cover image The Gripping Hand

The Gripping Hand

Larry Niven. Pocket Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-79573-3

This sequel to the authors' 1974 classic The Mote in God's Eye takes place some 25 years after the events of that book. The alien ``Moties'' remain quarantined in their own system, but the formation of a new star nearby suggests an opportunity for the Moties to escape into the galaxy, where their explosive population growth and the efficiency of their specialized subspecies--Engineers, Mediators, Warriors, etc.--may challenge the survival of the Empire of Man. Imperial scientists, however, may have found a way for the Moties to control their population and thus reduce their threat enough to allow them to become the Empire's allies. Led by Horace Bury and Kevin Renner (veterans of the first Mote expedition), a hastily assembled Imperial force struggles to contain the Moties long enough to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Though the first third of the book drags, once the action moves to the Mote system, readers will be hooked. Some of the intriguing subtexts, such as the prevailing xenophobia, are disturbing, while others, including warnings about overpopulation, enlighten. But Niven and Pournelle ( Footfall ) don't explore these ideas deeply enough to make their story any more than a perfectly adequate, largely irrelevant sequel. (Jan.)