Friday 19 December 2014

Shipstar (Bowl of Heaven Book 2) - Gregory Benford & Larry Niven

Title: Shipstar (Bowl of Heaven Book 2)
Author: Gregory Benford & Larry Niven
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2014
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“Shipstar” by Gregory Benford & Larry Niven is the sequel to Hard Science Fiction novel, “Bowl of Heaven”. I had planned to read this book anyway but it also met the “Published in 2014” requirements of the 2014 Eclectic Reader challenge so it ended up higher up my TBR pile than it originally would have been.

It continues the story of two groups of humans who at the end of the previous book were currently stranded on the Bowl, a huge object that is slowly travelling across space and is populated by various alien species. The humans traverse the Bowl, trying to find each other and a way back to their ship, “The Sunseeker” whose remaining crew is trying to work out what they can do to help.

I quite enjoyed the previous novel but this sequel didn’t provide me with the same level of enjoyment. There is very little forward momentum of the plot and the novel’s main focus appears to be explaining the true origin of the Bowl and hinting at something intriguing for the future in regards to their end destination, the planet Glory. This weakening of the plot is further enhanced by the fact that most of this rather long novel is full of detailed and complex descriptions of the bowl and its alien inhabitants to the point that the story itself feels almost secondary.

This level of complexity is interesting enough and it really does showcase some of the author’s hard science fiction skills but on its own this isn’t enough to make this is truly enjoyable book. What was new and intriguing in the first novel just becomes a bit mind-numbing here; if there are had been some real emotion and character building included then this may have helped but the characters just felt like they were being used to explain the various engineering and scientific sights on their journey.

To be honest, this review all sounds very negative but I want to make it clear that I didn’t hate the book; I more found it to be just plain average and something which feels more like a travel book of the Bowl rather than an engaging Science Fiction novel. Overall, I am still engaged enough with the series storyline that I will read the follow up book which must surely follow but I hope we see some real progress in actual story next time.


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