Book Review: A World Out of Time – by Larry Niven

Aside from the atrocious Kindle editing, I enjoyed this book very much. Larry Niven is at his best. Big engineering, solar-system-sized construction projects,  like Ringworld, travel to the center of the galaxy and coming home three million years later, are all packed into A World out of Time.

Corbell has cancer. In 1970, rather than succumbing to certain death, he allows himself to be frozen in hope that a cure will be discovered in the future, sooner or later, so he can live. Thus starts the journey of a man whose life spans more than three million years on Earth.

When Corbell awakens, he discovers that he is in a different body, that of a convicted criminal, albeit young and healthy. Worse, the government and world he left is gone, and he is a ward of The State,  a worldwide “big brother” autocratic government, reminiscent of Orwell, where there are no human rights. His assignment is to pilot a star ship, seeding other planets for humanity, a task that involves several hundred years of travel without a companion.

When he decides to hijack his star ship and set his own course, things get interesting.

While this is a classic Niven hard science fiction read, there are some things that make this book imperfect. For instance, the period before and on the star ship is drastically different from the period when he arrives back on earth. It’s almost like two different books. Also, sometimes the motives of the  characters just don’t make sense. For example, Corbell hijacks a ship and takes it to the center of the galaxy. I could never quite figure out why he actually went there, other than to help out Niven’s plot to catapult him three million years into the future – due to physics of a black hole. Cleary, Niven wanted to speculate what it was like to fly around a massive black hole, without getting ripped apart and fried, and live to tell about it. While I am interested in this, I’d rather read about it in a science book. In this novel, that segment was the boring part in the middle I had to get over.

I was reminded of Stephen Baxter’s Evolution in the period where Corbell came back and landed on Earth.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and would definitely recommend it for hard science fiction buffs.

Rating: ** 1/2

One thought on “Book Review: A World Out of Time – by Larry Niven

  1. Dan

    From what I remember, the ship intelligence is the one that decided to go to the center of the galaxy, because it came to the conclusion that Corbell can be a menace to the State that governs Earth.

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