The Integral Trees (1984) by Larry Niven

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Not about a crucified Peter Pan.

Question: If an integral tree falls in a gas torus space jungle, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Answer: Your question is invalid. The tree might waver a bit, but air resistance would restabilize the structure, though it might shift nearer to its neutron star, causing a drought, which might result in the starvation of its inner-tuft inhabitants. Duh.

The last time I reviewed a Larry Niven book, I noticed that his penchant for Hard Science detail impacted not only the setting, for which he is so famous, but also the social structure of his two depicted cultures. The humans are dealt like playing cards: “The Captain,” “The Scottish Engineer,” “The Plucky Female” (effff). The alien culture is built into an all too familiar hierarchy: White on top, Brown on bottom, with little suggestion of struggle or complexity within the system.

I’m sure this is all very satisfying to Hard SF fans who like to fit characters into their proper toolbox compartments, but it’s called “soft science” for a reason. Hard edges are neither plausible nor compelling when dealing with people.

With 1984’s Integral Trees, (which I liked all right and I’ll get to that eventually), we see a continuation of the Hard SF habit influencing other areas of typically, er, soft portrayal. The following is uncut, but with my interjections. I repeat, nothing is missing from the following excerpt: Continue reading

Emergence (1984) by David Palmer

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Hi again, Posterity. Happy to see me?

What do you mean you forgot about me?

Coming off the heels of the Clarke being awarded to Yet Another Post-Apocalyptic Tale, also known as “The Stand: but this time motivated by a book that is not The Holy Bible,” (that would be Station Eleven, an enjoyable, character-driven read, but weak on the SF elements, lacking in originality, that ultimately let me down), I bring you an even cooler, more original post-apocalyptic tale. YA, epistolary, Hard, and Heinlein-inspired, it sounds like something I would read with gloves, mask, and tongs, so as not to tarnish my pretentious sensibilities.

But this. This is good. Continue reading