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Bowl of Heaven (Bowl of Heaven #1)

3.25  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,467 Ratings  ·  244 Reviews
In this first collaboration by science fiction masters Larry Niven (Ringworld) and Gregory Benford (Timescape), the limits of wonder are redrawn once again as a human expedition to another star system is jeopardized by an encounter with an astonishingly immense artifact in interstellar space: a bowl-shaped structure half-englobing a star, with a habitable area equivalent t ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Tor Books
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Old Man's War by John ScalziStarship Troopers by Robert A. HeinleinPandora's Star by Peter F. HamiltonDune by Frank HerbertLeviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Excellent Space Opera
227th out of 370 books — 2,025 voters
Ringworld by Larry NivenRendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. ClarkePushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds2001 by Arthur C. ClarkeBlindsight by Peter Watts
Big Dumb Objects
22nd out of 54 books — 42 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 26, 2012 David rated it did not like it
Four problems with this book series:

1. Each book should stand alone as a story - but this book is just an introduction that sets up the situation. And a pointlessly looooong introduction at that.

2. Ridiculous Action - A colony ship with thousands passengers and the captain decides to drive it up a dangerous plasma stream because its fun and faster? A ground crew is sent to INVADE the first ever encountered, clearly inhabited, alien ship with no recon or communications? And so on. Its impossible
Nov 10, 2012 Tamahome rated it liked it

pg 111/412: Very traditional, Ringworld or Rendezvous with Rama-like sf novel. Should take me only 10 hours to read. Has got plenty of science, space, and aliens, but it's not bogged down in it. None of that singularity stuff.

pg 215/412: Hey, I'm halfway though. I just might finish this thing. Although it's more of a jungle story now that they're on the inner bowl surface. But there's still some interesting science that comes into play. A cool thing about this environment is different areas have
Donald Cook
Nov 24, 2012 Donald Cook rated it did not like it
Larry Niven's offerings often, since after the Ringworld series, have shown weakness in editing. It's always the same thing: events are written in one way, and then within about a page appear in rewritten form later.
But this book is so rife with error as to migrate a nuisance into a deep embarrassment. A character is captured by aliens @ p. 104, then reappears, patching up a wound at p. 106. This is the point where I got really tired of the sloppiness, not the sole example. Not to mention that
I paid money for this???

I think I'm through with Niven. This is the second dud in a row (though at least I finished this one).

I bought this because I've always been a fan of Niven, and I've loved the few Benford books I've read. But this is probably the worst edited book I've ever seen from a major publishing house. I was suspicious. Right from the beginning, I thought "Niven's already written Ringworld, what is he going to do new, with a similar structure with only slightly different geometr
Jan 30, 2015 Rusty rated it it was ok
What happens when two masters of Science Fiction collaborate on an entirely new novel of mankind’s future among the stars?

You get something so bad that it’s worth sitting up and paying attention.

Honestly, this book is definitively, and I’m being serious here, the most poorly crafted professionally produced novel I’ve ever seen.

I dare you to find its equal.

But let me back up a bit. See, I’ve spent the past month or more riding high on a flurry of Science Fiction novels, television, and movies.
Jan 09, 2014 Michael rated it did not like it
Normally I enjoy reading about interplanetary exploration and the oddities of the universe- but Bowl of Heaven by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven was a struggle to read. To be honest, I really only enjoyed the first half- the rest of the book just fizzled under its own weight. It almost had a feeling like the authors started with a good idea but ultimately had difficulty working together.

Firstly, this book was filled with confusing and vaguely-described areas that seemed to depend mostly on the
Skip the introduction. Seriously, skip it. The story begins when the protagonist awakes from Deep Sleep in Chapter One. The rest is back story. Boring and unnecessary.

That they can’t get the story opened (or closed) despite being famous, award-winning authors tips the reader to the rest of the problem: this is way below what they are capable of. Think: Ringworldin the half-round.

The story-telling is good, but the science is shaky. For example, they don’t seem to understand that centrifugal force
May 30, 2014 Ric rated it really liked it
<This wasn't as bad on the second read. A continuing sense of wonder and adventure, a rich and unimaginably huge playground full of aliens, and alien cultures and interesting tech. The story moves along with deepening sense and burgeoning understanding of what the Bowl is and was. Maybe I was just bummed the first time because the book stopped abruptly in an obvious publication split. The sequel is out, and I have it slotted, so all is forgiven. Upping the rating an extra star. It is quite ly ...more
Oct 26, 2012 David rated it it was ok
I had MUCH higher hopes for this book. It is, after all, co-written by two excellent novelists. Unfortunately, this does NOT show through. I found the writing actually bad at times, and confusing at others. Perhaps Mr. Benford and Mr. Niven did not talk to each other much while working on their sections to get their story straight. Way too many "wait.. what?" moments.
Denise Eggleston
Oct 10, 2012 Denise Eggleston rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I just finished reading “Bowl of Heaven” by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven. It should be noted that I won an advanced reading copy on First Reads program. I recommend this book, but with certain reservations. I’ll get to those in just a few paragraphs.

The “Bowl of Heaven” opens with a party on Earth. The crew and builders of a star ship are celebrating the incipient launch of the ship. In it, the crew, except for a rotating cadre of watchkeepers, will sleep for hundreds of years w
Oct 20, 2012 Gerhard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
With Old School, Hard SF like this, the characterisation is not that subtle: 57% into the Kindle version, we get this gem: "Ayaan was an Arab woman who dressed in deck uniform like everyone else, but occasionally at dinner wore a stylish veil and glinting emerald earrings." Cannot forget the bling.

At 85% we get this wince-inducing moment: "Long silence. Terry glanced at Aybe, and Cliff suddenly remembered that one of them was gay. Which one? For the life of him, he could not remember. Damn! All
Will Maddox
Jan 30, 2013 Will Maddox rated it did not like it
Well, the first portion of the book got my attention and reeled me in. That was pretty much it. The rest of the novel truly sucked. I mean, truly, truly sucked. The main characters discover this spaceship that's using a star to power it, which means the space ship is truly massive, like the size of a solar system. Ok, this could be interesting. So they land at the front door and these giant chicken type aliens come out acting all friendly, then suddenly attack and start taking people prisoner. O ...more
Sep 14, 2015 Lyssa rated it did not like it
This book is horridly boring. There is not one moment of interest at any point in the story. Please don't read unless you want to fall asleep.
Felt like "Ringworld" meets "Rendezvous with Rama" but with very little of the wonder that made those classics. If you haven't read them, this might be a much more interesting read for you. Interesting mostly for the hard sci-fi concepts/thought experiments it puts out there, less so for the character interaction or plot action. I didn't find the world the authors have created to be super engaging, but I kept reading hoping that I would get swept up in it. I never really did, though. Biggest pro ...more
Zack Subin
May 12, 2014 Zack Subin rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Shares a lot of plot features with the Ringworld, so followers of that series won't find it totally new, but it was still very thoughtful and enjoyable.
The team up between two hard sci-fi legends is a bit of a letdown.

An interstellar colony ship, with most of the passengers cryogenic popsicles, discovers a Big Dumb Object en route. A hemisphere enclosing a star, the entire super-massive system even seems to have its own propulsion, and a human-habitable ecology within the bowl. So some of the crew are defrosted and sent down to investigate, meet a variety of alien species, some not terribly well disposed to the humans,... and then the book ends
May 31, 2014 Mike rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi, library
Two of the biggest stars in hard scifi get 3 Stars for Bowl of Heaven. Benford and Niven bring their unique imaginations to this tale of first contact/big-dumb-object/human interstellar colony ship/directed genetic evolution/and a couple other genres mixed in.

Humans are on their way to a new world, having ruined Earth in the "Age of Appetite" (that's us dummies right now). Just like in Alien, the ship comes upon an artifact in space...this one is an immense bowl using a star as a propulsion syst
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Apr 29, 2013 Shellie (Layers of Thought) rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: die hard Niven or Benford fans
Original review by John posted at Layers of Thought.

John’s quick take: Grand science fiction ideas and an epic-scale story, but a disappointingly executed novel.

John’s description: An expedition sets off from Earth to explore a distant star system and to populate a (hopefully) Earth-like plant. The journey will take many decades and most of the travelers are put into a deep sleep while skeleton crews take it in turn to pilot the starship. But after just eighty years Cliff Kammash, one of the le
Shawn Dvorak
Jan 18, 2014 Shawn Dvorak rated it liked it
It's Ringworld, only in the shape of a bowl! Actually it's a different universe: no Puppeteers or General Products spaceships. Instead, a human ramship on one of mankind's first interstellar voyages encounters an immense bowl-shaped artificial world apparently headed towards the same star system as the humans. Not only is this world enormous, in feat of unimaginable engineering & technoloy, it's siphoning matter off of the star it surrounds, forming a huge Jet that propels it and the star th ...more
Nov 19, 2012 Veronica rated it liked it
Shelves: library, sf
I have not read either of these authors' independent work, so I cannot make any comparisons in that regard. I liked this book well enough to probably be suckered into waiting for the next in the series. However, I didn't buy this one (Go SPL!) and I won't buy the next one either because while I enjoyed Bowl of Heaven well enough to want to read the sequel, the books weren't that great. The main issue I had was the book's repetitiveness, its hollow characters and some obvious plot holes/mistakes ...more
Nick Cato
Dec 12, 2012 Nick Cato rated it it was amazing
Benford & Niven, two masters of "hard" scifi, kick off a new series dealing with the starship SunSeeker, launched from earth for a light-years-long journey to a mysterious, newly-discovered planet that has been named 'Glory.' But when fuel concerns bring the mission into question, the ship's captain allows a chosen few to be awoken from their sleep chambers to help deal with the problem.

The crew then discover a gigantic, bowl-shaped artifact on basically the same course as themselves. They d
Dec 27, 2012 J. rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
This book had a good beginning. It had a lower rating than most of the books I listen to, which made me nervous, but I needed my space sci-fi fix. The pacing was good, especially compared to the last few space books I've read, which were by Alastair Reynolds with his almost unbearably slow set ups.

I should say the pacing was good right up to the point that Larry Niven/Gregory Benford dozed off and forgot to write an ending. Seriously. The book just stops mid-story with nothing resolved. Don't re
David King
Oct 10, 2012 David King rated it really liked it
"Bowl of Heaven" is a science fiction novel created collaboratively between Gregory Benford & Larry Niven. As both these authors are known as masters of the genre I was looking forward to reading it even though I have never actually read a novel by either of them before. What I found, was a hard science fiction novel, full of exposition and mystery that I found both interesting and intriguing.

The story itself follows the Sunseeker, a new starship that is aiming to traverse the cosmos to colo
Oct 18, 2012 Burgoo rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012, sf
In the midst of their voyage, a troubled colony ship encounters a strange object, a bowl shaped structure half-enclosing a star, with a surface area many times that of the Earth. The ship’s crew decides to investigate, both out of curiosity & in hope of restocking their dwindling supplies. Of course the landing party encounters problems, with half being captured while the other half are hunted across the Bowl.

Early in their adventures, a group encounters a large animal emerging from water.
Tom Gregorio
Nov 05, 2012 Tom Gregorio rated it really liked it
Excellent book, didn't realize until the last page that it WAS the last page, something one does not catch when reading e-books!

In a nutshell, this is a hard science fiction, first alien encounter, constructed world saga of the best kind. If I hadn't already read the Ringworld series I probably would have given this a fifth star, too much of the story was derivative or predictable. The plot moves along, different perspectives are provided (including alien), and the provided diagrams helped make
I've been trying to pinpoint what genre this is, and it suddenly hit me: It's the Flash Gordon genre! (Sorry, I just had to add that to my review)
Was expecting more from a killer Bee. Rather unimaginative, no mind bending concepts (other than in scale) and not much science either. More of an adventure set in a somewhat odd environment. If this ever made it to the silver screen, I'd see it as a Saturday double feature matinée followed by Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
I put this together
Kai Schreiber
Nov 28, 2013 Kai Schreiber rated it liked it
As flawed as this is, and as much as I suspected to be disappointed, I felt entertained.

The critics have it right, the characters are cardboard, the plot is nonexistent, for a hard-SF setup, there is an embarassing number of gaffes, and the clichés, repetition and bad editing are a problem -- personally, I was most annoyed by the constant conflation of flight time with earth time in terms of the experience of the astronauts. Makes no sense -- but I didn't much care. Mostly, this is an exotic wil
Mårten Ericson
Apr 12, 2015 Mårten Ericson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally! Finally a new SF Ark-story in the tradition of Rama and Eon. The visionary scope is huge, it's very well written, it's intelligent and intellectually engaging. Naturally it also has its downsides, but on the whole, they are few. Whithout doubt a must for the hard SF-reader! And for once, a co-author ship that really works!
Bruce McNair
A ramscoop starship has set off from Earth for a star that appears to have a habitable planet. Just a few crew pilot the ship at any time with most of the crew in cold storage. But after a couple of centuries (Earth time), the crew encounter anomalies, both with the ship's drive and a large object ahead, and so they decide they need to wake up others to help them out. The large object ahead turns out to be a large bowl-shaped object surrounding a small star. After deciding that they will not mak ...more
Peter Goodman
Jul 08, 2014 Peter Goodman rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction

“Bowl of Heaven,” by Gregory Binford and Larry Niven (Tor, 2012). Turns out this is the beginning of another series (which I didn’t realize until it didn’t come to an end). The concept is not unfamiliar: humans fairly far into our future, having begun to colonize some relatively distant worlds and having saved Earth from global warming, prepare a massive vessel, Starseeker, to voyage hundreds of years toward a promising earth-type world called Glory. It’s similar in many ways to Clarke’s Rendezv
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Gregory Benford is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist who is on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine.

As a science fiction author, Benford is best known for the Galactic Center Saga novels, beginning with In the Ocean of Night (1977). This series postulates a galaxy in which sentient organic life is in constant warfare wit
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