Some ideas are too big to tie down

“In the nighttime heart of Beirut, in one of a row of general-address transfer booths, Louis Wu flicked into reality.”

—Larry Niven, opening line of Ringworld, 1970

With a noiseless “pop”, one of the biggest ideas that SF has ever seen is launched, and Mr. Niven begins earning his second Hugo award. A concept so big that it’s carried (so far) nine novels directly, more related spin-offs, captured in its orbit other contributing Authors, and weaving and intersecting with dozens of Short Stories all set in Niven’s Known Space universe.

If you’ve never read it, and you like SF at all–go get it; embrace the obsession that’s lurking in your future. I’ll try not to spoil it for you. But that’s the daily prompt assignment today is about, right?

What makes a good storyteller, in your opinion? Are your favorite storytellers people you know or writers you admire?

Without discussing Ringworld itself, hmmm. We can talk about the deft handling of the universe. Larry’s Known Space is big and deep and complex and filled with a lot of powerful story hooks. As you might expect of something with thirty plus years of ongoing development and hundreds of thousands of published words. And the backdrops behind the stories can be—well, Exotic is not a big enough adjective. Fascinating. Entrancing. Hypnotic.

We can talk about the characters (Louis Wu, Nessus, Speaker-to-Animals, and Teela Brown), but I can’t properly express how much they’ll grip you. Niven handles each of his characters with a deft mastery that I will probably always stand in awe of.

And Larry remains one of the few authors who can place humans and superhumans and aliens in convincing conflicts without a the conclusions being predictable. There are plots under the plots, and some things happening in Known Space that will take a dozen or more novels to fully reveal.

But the man doesn’t really like sequel-writing, not in the way more modern authors set out with the original intent to sell you a dozen in a ongoing series from the very first word. Most of his novels stand on their own, some departing Known Space completely, some nibbling at its fringes.

I keep reaching for the Big Adjectives, those superlatives that every book jacket or review is drowned with. Trying to resist that temptation, and the temptation to fawn over Larry. The man’s been entertaining me since I was a teen; of course he’s always been, always will be one of my literary heroes.

And one of ten authors (or less) whose every published word I eagerly snap up.

I’m never going to make a living as book reviewer, right? I rarely stop and wonder why a can’t-put-it-down novel is so engrossing; I’m too busy flipping pages with a grin.

The best complement I can bestow–Larry Niven Writes Books Like That.

RecDave Seal

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