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Bowl of Heaven [Kindle Edition]

Gregory Benford , Larry Niven
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Bowl of Heaven is the first installment of what will be the biggest sci-fi saga since--well, since ever. If only more of us could share the authors' visions, and optimism (The Wall Street Journal)

It's easy to settle in and enjoy the sci-fi smorgasbord served up by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven. . .There's a lot to savor. Fans of so-called "hard science fiction" will enjoy the descriptions of ionic scoop fusion drives and all the solar-powered gadgets put to practical use during deep space exploration. (The Associated Press)

If you like hard SF with mind-stretching ideas--both physical and psychological--then you definitely want to read this book. (Analog)

It's been more than 40 years since Ringworld and nearly that long since the Galactic Center Saga knocked our socks off, and I wonder how much it takes these days to render us barefoot and gaping at the scale and scope of an imaginary world. . . . But Benford & Niven have given themselves the space (conceptual and page-count) to spread out. Bowl of Heaven has room to accommodate both the thrill-ride and head-scratching sides of its sub-tradition, and I think when the second half appears, this new effort by two of the Old Masters will hold its own just fine. (Locus)

First-time collaborators Niven (Ringworld series; coauthor, Beowulf's Children) and Benford (Timescape; Galactic Center series) have combined their award-winning talents for storytelling to create a series opener that should find a welcome reception from fans of the authors as well as those who love hard science and mental challenges. (Library Journal)

A solid work that will appeal to fans of classic hard SF. (Publishers Weekly)


In this first collaboration by science fiction masters Larry Niven (Ringworld) and Gregory Benford (Timescape), the limits of wonder are redrawn once again as a human expedition to another star system is jeopardized by an encounter with an astonishingly immense artifact in interstellar space: a bowl-shaped structure half-englobing a star, with a habitable area equivalent to many millions of Earths…and it's on a direct path heading for the same system as the human ship.
A landing party is sent to investigate the Bowl, but when the explorers are separated--one group captured by the gigantic structure's alien inhabitants, the other pursued across its strange and dangerous landscape--the mystery of the Bowl's origins and purpose propel the human voyagers toward discoveries that will transform their understanding of their place in the universe.


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2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Leider schlecht 10. Januar 2014
Von Desaster
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Jeder menschliche Charakter in diesem Buch ist ein klischeehaftes Abziehbild und verhält sich furchtbar. Man findet ein gigantisches definitiv künstliches Objekt und debattiert erstmal, ob man nicht doch lieber die ursprüngliche Mission verfolgen soll statt den Erstkontakt zu wagen? Danach werden munter intelligente Aliens ohne Not getötet während man wie ein Haufen aufgescheuchter Hühner durch die Gegend rennt. Und die Darstellung von Wissenschaftlern in diesem Buch… Wer Wissenschaftlern jeglichen Hang zur Disziplin abspricht hat selber noch nie geforscht.

Ansonsten hat die Story viele Brüche, Sprünge und Ungereimheiten und ist mMn nicht sehr flüssig geschrieben. Vieles wirkt wie aus einem ScyFy-Channel-Film.

Insgesamt ist die Story weder originell noch nachvollziehbar oder auch nur handwerklich gut geschrieben.
War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?
Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 2.8 von 5 Sternen  248 Rezensionen
237 von 263 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen This is a draft, not a finished story. 20. Oktober 2012
Von Scott R Crittenden - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Not only is it a draft, which I discuss in detail below, but it's only the first volume of an indeterminately long series. Nothing about the book description, nothing in the dust jacket flaps, nothing on other book selling sites (b&n, sfbc) suggests that this is anything but a complete story except the last page which proudly announces that volume two will appear soon. How is this not a blatant attempt to trick people into paying (let me guess how many volumes) three times?

Rant, part one, complete. On to the content.


This is not a finished product:

(1) On one page Tananareve is roughly picked up and thrown into a holding tank. One the very next page, she's with the other group on the other side of a diamond wall. Two drafts of the 'landing party is broken in two' event, perhaps?
(2) There are two different descriptions of the treatment of one person's serious injury which immediately follow each other. Said treatment describes *the* injury in two different ways and it is treated by two different people. Either the first person shoved the metal rod back into the guy for the next person to take out again, or this is two different drafts of the same event.
(3) At one point the captain leaves the bridge and a page or less latter leaves the bridge again. Did he get lost? Or is this two different drafts?
(4) Near the end of one chapter an offhand comment is made that communications from Earth stopped 100 years ago for no apparent reason. Yet a few chapters later we are treated to a page of discussion of the latest communication from Earth as if it were a routine event. So this *published version* hasen't even decided if the Earth has gone missing or not?
(5) It was previously established that ship has been in motion for approximately 80 years. How then can they have lost contact 100 years ago? Is one supposed to take the time since last contact to be *Earth* time?! For what possible reason? Have the authors even decided, at this early stage of story development, how far Glory is from Earth and how long it would take to get there?

Did anyone at any point along the line of production actually *read* this book before they pushed the industrial 'print' button? Did they send the wrong file to the printer?

Oh, that's right, I forgot, the entire point of the process was to sucker people out of cash (three times I suppose), not tell an entertaining and mind expanding story. Silly me.
73 von 79 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Volume One: Uninspired 17. Oktober 2012
Von TChris - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Larry Niven has often worked in collaboration, and it's good to see him working at all, given his age. Not many writers born in 1938 are still kicking out science fiction. Gregory Benford might have manned the laboring oar but, having been born in 1941, he's not much younger. Ignoring the trendiness of modern sf, Benford and Niven have crafted an old-fashioned story of space exploration and first contact. Unfortunately, while I have enjoyed much of Niven's writing and at least some of Benford's over the years, Bowl of Heaven does not match the best work of either author.

Bowl of Heaven begins as a promising (albeit conventional) "scientists journey to a new world" story. In the prolog, they are preparing to leave on their newly tested starship. As the novel begins, Cliff Kammash is awakened from an eight decade sleep, well before the ship is scheduled to reach the planet they have named Glory. Cliff, a biologist, thinks it odd that he has been awakened to opine about an unusual star the duty crew have observed -- odd until he realizes that the star is partially surrounded by a hemisphere, an object that was clearly manufactured. For reasons they can't explain, their ship has been losing velocity, and the knowledge that they aren't going to make it to Glory alive prompts them to investigate the bowl-covered star. The bowl is actually a vast (and literal) starship, using the star as its source of propulsion. Once they are inside the bowl, Cliff and his buddies discover an ecosystem the size of the inner solar system.

The plot then follows two branches as half the landing crew is captured by feathered aliens while the other half escapes. Both branches morph into wilderness survival tales as the two groups investigate the planet. For the most part, the story is bland and uninspired. Slightly more interesting are the underlying questions that the humans must confront: what is the origin of the bowl, where did it find its star, where is it going and why? One of the groups improbably stumbles upon a museum that provides helpful clues, furthering my impression that life inside the bowl is just a little too easy for our friends from Earth, a flaw that hurts the story's credibility. Eventually the humans discover what the reader learns much earlier: other aliens from other worlds are trapped in the bowl, in much the same predicament. The question then becomes: Why are the Big Birds who seem to be in charge rounding up and "assimilating" intelligent life forms from other planets? It is rather frustrating that all of those questions remain unanswered.

The human characters lack distinctive personalities -- or any personalities. They are as bland as the story. They engage in random quarrels about points of science that have precious little to do with their survival, and a couple of them engage in hanky-panky, but for the most part the characters are interchangeably dull.

Bowl of Heaven works best when the focus shifts from the humans to the aliens. The not-very-alien Big Bird we encounter most often is Memor, who is charged first with understanding the humans and then with destroying them. The most interesting Bird chapters concern the aliens' attempt to understand the humans -- their speculation, for instance, about the evolutionary significance of facial gestures and human anatomy -- and the political consequences of Memor's repeated failures to bring them under control. A modest payoff comes when the reader meets a not-so-assimilated species that actually seems alien -- the politics of revolution comes into play -- but that doesn't happen until the novel's final chapters: too little and too late to redeem an uninspired plot.

The story hearkens back to an earlier, simpler era of science fiction in its conviction that humans, while not as technologically advanced as aliens, are clever and scrappy and so have the capacity to outwit their superior foes. Of course, it helps that the Big Birds are shockingly inept in their confrontations with humans.

Most disappointing is that the story ends abruptly -- not really a cliffhanger but leaving everything unresolved -- as the reader is encouraged to pick up volume two (Shipstar) to see what happens next. I'm sufficiently indifferent that I might not, but mildly curious about the unanswered questions noted above so maybe I will.
115 von 133 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen Better title: Bowl of Purgatory 19. Oktober 2012
Von G. Maisano - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I enjoyed the Ringworld books so I foolishly ignored the tepid reviews and read Bowl of Heaven. Might be better titled "Bowl of Purgatory" because the poor reader, after being drawn in by a fairly interesting beginning, finds himself wading through a swamp of meaningless action performed by unlikable characters. We are supposed to believe that these people are highly trained space travelers? A troupe of Webelos would do a better job of establishing contact with an alien civilization. These people spend pages and PAGES doing nothing but squabbling, running away, hunting and eating. After a few chapters you are rooting for Big Bird to just finish them off and put us out of our misery. Bowl World sounded promising but it is no where near as interesting as Ringworld. The aliens are derivative and bird races have been done much better elsewhere. And despite long monotonous descriptions the reader has a hard time visualizing the so-called wonders of Bowl World. The authors bend over backwards to get a dinosaur in there but the place is still as exciting as Sesame Place.

This book is a vivid example of how writers with formerly good reputations can become lazy, churn out utter dreck and yet be published. If an unknown author had written this any publisher would have thrown the manuscript in the trashcan and not even bothered with a form letter because he/she knew that such an unimaginative, untalented author had no chance of ever being published. It is mind boggling that a publisher is actually paying for a sequel. Benford and Niven are probably laughing their behinds off.
20 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen In Search of the Fabled "Plot" 15. Dezember 2012
Von Jonathan A. Turner - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
[Pages recovered from the journals of the Smythe-Blitherington Expidition.]

Page 1. We are off! Our trusty native guides, Niv'n and Benf'rd, know this territory very well. I know them of old. True, there is a younger generation who have been perhaps more active, more daring, in recent years. And yet, I cannot find it in my heart to abandon these faithful scouts who in my youth helped guide me into the SFNal Jungles.

Page 10. We are steadily working our way up the Backstory River. Along the way we see a number of infodumps--the spoor of Authoris inelegans. This portion of the trek is happily short, but in my impatience I could wish it shorter.

Page 42. We have reached our jumping-off point, where a well-traveled path awaits us.

Page 90. As anticipated, we draw near the Big Dumb Object. Thus far we have had good maps, derived from the cover blurb, and have made steady if unspectacular progress. The thorny underbrush of technospeak has perhaps slowed us down. With what eagerness do we espy the looming foothills of the Plot Range ahead of us, with the lofty peaks behind them!

Page 130. A bitter disappointment--the high mountains have proven to be a mirage! The hills we beheld with such joy were but an isolated, outlying cordillera. Behind them lies, not the Plot Range, but a wide expanse of descriptive text. Still, we shall press on, and not be disheartened, for our guides Niv'n and Benf'rd promise us that the Plots lie not far ahead.

Page 188. The Descriptive Veldt unrolls before us. The characters are uncooperative, refusing to take action or indeed to adopt any goals. We come across various trails that look like they may lead somewhere, yet each one peters out before long. The going is not unpleasant, nor even difficult, but I long to see the fabled Adventure Falls.

Page 227. The Veldt continues. Only some outcroppings of incident, and the occasional butte of an action scene, relieve the monotony. There are grumbles among the readers. I must display firmness. There are occasional Wells of Ideas, but they are not enough to sustain us, not for long. Should we turn back? Nay--never! Niv'n and Benf'rd remain determined to plow onward. Can I do less?

Page 255. The action scenes rise up more frequently. Is this--could it be--the Plots? I dare not get my hopes up.

Page 342. "What is our goal?" the characters ask each other. "Then--where do we go?" I fear I cannot answer them.

Page ??. Lost. Supplies running low. Many desertions. Too late to turn back. Must [unintelligible] more pages. Is this all there is? Surely there is more!

[End of Volume 1.]
29 von 36 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
1.0 von 5 Sternen would have been a waste of time even if it was a free chapbook 5. November 2012
Von Elisa Baker - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
But, as a paid product? Simply inexcusable. I find it hard to believe that this book had an editor -- if it did, that person should be fired. It reads as though the publisher thought "oh these guys are a Known Entity, I'm sure whatever they come up with will be just fine!" and meanwhile the authors just sort of .. dialed it in. They had some cool ideas about space travel and thought the world needed more dyson sphere speculation and then sort of as an afterthought threw in some people for "narrative." The characters are 100% interchangeable - don't even bother trying to keep them straight, because it doesn't matter! They just rotate saying lines of dialoge. Meanwhile, the whole lack of a capable editor thing - it's like no one read this story before sending it off to print. It is FULL of inconsistencies and contradictions - often times only a paragraph apart! Person A is over here, oh nope just kidding they're over there now. A group is facing one way, then they're pointedly facing a different way (and oblivious to danger) and then they're suddenly actually in a different location all together! They've been traveling for 80 years? No wait, it's been centuries! The aliens analyze the communication chatter with earth. Wait, no contact from earth for over a hundred years? J/K message from earth incoming! It's really horrible once you start noticing, and then add in the bland characters .. through a sense of masochistic completionism (and also a bit of "whatever, it's short") I pressed onward only to find that it just sort of randomly stops after a while. It's not even like you'd expect - most of the major plotlines resolved, some sort of cliffhanger to bring you back for more - nope, it's pretty much right in the middle of some action, everyone is running around either trying to kill / not die, the spaceship is just idling for "months" like no big deal even though their supply margin is measured in a scale of days, the main alien is in some political hot water and kind of a screwup, a whole new subplot of revolutionaries were just introduced ... ok, good stopping point! Literally nothing is resolved. They don't even tell you what's wrong with the damn drive. There is no reason to read this book, at all. It's poorly written, poorly edited and doesn't even have the dignity to just end, already.
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