The Goliath Stone - Larry Niven, Matthew Joseph Harrington [b:The Goliath Stone|16059389|The Goliath Stone|Larry Niven||21846148] is one of those books that reads like there are actually two books, one is the actual book and the other is a virtual book that the author/s wrote in their head/s or on liner notes that contain the other half of the story. Not having access to that virtual book, the reader is left to figure out what the authors are not saying. Sometimes this works well, as in, for example, Brin's [b:Startide Rising|234501|Startide Rising (The Uplift Saga, #2)|David Brin||251634] (where the second story is the space battle amongst the various races and factions). In other cases, as here, it makes the reading process more tedious and challenging.

The overall storyline is pretty straightforward, two pioneering scientists develop practical nanobots. One sends his to space with a basic set of commands. The other programs his to transform himself and the human race into supermen. The bots sent into space become sentient and return to earth as an apparent threat. And a team of newly-transformed humans goes out to meet them. In other hands, this could be a military action swashbuckler.

But the authors approach this as a Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, pushing the absurd envelope for humor, and sprinkling obscure science fiction references throughout. There also seems to be a fair bit of political ranting and wish fulfillment beyond what I would consider tolerable. What does hold this book together is the fictional science - practical nanotechnology, presented in the most understandable layman terms and without pedantry, woven seamlessly into the narrative. For this aspect alone, the book is worth the read.

For the serial collaborator, [a:Larry Niven|12534|Larry Niven|] this is his nth co-author in a decidedly colorful, beloved and still-going-strong-at-50 year career as a hard Sf writer. His collaborator this time, [a:Matthew Joseph Harrington|6545267|Matthew Joseph Harrington|], is a past contributor to the Man-Kzin series (bio here). Goliath Stone recalls the near-future thriller, [b:Footfall|116356|Footfall|Larry Niven||1913289] (co-author: [a:Jerry Pournelle|39099|Jerry Pournelle|]) in its portrayal of geopolitical trajectories and disparate response to a space-bound threat. For this reviewer, I would have preferred a more character-driven effort like the recent [b:Building Harlequin's Moon|49789|Building Harlequin's Moon|Larry Niven||906153] (co-author: [a:Brenda Cooper|28045|Brenda Cooper|]). But anyway, a Niven's a Niven. And therefore can be no worse than 3 stars.