A World Out of Time by Larry Niven

18 Jul

A World Out of TimeA World Out of Time by Larry Niven

My Rating★★☆☆☆

Too much of Brave New World to start off with and too similar to The Time Machine (with the master and slave races thread) for the rest of the book. It is tough to keep a book together with only one interesting character, especially when it is not the main character, and sticks around for less than a third of the story. All in all, the book had me bored out of my senses waiting for something new to happen.

Maybe it was a mistake to not read Ringworld first. It is going to be hard for me to come back to Niven after this drudge-fest.

And no I did not get enough Future Shock to kill a whole city of Alvin Tofflers.

View all my reviews


Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books


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10 responses to “A World Out of Time by Larry Niven

  1. Neil Fein

    July 22, 2012 at 23:56

    I very much disagree. While I love Larry Niven’s writing of this era, I found this book, unlike most of his work, to be subtle in its characterization. And I found there to be no likeable characters, but this wasn’t a problem for me. This book is my favorite of all of Niven’s work, despite being a difficult read.


    • SuperTramP

      July 23, 2012 at 09:03

      You have every right to disagree 🙂 But,

      I did not say ‘likable’, I said ‘interesting’ – as in capable of keeping/generating interest.

      Also, this was in no way a difficult read. To be difficult it had to have new concepts or characters with depth and neither was there.

      It was a mildly entertaining book for me and that was all.

      By the way, have you read Ringworld? and you feel this was better than Ringworld? If so, please give me a heads-up.

      Thanks for stopping by!


      • Neil Fein

        July 23, 2012 at 18:57

        I read your post and enjoyed it; my comment was just giving my take on the book, and wasn’t meant to respond to your post point-by-point in any way. I have indeed read Ringworld, multiple times; and also all of the other books and novels set in Known Space. Of course, A World Out Of Time is an easier read than, say, a Gene Wolfe book; but, in comparison to the easy reads of most of Niven’s Known Space books, this book is a little more difficult to get through.

        Niven is at his best when exploring far-out concepts, and this book is no exception to that. The opening chapter brings the protagonist forward in time some centuries or decades (I forget which), but this turns out to be a mere prelude to the amount of time that passes during his trip to the galactic core: When he returns to Earth, the sun has expanded and Earth has had to be moved. (The cover art on my copy of the book sadly spoils this plot point.) Unfortunately, the book’s ending is a bit of a letdown, in that it doesn’t follow through on this sequence. However, this a minor issue I have, and this is still my favorite Niven book.


        • SuperTramP

          July 23, 2012 at 19:27

          Ya… but except for the completely arbitrary planet moving stunts, the other concepts in the book were too tried and tested… and not ‘far out’ at all, in my opinion.

          I am not familiar with his other works, so can’t comment on them…

          Is Ringworld and this book both set in this ‘known space’ that you talk of?


          • Neil Fein

            July 24, 2012 at 20:45

            No, Ringworld is in a separate universe entirely, and is quite different. Known Space books can be read in any order at all, there’s no need to worry about reading the in chronological order. Known Space is pretty much divided into two periods: The early exploration of the solar system, and the period after the discover of hyperdrive. The two are separated by the Man Kzin wars. (There’s a series of short stories by other writers set in this period; they’re of uneven quality.) By comparison, Ringworld is a much easier read than A World Out of Time, with more likeable and relatable characters. The book is also much more evenly paced, with a more-or-less traditional three-act structure.

            Niven’s KS stuff is really the bedrock hard-SF/space opera from the 60’s/70’s New Wave period. If you haven’t read any of it, I envy you!

            If you can find a copy of the original printings of the collections “Neutron Star” or “Tales of Known Space”, I’d suggest starting with those. Ringworld is the best novel from KS, feel free to pretend the sequels don’t exist (although The Ringworld Engineers is quite good, the later books are mediocre at best, and the Prequels are unnecessary, if awesome, continuity-stroking tales.)

            Other favorites are Protector and the collection “The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton”. The latter is filled with SF detective stories, some of them absolutely chilling and creepy; the former is an exploration of humanity’s origins. It conveniently ignores some fundamental science (such as the Earth’s extensive fossil record) but it’s a great read, although similar in tone to A World Out of Time, so you might want to skip this one.

            One flaw with Niven ingeneral is that his characters are all somewhat the same; in the future, everybody acts like they’re from California and talks with similar inflections and slang. But his concepts and sociology are first-rate, and his aliens are amazingly imaginative.


            • SuperTramP

              July 24, 2012 at 21:50

              Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time for such an elaborate reply. And thanks also for reigniting my interest in Ringworld. Protector sounds fascinating too (despite your warnings – I am willing to put with dead characters if the concepts are good enough).

              I really should have gone through your wonderful blog before talking to you about SF 🙂 i would welcome some non-Niven reccs too, if you would be so kind… I like grand themes and vast operas (a la asimov or clarke).

              Those moments when you realize how deficient your reading has been… *kill*


              • Neil Fein

                July 25, 2012 at 02:41

                Thanks for the kind words about the Nose! Other-than-Niven recommendations:

                I recently read House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds, and was impressed by the sweep of his future history. Good characters, too. Have you read anything by Dan Simmons? The Hyperion duology is excellent, and the two sequel books are also very good. Grand, future society goes through changes, the stories of mutiple well-drawn individual characters against a backdrop of blah blah blah. Clarke: Childhood’s End is, I think, far and away the best thing he wrote, and it fits most of your requirements, despite being a bit of a simpler story. And for vast, epic SF, it’s hard to beat Asimov’s Robot/Empire novels, although the original Foundation Trilogy is still the best of it (if a bit talky). (More about that here.

                > Those moments when you realize how deficient your reading has been… *kill*

                On the contrary. It means you’re in the enviable position of getting to experience a ton of wonderful books for the very first time. I’d be interested in hearing what you think of some of these.


                • SuperTramP

                  July 25, 2012 at 05:56

                  I have read everything by Asimov and most by Clarke. I truly enjoyed Childhood’s End. It was magnificent, right? I have read some Greg Bear too and some Dan Simmons but can’t remember which books… Will try out the Hyperion Duology soon. Thank you so much!


  2. Junior

    February 24, 2013 at 11:34

    funny, I just read through all 3 of those a few weeks ago. then I read “Protector”. Niven does a bit of Roddenberry thuorghout his books, where he kinda re-invents the rules as he goes. the Protectors in particular evolve and change a great deal. there were a number of things h never really addresses, like when they broke the shadow square wire in the first one, it somehow didn’t cause massive orbital instability in the squares.


    • SuperTramP

      February 24, 2013 at 11:54

      Unfortunately I have not read enough of Niven to understand or respond to your comment. But thanks a ton for commenting here!



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