Ringworld's Children - Larry Niven, Barrett Whitener

(2013 was turning into a stale year for SF. That summer, I really needed the solace of good, hard SF to escape, if just fleetingly, some harsh realities, same reality having given me long days and nights to read and listen. So, without really making a decision to do so but compelled by circumstances, I started a re-read of the Ringworld series. The publication history of the series was such that one book came out every ten years, on average. And so each book read provided a reflection of a decade of life, the places and friends, the situations and milestones when each book was read. Fiction, particularly the science fiction of the Ringworld books, it turned out, was nothing more than dressed-up reality. I never left the Ringworld.)

Finally, the series raises its intensity at book 4, combining even more fascinating discoveries about the BDO (Big Dumb Object) with compelling space opera. Consider: the rest of Known Space has come to the Ringworld, various civilizations and factions lured by untold riches, Kzinti and humans, Trinocs and puppeteers, Outsiders too. They are held at bay, barely, at the fringes of the local system by a sun-based meteor defense, powerful beyond their ken. War breaks out as the navies vie for position and advantage. While on the Ringworld, Louis Wu plays deadly chess games with the bloodline-preserving Pak protectors. With antimatter bullets punching holes in the Ringworld material, its trillions of inhabitants seem headed for certain doom.

I was surprised by how much action and suspense there was in this book, certainly a lot more than I remember. Plus, Children puts forth some interesting sfnal elements, a superconductor grid underneath the Ringworld controlled from the Throne or Repair Center, massive hydrodynamic effects that induce solar flares, x-ray lasers on the shadow squares to blast meteors and intruders, protectors grown from different hominids vying for dominance, even nanotech makes its first appearance in the series as the basis for an advanced autodoc and repair of the scrith, more extrapolations on Teela Brown's lucky genes, all of which seemed to have gone unnoticed or unremarked previously.

The main story is, certainly, about the children. Niven is coyly philosophical about who these children are. First, there are the "children" of the original visitors, Louis Wu, Teela and Speaker (sadly Nessus is once again missing). Then, there are the genetic lines of individual protectors from different species. And finally, there are all the hominids of the Ringworld all descended from the original builders. The emotional depth of the story derives from plight of each class of "children".

In the end, Niven does not disappoint. His resolutions are precise and deliciously convoluted as Mobius strips. The ending is like a sucker punch to the gut in its elegant and unexpected enormity, echoes of another Niven thriller, [b:Footfall|116356|Footfall|Larry Niven|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320440216s/116356.jpg|1913289].

[b:Ringworld's Children|64466|Ringworld's Children (Ringworld #4)|Larry Niven|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1316635829s/64466.jpg|59499] is a truly entertaining read which many readers will not get to because of the slog though the previous entry in the series (book 3 - Throne). I am quite glad I re-read this and happily change my rating to 5 stars. It was at least as entertaining as book 2 ([b:The Ringworld Engineers|61181|The Ringworld Engineers (Ringworld #2)|Larry Niven|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1170563308s/61181.jpg|900675]). This would have been a fitting end to the series, but we know there is a fifth book.