Review of Ringworld’s Children by Larry Niven

SFFaudio Review

Ringworld's Children by Larry NivenRingworld’s Children
By Larry Niven; Read by Barrett Whitener
8 CDs – Approx. 9.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0786185384
Themes: / Science Fiction / Hard SF / Physics / Genetics / Aliens / Nanotechnology / Evolution /

The Ringworld is a landmark engineering achievement, a flat band three million times the surface of the Earth, encircling a distant star. Home to trillions of inhabitants, not all of whom are human, and host to amazing technological wonders, the Ringworld is unique in all of the universe.

The blurb above is a bit of a lie, no longer is Ringworld unique. There is Rama, Arthur C. Clarke’s giant tube shaped alien habitat, Bob Shaw’s Orbitsville, a huge Dyson’s Sphere built by mysterious aliens and the hungry alien construct called Gaea of John Varley’s Titan. Indeed, there have also been three other books in the Ringworld series – admittedly all of them are set on the same Ringworld. But the first Ringworld novel, published in 1970, was the first of this new kind of SF novel; the novel of the big big thoughts, or as David Gerrold calls it, “the enormous big thing”. An idea, a ‘what if’ so massive and so imaginative, so rife with unforeseen consequences that the characters must investigate it just as we do. Kind of like science fiction for science fiction characters! Ringworld was such a big idea in fact, that the three sequel novels were published in an effort to examine the impossible gigantitude of the consequences of its existence. In this the fourth, and perhaps final installment of the Ringworld series, we see more of the problems of existence of such a structure fixed, visit with old characters (Louis Wu, Acolyte, The Hindmost and Tunesmith being major players) and meet some new ones too. There are some genuine surprises here, and some edge of your seat excitement, but as with the previous two sequels the biggest surprise is still the same one from the first novel – and that of course is, just how massively huge the Ringworld is! Its size still staggers the imagination… a narrow ring, only 0.997×106 miles wide, with two perimeter walls climbing 1000 miles high, to hold in the air, the ring itself is 93 million miles in radius, a single spinning world shaped like a ribbon around a star – with a habitable area of over 3 million Earths. What couldn’t happen in a place that big?

Author Larry Niven cemented himself as the standard barer of Hard Science Fiction, with the publication of Ringworld. If he had done nothing else, he’d still be thought of as a prodigious figure in the field. But he’s not rested upon his laurels; he’s expanded, refined and continued the Ringworld adventure. In a way, that was a mistake. You can’t top an idea this big by telling more adventures about the same world. On the other hand, I personally wouldn’t have had it any other way. I enjoyed nearly every minute of the nine and a half hours of listening in Ringworld’s Children. In fact, I would have been happy with another nine hours! There were a few parts that were dry, sure, but they didn’t last very long and they moved the plot along. I do wish Niven had spent some more time exploring the inhabitants of his creation; we meet only a few new hominid species, and unlike in previous installments, we don’t get a full sense of their ecological niches. But given that much of the action takes place in space around the Ringworld perhaps it couldn’t be helped. Much of this action is necessary though as many threads from the previous two sequels needed tying up, especially if this is indeed the final chapter in the Ringworld series.

Barrett Whitener, who seems to be recording nearly every Blackstone science fiction title coming out these days, was actually not a great choice as reader for Ringworld’s Children. It’s not that his reading is poor – it wasn’t. In fact, I like the way Whitener read it, I just think that his tone was all wrong for this particular novel. His various alien voices didn’t sound at all alien. Mark Sherman, who did such a terrific job with the alien voices in Larry Niven’s Protector (also recorded for Blackstone Audio) would have been a much better choice to give voice to Ringworld’s Children and its many alien characters. That said, I still enjoyed the heck out of the audiobook, and I can’t fault Whitener’s performance in the least. When the numbers and the physics are coming fast and furious it’s nice to be given the words by a good reader who can handle the text. Ringworld’s Children, all in all, is truly a worthy addition to the Ringworld novels. Long live Larry Niven!

Posted by Jesse Willis

New Releases

New Releases

Audio Renaissance

Saucer: The Conquest by Stephen Coonts in both abridged and unabridged versions. This is a sequel to a novel about the discovery of a 140,000 year-old spacecraft. I missed the first one, but would like to hear if it exists on audio – Audio Renaissance does not carry it if it does. Kirkus calls Saucer “a comic, feel-good SF adventure.”

First Meetings in the Enderverse by Orson Scott Card, read by Gabrielle de Cuir, Amanda Karr, and Stefan Rudnicki

I’m a fan of Orson Scott Card’s Ender novels, so this was a real treat. It contains 4 stories, one of which is the original Ender’s Game novella, the others stories from various places on the Ender timeline. All of Card’s unabridged Ender novels are being re-released by Audio Renaissance.

Saturn by Ben Bova, read by Amanda Karr and Stefan Rudnicki and others

Here’s the latest of Ben Bova’s Solar System novels. I’ve heard Mars and Return to Mars, but I’m not sure how these novels are related to this one, Venus and Jupiter.

Blackstone Audio

Ringworld’s Children by Larry Niven

I talked a bit about this last month, but it was really released in September, so here it is again.

Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell by Pat Murphy

I’ve got this one in my to-be-heard pile and I’m eager to get to it. I know very little about Pat Murphy, but I see she won a Nebula Award for the novel The Falling Woman, which I don’t think is available on audio.

Jesse: Pat Murphy won a hugo and a nebula for a short story called “Rachel In Love”, which is a love story from the point of view of a chimpanzee. It’s been recorded a couple of times. There was also a single cassette collection of her short stories published by Durkin Hayes called “Points Of Departure”.

Brilliance Audio

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, read by Jim Dale

I’m starting to see this one everywhere, but haven’t received any feedback from anyone on it. It’s aimed at the YA market – 9-12 year-olds – and is a prequel to Peter Pan. I may have to listen just to hear another Jim Dale performance. There’s an audio sample on Brilliance’s website.

Free Reads

James Patrick Kelly adds three more stories to Free Reads, a section of his site where you can download free audiobooks (MP3 format) of his stories. Included now are “Faith”, “The Best Christmas Ever”, and “Serpent”.

Jesse: This is an awesome value – cool and funny stories read by James Patrick Kelly and all it costs you is guilt if you don’t donate something to his future recording fund.

Harper Audio

The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman

This is an hour-long CD that contains readings of some children’s books by Neil Gaiman. Included are: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Wolves in the Walls, Cinnamon, and Crazy Hair.

Jesse: Looking forward to this collection. I was worried this was just another repackaging of Coraline and the two Seeing Ear pieces. Glad to see it is all new to audio!

Paperback Digital

As reported here early this month, Paperback Digital is online with two new MP3 format audiobooks for sale: Spirits in the Wires by Charles de Lint and 1634: The Galileo Affair by Eric Flint and Andrew Dennis. I haven’t heard either of them, but they appear to be professionally done with William Dufris and Christine Marshall narrating. These books are available as downloads or on MP3-CDs.

Also from Paperback Digital is the X Minus One episode “Drop Dead” by Clifford D. Simak, which is available on Fictionwise.com, a site well-known for eBook sales. Paperback Digital is editing out commercials and doing what they can to improve the sound quality of several old radio shows. Next week they will be releasing these episodes:

The Green Hills of Earth and Destination: Moon by Robert A. Heinlein

The Orson Welles/Mercury Theatre Halloween broadcast of The War of the Worlds

The Orson Welles/Mercury Theatre broadcast of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

With Folded Hands by Jack Williamson

Colony by Philip K. Dick

The Coffin Cure and Prime Difference by Alan E. Nourse

Protective Mimicry by Algis Budrys

The Merchants of Venus by A.H. Phelps, Jr.

Jesse: Coming out of the blue as it did, Paperback Digital is the most exciting and surprising news in Science Fiction and Fantasy audiobooks so far this year!

Recorded Books

Swords of Night and Day, a science fantasy by David Gemmell and narrated by Christopher Kay. I’m unfamiliar with this, but it’s part of a something called the Drenai series.

Last, but certainly not least, here’s what Audible.com has added in the last month, many of which were mentioned above:

An updated edition of First Meetings by Orson Scott Card

Saucer: The Conquest by Stephen Coonts

Saturn by Ben Bova

High Druid of Shannara: Tanequil by Terry Brooks

Dune: The Battle of Corrin by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Ringworld’s Children by Larry Niven

Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card

The Dragon’s Son by Margaret Weis

Stalking Darkness (Nightrunner #2) by Lynn Flewelling

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

Several titles from Brian Jacques’ Redwall series

Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool by Sharyn McCrumb

Titles from the Wingman series by Mack Maloney

Golem’s Eye by Jonathan Stroud

Titles from the Deathstalker collection by Simon R. Green

Collections of Arthur C. Clarke’s stories (The Nine Billion Names of God, The Songs of Distant Earth, etc.)

Wow! An excellent month for science fiction audio. Happy listening!

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Here’s a quick survey of new Science Fiction and F…

New Releases

Here’s a quick survey of new Science Fiction and Fantasy audiobook releases:

Blackstone Audio

Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card, read by Stefan Rudnicki, Unabridged

Stefan Rudnicki reads this deeply affecting novel by Orson Scott Card. It’s a great novel, and in Rudnicki’s hands it will be treated well.

Ringworld’s Children by Larry Niven, read by Barrett Whitener, Unabridged

Another novel from Larry Niven! Definitely a welcome sight. I’ve heard Barrett Whitener read several books, and have enjoyed him very much. This release is a darned good excuse to revisit the whole series. Blackstone also carries the first Ringworld novel, read by Patrick Cullen.

Recorded Books

Horizon Storms by Kevin J. Anderson, read by George Guidall, Unabridged

This is Book 3 of Anderson’s The Saga of the Seven Suns. In a way, it’s like a fantasy epic series only in a science fiction setting. I’ve heard Book 2 and Guidall is wonderful with this (and pretty much all other) material.

Audio Renaissance

The Dragon’s Son by Margaret Weis, read by Stefan Rudnicki and Gabrielle de Cuir, Unabridged

This is a sequel to Weis’ first solo effort, Mistress of Dragons, which was a good audiobook. In these, there is a powerful Dragon Parliament which has agreed to keep their hands out of human affairs, but someone of dragon kind has broken that oath. Let the hunt begin!

Dune: The Battle of Corrin by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson, read by Scott Brick, Unabridged

Kevin Anderson is a busy man! I haven’t followed the Dune prequels, but this is the last of the second prequel trilogy, and Scott Brick is an excellent reader.

All of the books above, except for Lost Boys and Horizon Storms, are also available on-line at Audible.com.

I wish you all good listening!

I will compile a similar new-release list for post monthly – if you have a release you’d like me to mention, please contact me here.

Posted by Scott D. Danielson