cover image Bowl of Heaven

Bowl of Heaven

Gregory Benford and Larry Niven. Tor, $25.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7653-2841-0

SF doyens Benford (Chiller) and Niven (the Ringworld series) collaborate on a strong SF series launch. Something goes wrong with Earth’s SunSeeker space expedition, leaving the crew without enough fuel or supplies to reach their destination. Just as things get serious, they spot a curious phenomenon in space: an enormous bowl-shaped object, larger than any planet, cupping and half-encircling a star. Its inner surface is oddly Earth-like, and already inhabited. The Bird Folk watch the humans’ every move, trying to decide whether to allow them to colonize or kill them all. Much of the book is written from the point of view of Memor, the Bird Folk representative assigned to study the humans; Benford and Niven helpfully give her a soap opera of primate behavior to observe, as Cliff loves Beth but sleeps with Irma because she’s more convenient, and the various exploration teams bicker over leadership. While hardly groundbreaking, this is a solid work that will appeal to fans of classic hard SF. (Oct.)