Book Review: Bowl of Heaven by Benford and Niven (Two Stars)

Book Review: Bowl of Heaven by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven

Two Stars out of Five

Skip the introduction. Seriously, skip it. The story begins when the protagonist awakes from Deep Sleep in Chapter One. The rest is back story. Boring and unnecessary.

That they can’t get the story opened (or closed) despite being famous, award-winning authors tips the reader to the rest of the problem: this is way below what they are capable of. Think: Ringworld in the half-round.

The story-telling is good, but the science is shaky. For example, they don’t seem to understand that centrifugal force is perpendicular to the plane of rotation; not, as in gravity, perpendicular (sort of) to the surface of the mass. Therefore, near the pole where the pseudo gravity is near zero, it’s also roughly parallel to the surface. No standing.

The solar system-sized hemisphere rotates to create artificial gravity. Okay, but if the period of rotate is nine days long, the pseudo gravity would be more than 0.8 g. A bone-crushing lot more, considering the hemisphere is the diameter of either Earth’s or Mercury’s orbit. (I’ll talk about their proof reading later.)

Clouds hundreds of kilometers high with a seven kilometer “ceiling” membrane?

Live pigs for food on an interstellar mission with resource issues?

“Expelling her lungs” Ooo. Ugly mental picture.

Words of the week: actinic and ceramic.

They spend pages and pages lecturing the reader about how evolution caused all this, except most species of the Bowl of Heaven were genetically designed.

Lots of repetition. Leaves the reader suspecting no one read this all the way through after it was in final form. In fact, the whole thing seems dashed off.

How does the story turn out? No clue. It doesn’t end, it stops. One of those “to be continued” books which authors and publishers love these days.

Why not one star? Because it’s a great set up and interesting cast.