Monday, May 30, 2011
Recently read: "Outies" by J. R. Pournelle
Note, this is J.R. Pournelle, and not J.E. Pournelle. This is Jerry's daughter, writing an authorized sequel to The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand. Mote is one of my favorite books ever, and though Hand is ultimately disappointing, there are things I like about it (I love the stern chase through the Mote system). If Hand has a problem, it's that it's two books, and though they are connected, it feels less like a novel then two stories set in the same universe.
Here, we have a story which is basically set on New Utah, which is an Outer World, settled by Maxroy's Purchase. New Utah is about to be visited by the Empire, as the Alderson tram line is about to reappear (it reappears approximately every 23 years), and it's fate lies in the balance (whether it will be a full member of the Empire or not). Given this premise, the book is in ways similar to Jerry Pournelle's King David's Spaceship, What makes this book different, and adds to the Mote universe (which is really Pournelle's CoDominium universe), is the presence on New Utah of "Swenson's Apes" which look a lot of Moties...
There's a lot of politics here. Maxroy's Purchase is the world we saw in Hand, where there was a "Motie scare", and where Kevin Renner found out about the periodic tramline from Maxroy's Purchase to New Utah. On New Utah, we see various groups at odds, with influence from Maxroy's Purchase, and the Jackson Expedition job is to find out what is going on.
I thought the story here was pretty interesting, though as a work of fiction, it reads rough to me. I found it hard to get into it, with too many characters thrown at the reader, without enough background. Once Barthes (the Information delegate to New Utah) finds out about the Swenson's Apes, and Asach Quinn (the mission's analyst) travels with Laurel Courter (one of the farmers in the Barrens of New Utah, and a believer in the "Angels") the story seemed to pick up.
This isn't really the story I would have wanted to see in a Mote follow up, but it does look at an interesting section of the Empire of Man, and fills in more background. We probably won't see a Niven/Pournelle take on further events of this universe, so this might be the best we can hope for.