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Bowl of Heaven

(Bowl of Heaven #1)

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  2,045 ratings  ·  303 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 ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published October 16th 2012 by Tor Books
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Average rating 3.32  · 
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 ·  2,045 ratings  ·  303 reviews

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Start your review of Bowl of Heaven (Bowl of Heaven, #1)
Dec 13, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just when I was thinking that I had been really missing some Big Dumb Objects in my life... this book comes to save me!


It's a riff on Niven's old theme of Ringworld, true, but with a rather huge twist. This is a stir-fry bowl of unimaginable proportions.

No. Actually, it's just a bowl driven by a star. A hemisphere of a Dyson Sphere. With hundreds of thousands of Earth-size landmasses, a locked sunlight schedule, and many, many types of aliens.

Can you say adventure? I can say adventure! Bird
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What happens when two masters of Science Fiction collaborate on an entirely new novel of mankinds future among the stars?

You get something so bad that its worth sitting up and paying attention.

Honestly, this book is definitively, and Im being serious here, the most poorly crafted professionally produced novel Ive ever seen.

I dare you to find its equal.

But let me back up a bit. See, Ive spent the past month or more riding high on a flurry of Science Fiction novels, television, and movies. I
Aug 10, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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

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 18, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
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 geometry."
Apr 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
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 cant 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: Ringworld in the half-round.

The story-telling is good, but the science is shaky. For example, they dont seem to understand that centrifugal force
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
<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 ...more
Will Maddox
Jan 02, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Oct 20, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 25, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Denise Eggleston
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. Ill 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 while
Oct 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, sf-and-fantasy
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
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 ...more
i'm so sad that i didn't finish this book. i was so distracted by other books :(
maybe next time i'll enjoy it more.
Zack Subin
Apr 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
John Boettcher
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very solid read.

The combination of Benford and Niven works fairly well in this story about an EXTREMELY Big Dumb object. And I mean BIG. There is nothing like this out in scifi with something at this scale. The only parallel I can see to this story is Alastair Reynold's "House of Suns" which dealt with time the same way "Bowl of Heaven" does with Big Dumb Objects.

You can definitely tell the difference in the writing style and which guy was tasked to do which part of the writing. The
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
David King
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Oct 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ships 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.
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: die hard Niven or Benford fans
Original review by John posted at Layers of Thought.

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

Johns 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 lead
Dev Null
There is a type of fantasy I call the Travelogue Fantasy, wherein character and plot are sacrificed to an endless stream of "And then we went to this amazing fantastical place with no relevance to the story; let me describe it in excruciating detail!" And I've recently realized that there is an equivalent in science fiction, where character and plot are sacrificed to an endless series of technical details. I shall call it Tech Porn. And while I prefer some story to my fiction, Tech Porn can ...more
Nick Cato
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Shawn Dvorak
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 ...more
J.   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Oct 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Tom Gregorio
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kai Schreiber
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
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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

Other books in the series

Bowl of Heaven (3 books)
  • Shipstar (Bowl of Heaven, #2)
  • Glorious (Bowl of Heaven #3)

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