was chopped short. Grass Giants stood seven and eight feet tall. Where grass stood half their height, could they hide in that?

The traders pulled their cruisers into a triangle. Their midday dinner was fruit and roots from stores on the running boards. They cooked some local grass with the roots. They'd caught no fresh meat.

They took their time. Most hominids were more approachable after feeding. If Grass Giants thought like Machine People, they would let strangers eat before they made contact.

No ambassador came. The caravan rolled on.

Three cruisers rolled sluggishly across the veldt with no animal to pull them. Big square wooden platforms rode four wheels at the corners; the motor, centered aft, turned two more drive wheels. The cast-iron payload shell rode ahead of the motor, like an iron house with a fat chimney. Big leaf springs were under the bow, under the steering bench. A savage might wonder at the tower on the payload housing, but what would he think if he had never seen a cannon?

Harmless.

Shapes the color of the golden grass, shapes too big to be men: two big humanoids watched from the crest of a far hill. Vala saw them only when one turned and loped away across the veldt. The other ran along the crest, toward where the cruisers would cross.

He waited in their path, watching them come. He was nearly the color of the golden grass: golden skin, golden mane. Big. Armed with a great curved sword.

Kaywerbrimmis walked to meet the giant. Valavirgillin set the cruiser following him like a friendly ridebeast.

Distance put strange twists in the trade dialect. Kaywerbrimmis had tried to teach Vala some of the variations in pronunciation, new words and altered meanings. She listened now, trying to make out what Kay was saying.

"We come in peace ... intend to trade ... Farsight Trading ... rishathra?"

The giant's eyes flicked back and forth while Kay talked. Back and forth between their jaws, Forn and Vala and Kay and Barok. The giant was amused.

His face was hairier than any Machine Person's! Pretty Forn's jawline fringe of beard just growing, just long enough to take a curl at the corners. Vala's was turning elegantly white, two points at the chin. Other hominids were too often distracted by Machine People beards, especially on the women.

The giant waited out Kay's chattering, then strode past him and took a seat on the cruiser's running board. He leaned against the payload shell and immediately jerked away from the hot metal. Recovered his dignity and waved the cruiser forward.

Big Barok held his post above the giant. Forn climbed up beside her father. She was tall, too, but the giant made them both look stunted.

Kaywerbrimmis asked, "Your camp, that way?"

The giant's dialect was less comprehensible. "Yes. Come. You want shelter. We want warriors."

"How do you practice rishathra?" It was the first thing any trader would want to know, and any beta male, too, if these were like Grass Giants elsewhere.

The giant said, "Come quick, else learn too much of rishathra."

"What?"

"Vampires."

Forn's eyes widened. "That smell!"

Kay smiled, seeing not a threat, but an opportunity. "I am Kaywerbrimmis. Here are Valavirgillin, my patron, and Sabarokaresh and Foranayeedli. In the other cruisers they are Machine People, too. We hope to persuade you to join our Empire."

"I am Paroom. Our leader you must address as Thurl."

Vala let Kay do the talking. Grass Giant sword-scythes had too little reach. Farsight Trading's guns would make short work of a vampire attack. That should impress the Bull, and then--business.

Grass Giants, scores of them, were pulling wagons filled with grass through the gap in a wall of heaped earth.

"This isn't normal," Kaywerbrimmis said. "Grass Giants don't build walls."

Paroom heard. "We had to learn. Forty-three falans ago the Reds were fighting us. We learned walls from them."

Forty-three falans was 430 rotations of the star patterns, where the sky rotated every seven and a half days. In forty falans Valavirgillin had made herself rich, had mated, had carried four children, then gambled her wealth away. These last three falans she had been traveling.

Forty-three falans was a long time.

She asked or tried to ask, "Was that when the clouds came?"

"Yes, when the old Thurl boiled a sea."

Yes! This was the place she sought.

Kaywerbrimis shrugged it off as local superstition. "How long have you had vampires?"

Paroom said, "Always there are some. In this last few falans, suddenly they are everywhere, more every night. This morning we found nearly two hundred Gleaners, all dead. Tonight they will hunger again. The walls and our crossbows hold them back. Here," said the sentry, "bring your wagons through the gap and prepare them to fight."

They had crossbows ?

And the light was going.

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Table of Contents

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