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Heorot #1

The Legacy of Heorot

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The colonists from Earth have spent a century in cold sleep to make the first journey, one way, to settle a planet in another solar system. Avalon seems perfect, a verdant, livable world still in its prehistoric age. The biologists and engineers who busy themselves planting and building scoff at the warnings of professional soldier Cadmann Weyland until a large, unnaturally fast and cunning predator begins stalking the colony. Learning how to kill the beast is only the first step, for they must then reevaluate their entire understanding of Avalon's ecology.

383 pages, Paperback

First published July 15, 1987

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About the author

Larry Niven

659 books3,040 followers
Laurence van Cott Niven's best known work is Ringworld (Ringworld, #1) (1970), which received the Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards. His work is primarily hard science fiction, using big science concepts and theoretical physics. The creation of thoroughly worked-out alien species, which are very different from humans both physically and mentally, is recognized as one of Niven's main strengths.

Niven also often includes elements of detective fiction and adventure stories. His fantasy includes The Magic Goes Away series, which utilizes an exhaustible resource, called Mana, to make the magic a non-renewable resource.

Niven created an alien species, the Kzin, which were featured in a series of twelve collection books, the Man-Kzin Wars. He co-authored a number of novels with Jerry Pournelle. In fact, much of his writing since the 1970s has been in collaboration, particularly with Pournelle, Steven Barnes, Brenda Cooper, or Edward M. Lerner.

He briefly attended the California Institute of Technology and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics (with a minor in psychology) from Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, in 1962. He did a year of graduate work in mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has since lived in Los Angeles suburbs, including Chatsworth and Tarzana, as a full-time writer. He married Marilyn Joyce "Fuzzy Pink" Wisowaty, herself a well-known science fiction and Regency literature fan, on September 6, 1969.

Niven won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for Neutron Star in 1967. In 1972, for Inconstant Moon, and in 1975 for The Hole Man. In 1976, he won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette for The Borderland of Sol.

Niven has written scripts for various science fiction television shows, including the original Land of the Lost series and Star Trek: The Animated Series, for which he adapted his early Kzin story The Soft Weapon. He adapted his story Inconstant Moon for an episode of the television series The Outer Limits in 1996.

He has also written for the DC Comics character Green Lantern including in his stories hard science fiction concepts such as universal entropy and the redshift effect, which are unusual in comic books.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 286 reviews
Profile Image for Dirk Grobbelaar.
554 reviews1,093 followers
December 25, 2018
One of the few Science Fiction novels I’ve had the privilege and time to re-read. I love this book. Not only is it a totally awesome story, it is also the book I used to bait my wife into the Science Fiction genre. Kudos.

Establishing a new colony on a far-off planet is in itself a daunting prospect. The collaborating team of Niven, Pournelle & Barnes have here come up with a concept that makes it absolutely terrifying. Now, I’ll be completely honest with you, while I appreciate the theme of “don’t mess with the ecosystem” and the political intricacies of the book, there is one very, very prominent reason for reading this…



When military advisor Cadmann Weyland gets uneasy about animals going missing and fences being torn down he suspects that something is stalking the recently established colony. However, he is promptly ignored and scoffed at by the scientists, who are quick to provide all kinds of facts and reasons why this is implausible.

Of course, we all know where this is headed.



Let’s just say, that if they had ever made a film based on this novel, it could potentially have given Aliens a run for its money. What I should point out, however, is that it is also a Hard Science Fiction novel, and the authors provide an interesting and believable scientific basis for everything that happens. And it’s pretty cool, not the kind of thing you and I would have been able to come up with (unless of course, you’re reading this and you’re one of the authors – apologies).


Indeed. The story is well written too, with almost perfect pacing, strong characters and some well-handled human drama and intrigue, to boot. Perhaps it is the nostalgia speaking (it can be a mighty powerful emotion), but this is one for the ages. Don’t bother with the sequel, however.

Expect suspense, expect terror, expect the great reveal, expect gosh-wow! Expect bada-boom!
Grendel, this one is on you, you magnificently terrifying bastard(s)! Crank up the thrash metal and give it stick!

5 stars
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Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,144 reviews1,847 followers
February 9, 2017
Excellent read. There are some good characters, a good plot, balanced story telling very little lag at any point. I can't quite go to 5 stars with it (though I may reconsider over time) but I can highly recommend this one.

This is a space exploration, space colonization novel of people from Earth meeting challenges on an alien world. It hits a lot of "true notes" and you'll see people you know here. The geniuses transplanted to another world who "know" what they "know" and dismiss anything that challenges what they "know" to be true. *. You'll find some familiar "feelings" here. Touches of other science fiction reads, movies and TV. I found a flash back to a couple of the old Twilight Zones sort of creeping over me a couple of times . There was also a part of this book that annoyed me Still the book is very readable an excellent novel one I can highly recommend.

This is an update as I forgot to mention the "nods" to earlier science fiction and "imaginative" fiction writers from Robert Heinlein to H.P. Lovecraft. They're fun to spot and tie us in to books from earlier generations of science fiction (of which this is now one [is that ironic or just interesting? Oh well.]) and give us that continuum. As Noted above, I can highly recommend this one.

By the way, I've read some negative and disappointed reviews about this book's sequel so I don't know if I'll read it or not. I like this one and at least for now don't want to read a disappointing follow up.
Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,813 reviews315 followers
February 4, 2017
Messing Up the Eco-System
26 January 2017 - Sydney

Sometimes I wonder whether the more authors a book has the worse it becomes. Actually, come to think of it, I struggle to actually think of any work of literature that has more than one author – it seems as if for a book to enter into the annals of greatness the book has to be written by a single author. To me this isn't actually all that surprising because artists tend to work alone. In fact, when one considers music the same seems to apply, considering Bohemian Rhapsody was allegedly written by a single person (though I was always under the assumption that Queen, a four piece band, actually wrote the song, but then again people seem to think that Freddy Mercury actually wrote the song, Queen just performed it).

Anyway, as you can probably tell, this book was written by three people, which makes me wonder how a book is actually written by three people – do they write a chapter a piece, or do they just write specific characters? In either case how is it that they actually put the book together – do they sit down and work it out around some really bad cups of coffee, or do they argue about it around some really bad glasses of wine, and then go away, write their own sections and let the editors work it out. Or is it that they simply draft the outline of the book and then let poor Larry Niven sit down and put it all together. Well, however they do it the final product really didn't turn out all that well.

So, the story is set on a planet orbiting Tau Ceti. The characters had just come out of a hundred year long sleep and are now setting up for a new world on what appears to be a paradise. Unfortunately there was a problem with the hibernation pods and apparently everybody has emerged from deep sleep somewhat stupider. Mind you, if we are talking about the best and the brightest, maybe it is simply the fact that the one thing that they lack is common sense – this seems to always be the case when you put a bunch of academics together, the one thing that they all seem to lack is common sense. Anyway, they land on this world and in their mind it is a paradise, and after a number of surveys they believe that there isn't actually anything hostile on this world, that is until a nasty monster comes along and starts ripping everything apart. However, they don't actually believe that it was a monster, but some guy who is sulking over the fact that nobody believes that there is anything hostile on the island – that doesn't sound as if the hibernation pods had busted, that just sounds like your typical bunch of human beings who want to live with their heads in the sand – climate change anybody?

Anyway, they eventually realise that these creatures exist after one of them almost completely destroys the camp, so they decide to go out and hunt the rest of them down and kill them. Well, that turns out to be a particularly smart idea because it also turns out that these creatures have a natural way of keeping their population down – they eat their young. In fact, it turns out that they are like frogs – as babies they start off as fish, but when they mature they turn into these monsters – so, the mature creatures basically eat the babies, which keeps the population down. However, now that they have basically gone out and killed all the mature ones there is nothing keeping the population down, so they pretty quickly discover that the whole island is swarming with monsters. Mind you, the other catch was that they only eat their young if there is nothing else to eat, so when the colonists arrive with all their live stock, all of a sudden they have something else to eat.

As I mentioned, this book was rather dull and boring, and in fact is the first part of a trilogy. Sure, it did do well to explore how humans have this nasty habit of completely ruining an eco-system with their introduced species. For instance, the landed gentry introduced foxes into Australia simply so they might have something to hunt, and not surprisingly they have gone and run havoc across the environment. Mind you, the farmers then get criticised by the likes of PETA when they try to cull the foxes due to them causing issues with their live stock. Then again, I do see where they're coming from because technically humans are an introduced species, and a pest, but we don't go around culling ourselves.

Mind you, the other interesting thing is that we all know that the colony is going to survive, but then again this novel does play out like a movie, and unless the creators are really clever, we never actually have the protagonists lose. Okay, they have to adjust the way the colony works, namely that every man gets to have two wives (namely because half of the male population was wiped out when they went to war against the monsters – they called them Grendels after the monster from Beowulf), however the colony does manage to survive. The other interesting thing is that the planet is ten light years from Earth, and they took a hundred years to get there from Earth, and they are talking about advertising for new colonists. Well, they didn't think that through all that much because first of all it is a twenty year round trip for any communication, and even if another colony ship was sent out, it would take a hundred years for them to arrive, and that doesn't take into account humans developing new technology. Mind you, as yet I don't know of any book where the colonists arrive at a planet after traveling for a hundred years only to discover that while they were asleep humanity has invented the FTL drive and the planet has already been colonised.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,100 followers
December 10, 2021
The first time I read this, years ago, I thought it was a middling colonist-survival novel with a fairly interesting beastie tearing them up. Not bad, not brilliant.

I had a sneaking suspicion that I may have given it a bad rap, so I decided to revisit it and read through the later novels since there were a few I never got around to. I mean, what could go wrong? I've always been a pretty solid fan of Larry Niven.

So, the really good: if you're a fan of Beowulf, you'll like all the references. The action setup and further sequences are pretty first-rate. We even get to enjoy the beastie's PoV, and I really like that glimpse into their psychology.

The meh: mostly it's the casual acceptance of misogyny. But to be fair, it's not so much bad as its 'EH?' Consenting adults, etc, so, whatever.

Interestingly enough, I'm a fan of comparing this, fairly favorably, against any number of modern SF reliant on colonies and beasties. It more than holds its own, so if any of you peeps just want something pretty light and full of alien action on an isolated planet, then there's much worse you could choose. :)
Profile Image for Amanda.
162 reviews19 followers
April 21, 2014
A friend with usually very reliable taste recommended this book to me. It was [Author:Larry Niven], to boot. Of course it was going to be good, right?


spoiler alert follows

Sadly, it was a bug hunt. Not that I've got anything against bug hunts, but the prose was oblique and occasionally opaque. The characters were simplistic, unsympathetic, and, frankly, sexist in many places. The main character is a geek's Mary Sue -- an exhaustingly perfect warrior with a Cassandra complex who has all the answers, is the only one who can save Mankind, the perfectly lonesome brooding outsider surrounded by idiot-geniuses.

The ending was so lame I laughed. Then I read it again, assuming I'd read it wrong, and I hadn't and I laughed again. If you're going to base your ENTIRE BOOK on a BIG SCARY MONSTER that kills and eats people, on a giant army swarming towards you of these scary scary monsters, on the last-ditch, last-stand battle against these monsters, if you spend something like the last quarter of the book in this giant to-the-death, end-of-civilization battle, your big resolution shouldn't be...

.. after two days of fighting, the surviving monsters learn to not eat humans.

That's right. Despite being so hungry they cannibalize their young, they avoid the tasty humans and their livestock after just two days.

The Beowulf parallels were labored. The relationships smacked of high school boys' fantasies. The plot was lame, the denouement baffling.

There's a sequel, too. Beowulf's Children. I opted not to read it, so bored was I by this thing, and instead read the summary on Wikipedia. Wow and I glad I didn't waste more than two minutes reading that!

Sigh. It's always sad when one of your favorite authors lays such an bad egg.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Paul.
14 reviews
February 2, 2008
Larry niven and Jerry Pournelle are great hard science fiction writers and With Steven Barnes they have great combat and martial arts scenes.
grreat stuff "it makes Aliens look like a Disney nature film." The Washington Times said.
Profile Image for Stephanie Ricker.
Author 6 books95 followers
September 18, 2016
I enjoyed this book far more than I expected, and found myself devouring it late at night at a frightful pace. I've not had great success with books by two authors in the past (they always seem to be plagued by inconsistent characters and general sloppiness), so I assumed three authors would be even worse. Pleasantly, in this case, not so! The story's premise is basically Beowulf in space, which sounded deliciously pulpy to me. It ended up being a more sophisticated and nuanced book than I anticipated. The characters are all ridiculously flawed people and quite unlikeable, but by the end I found myself surprisingly attached in spite of it. Still not brilliant literature, and the characters' obsession with sex (while understandable in the context of a colony trying to perpetuate itself in the face of low numbers) felt downright juvenile, but I'd give it up to a 3.5-star rating.
Profile Image for William.
239 reviews35 followers
June 5, 2021
If the movie Aliens were re-written as a 50s era polygamist harlequin romance, the result would be The Legacy of Heorot.

The horror parts of this book are well thought out, well written, and right up there with some of my favorite subgenre favorites.

An equal number of chapters are spent with the complicated social dynamics of forced polygamy. It was so nuts, I expected a Clans of the Alphane Moon scenario where the entire colony is insane. Especially when it became clear most of them suffered brain damage during travel hibernation.

I enjoyed the book as sci-fi survival horror, and also as weird retro speculative fiction. If you enjoy these two things, then give The Legacy of Heorot a try.
Profile Image for Claudia.
960 reviews555 followers
June 15, 2015
Take an island on one planet 10 LY from Earth, Avalon, a human colony of 200, some strange alien life forms and you got a movie scenery. At least, this was my impression, that this book was written specifically for this purpose. I don't know if there is a movie based on it, but there are several alike, no doubt.

Still, it's that kind of story that keeps you hooked until the end, although it is predictable. An easy and enjoyable reading, one that does not put your neurons to work :D
Profile Image for Kai.
197 reviews15 followers
September 11, 2021
I think Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are mostly famous for writing science-fiction of the science-heavy variety. The Legacy of Heorot is different, delivering thrilling action spectacle throughout and that culminates in an epic (and brutal) battle of man against beast.

Humankind began the colonization of space. About two hundred colonists were send to Avalon, the fourth planet of Tau Ceti, where they arrive after one hundred year journey in suspended animation. They don't feel on top of their game - many report that the long sleep severely affected their cognitive abilities -, but the island on which they build their settlement is a paradise. Although there are hardly any animals to hunt, they brought their own (horses, calves, trouts, chicken) and they began to grow their crops.

Cadmann Weyland is a middle-aged man who came along as the head of security. He is a retired colonel, but since there is no external enemy for him to fight, he is fighting depression and a lack of purpose. When chickens are found mutilated, he begins to suspect that the island isn't their safe haven after all. His people don't take him seriously, though, and he is even ridiculed by some. But unfortunate for them, his worries are warranted.

To be honest, at first I thought that Jurassic monsters weren't exactly the most inspired enemy. It was only later that I realized that the book came out a couple of years earlier than Chrichton's Jurassic Park, and neither was I aware that the story was modeled on the Beowulf poem. I didn't read the myth and I don't know much about it, but the team of authors sure knew how to properly stage two of the heroic battles of the source material, turning Grendel and its mother into amphibian dinosaur creatures.

In the beginning, the monsters' superiority is overwhelming. I think the horrific encounters will remind many readers of Alien, as retreat seems to be the only option to survive, at least as long as they don't know enough about their opponents to figure out a more offensive strategy. In some moments, it truly turns into a work of horror, and you clearly see the bloody battles under the nightly sky or in the dark tunnels through which they dive.

There are breathers, though. I loved how the book depicts the colonization of the island and the cheerful celebrations. There are the silly love triangles and the lighthearted soap opera perfectly contrasts with the heavier moments. There are pregnancies, sexual hardships, polyamory, and rivalry. The mistrust against Weyland and his broken pride sure seem a bit forced (you would think that mutilated animals give some cause for concern), but it well fits the novel's overall tone.

I have to say that I very much enjoyed the psychology that forms the subtext to much of the action as well as the peace times. It's not believable at all; it's more the kind of 80s action movie psychology that can only be the product of a chauvinist white man's mind. Particularly, women are portrayed patronisingly, as if the text flew from an protective instinct on the side of its authors. Still, I find it excusable, as it again quite fits the general atmosphere and kind of comes with the tough guy action genre.

Actually, there is something similar for the other side. Occasionally, the story is told from the animal's perspective. The creatures are portrayed as highly intelligent, so it may make sense to suggest that the animals are able to acquire and apply concepts (like nests or false sun), gradually learning to better understand the humans and their weapons and traps. At one point it even describes their ambitions to strike fear into the heart of man, rather than eating or diminishing the enemy's numbers. Although I liked this in theory, I think it projected too much human psychology onto the beasts and made them less terrifying than they would otherwise have been.

Eventually, the plot unravels into a minor mystery. For instance, why are there no animals on the island? Where do the grendels come from? In the process, they begin analyzing and hypothesizing. For instance, I liked the conclusions they derive from an autopsy of one of their dead enemies. This gave some sort of structure to the plot. I thought the eventual resolution was pretty damn cool.

The salmons are the tadpoles of the grendel. The tadpoles are all male, the grown animals are all female. The tadpoles eat mud, the grown animals eat meat, including the tadpoles (if they have to). The animals of the island had already been eaten by the queens of the area, so that had been living off their newborns. The arrival of the human colonists ruffled their ecosystem. Now they had humans as well as their animals to eat. Eventually, the humans figured out a way to kill the grown grendels. This gave free way to the growth and thriving of a grendel army - and leads to the epic final battle for supremacy on the island.

This was everything you could want from an action story. The battle had many stages, throwbacks, changing dynamics, emotional stakes. The besieging horde's attacks are wild and erratic, with immense speed. The beasts are ruthless and ferocious. They inflict gruesome injuries and bloody chaos. But humankind was prepared. They established a fortress surrounded by electric fences and mines. They strike back with rifles, flamethrowers, axes, whatever is at hand. The attackers are not an army; they are wild animals that fight as much among each other as against the Earthlings, and the latter now how to literally heat up these violent encounters. Torched ground is all that remains.

The events grab the reader because they are made about people. Weyland may be the heroic protagonist, but he is vulnerable (like only true action heroes can be). The characters are all a bit silly and schematic, but personally, I began to like them. When in the end Weyland and his heart throb's husband are reconciled, you feel the tragedy when Weyland is not able to save him. The women may all be dolly birds, but at the end they finally hold their own. As the sights of battle changes, everywhere you find someone to sympathize with.

The story clearly paves the way for a follow-up where they would explore the mainland. Although I gained much child-like pleasure from the unapologetic hubbub acted out in these pages, it would have become a bit tedious had it been going on for much longer. So, I'm not sure if I continue with the series. But great fun while it lasted.

Rating: 4/5
Profile Image for Alison Killilea.
57 reviews14 followers
August 16, 2017
If it weren't for the characters, this may not have been so bad. Firstly, there was the complete lack of character development:

Cadmann was the personification of the brooding male hero (and also the embodiment of fragile masculinity). He can do no wrong in the eyes of absolutely fucking everyone and is somehow smarter than everyone also (bearing in mind he is a soldier, while the majority of others are scientists). Even his handwriting is manly.

Carlos, thanks to the casual racism of the book, is the stereotypical 'Latin lover' from Argentina - he is promiscuous, but lovable, and says shit like "Madre de Dios" in times of action.

Literally all the women are pretty much the same - most are described in terms of their attractiveness, and all of them seem to want to bone Cadmann. The book is years behind in its portrayal of women. Jealous, silly, broody, wide-eyed ladies who the men need to protect.

All the other characters are interchangeable, and all seem to act like teenagers. The character development reminded me of that in Andy Weir's The Martian - SHIT (damn, I hated that book).

Besides characters, there was just bad writing all round - too many adverbs (why does everything have to be done 'deeply'), and "orgy of murder" was used TWICE on one page.

Also, for God's sake, can ye people not just rub your fucking dogs instead of "brushing them away".

Profile Image for Carlex.
534 reviews99 followers
May 22, 2020
It is not my first reading written by three authors but I still do not figure exactly how this works. I think that -at least in this case- the best-known authors Larry Nivell and Jerry Pournelle decide about the big ideas and contribute with their names in the book's cover, while Steven Barnes writes most of the book. I say this because although Steven Barnes is an author with his own original books, he has also written a lot of franchise novelizations, for example some Star Wars novels.

The book has an interesting ecological premise but mainly it is a monsters novel. I confess it, I adoooore monster stories! In this case, the monster -or the alien animal- is a mix of Komodo dragon and aquatic velociraptor, which is quite interesting and well thought-out than it might seem. Of course, Heorot is from Beowulf’s poem so you can imagine how the colonists nickname the monster.

About the plot, this is the first interstellar colony for humanity, set in the fourth planet of Tau Ceti, ten light years from Earth. It has been an expensive voyage, both for the Earth resources and for the two hundred colonists that journeyed 100 years in suspended animation. Some of them awaked with apparently minor sequelae, their brain cells have been affected by the on hibernation, resulting in cognitive glitches. For example, the moving case of the Mary Ann character: she knows that before her long dream she was a genius in her scientific specialty and since her awakening she must strive to remember her knowledge. She continues being a viable person, she can work, she can love but she can not contribute with her knowledge to the colony. Fortunately, she will not pass her disability to her descendants...

The colonists choose a small island and begin to adapt to this idyllic planet. On the contrary of the highly recommended Sue Burke's Semiosis novel (you can read the review here), the colonists surprisingly do not care about the planet own ecology. For me this is the most nonsensical part of the novel, although of course in another case there would not be any story to write. Still, the authors could have thought it better. So the settlers sow the island with their own plants and they also have a lot of imported embryos from the Earth's fauna. Sue Burke's novel is hard science fiction and this one is mainly intended for entertainment. However, I must say that some other ecological premises of the novel -for example the part of the monster - are well thought out.

The Legacy of Heorot has two sequels that at this moment I do not know if I will read them one day. Another novel written by three authors that I remember right now is Hunter’s Run, a good science fiction story with an horrific alien too by George R. R. Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham. The latter, who later will be well known for the series The Expanse written under the pen name of James S.A. Corey, I understand that he was too the writer on behalf of the other two.

You can read this review and and some more on my blog: http://girotix.blogspot.com/search/la...
Profile Image for Alfred.
30 reviews
January 6, 2013
When I was a third through I was planning to give this book five stars. The bits about ecology had been amazing so far and the chapters where the alien animal sneaked through the village and explored things kept me on the edge because of suspense. Those few chapters that were written from the animal's point of view were the best part of the book. When the native fauna and the aliens - that is, humans who had come to colonize the new planet - actually collided, things went downhill fast.

The book's most glaring flaw is also the most fatal: the characters are thoroughly unsympathetic. After a colonist is killed they understandably feel fear and rage, but they also become vile. What should be done when local wildlife turns out dangerous for people who have arrived from another solar system and have no business on the planet in the first place? According to the book and all its characters, the entire species has to be exterminated completely. Not a single character voices their opinion against this idea and later, when there's only one known individual of the animal left, only one character asks if it should be spared - and his opinion is overriden. It's really hard to root for the cast that appears thoroughly disgusting, especially after the book gave the reader the animal's point of view and showed it to be extremely curious and intelligent.

The main difference between the animal and the people is that despite being a highly dangerous apex predator, the animal still retains its innocence. The people on the other hand brought mankind's worst traits with them through space. The book is so blatant at some points it hurts: in a scene where colonists fight against a big group of the animals, the character who has so far been the book's funny guy shouts "Die, defenseless, primitive natives!" Of course that too could be a joke, but that is just unlikely because the characters are very literally fighting for their lives. Besides, what would be the joke? To ridicule the real war crimes that have been committed against native peoples in history? And on the other hand, if that's someone's serious battle cry, that also makes it impossible to think "I like this guy SO MUCH and wish he wins!"

As the quote suggests, there's a hefty dose of "colonial spirit" in the book. Of course there is, because it's about a single human colony on a new planet, but not all colonists in science fiction explicitly state they have come to tame the land so that its new owners (who are called mostly man and sometimes ruler of nature, but never something as neutral as human) might expand infinitely over it. In addition to the King of Nature, there are Great Warrior, Mighty Hunter and Family's Provider and Protector to be found in the book - and they're all actually the same person! The protagonist is a silent, brooding soldier whom everyone seems to ridicule because of his cautiousness before something goes wrong. Then he retreats to a mountain where he builds his own home and only returns to the colony after he is begged back, after which he's made the leader in all but name. Not only does the protagonist come across as a douche, he's also badly written and as if straight out of an adolescent boy's power fantasy. The same is more or less true for all characters. Then there's sexism. I usually don't let it or other outdated attitudes bother me too much if the book is good and written well, because I'm not a character from the book and I accept the fact that people with differing opinions can and do exist, but this is not a well written book. So when a formerly brilliant female scientist who's brain was damaged in cryosleep is thinking about how she will honor and respect her husband, the book's protagonist who only accepted her after he couldn't have the woman he really wanted, I couldn't but roll my eyes.

There's also pretty much sex. Nothing inherently wrong with that, but it comes across as very weird, because the characters still display western culture's inhibition towards sex - while still thinking about it, wanting it and having it, often for no reason plotwise at all.

The book was really good at some points. Great even, a solid five-stars book. A shame it didn't last. Most of the time I was reading this book I was pissed and I still am while writing this. And even though I know this wish won't come true, I hope a book won't make me feel this way again.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Zachary.
536 reviews10 followers
August 11, 2009
This is quite an amazing book. The science, sociology, psychology - all of it! - is extremely well-thought out. And the pacing is rather incredible. Niven has quite a knack for moving things along quick enough for most of the book, and then really stepping things up a couple of notches for the huge climax. Great fun!

Humanity has finally decided to reach out to the stars and attempt to colonize a new planet. But being so far away, they've gotta freeze the people so they'll make it there at a decently young age. The first difficulty the colonists have to deal with is that some of them were affected by the freezing. But that is minor compared with what is awaiting them on Avalon, their new land. What seems a perfect place, at first, turns into a nightmare - complete with monsters!

There is almost a horror feel to the book, due to the violence and how incredibly horrific the "grendels" are. But it is definitely science fiction, through and through. Niven, Pournelle, and Barnes have done an excellent job crafting the science and technology of the people, as well as creating very intriguing and convincing characters.

This is the first of three books set in the Heorot universe. Beowulf's Children is a sequel to this. It actually takes place when the children born in this book get old enough to begin claiming the planet for themselves. If you enjoy this book, definitely get your hands on Beowulf's Children. There is also another book, Destiny's Road, which also takes place in the same universe, mentioning events from the first two, but which is not really a sequel or continuation of their storyline (at least the way I understand it).

There is a lot of violence in the book, but really no sexual material at all. There is a little inuendo or inference to sexual situations, but nothing specific and definitely nothing explicit.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. It would probably not be appropriate for younger readers due to the violence as well as the much relaxed sexual mores of the settlement.
Profile Image for Mike.
1,138 reviews151 followers
November 27, 2007
This is essential SciFi reading. Combine Beowulf with star travel, strong, good looking men & women, hard science... Also the best example of the law of unintended consequences in action. Not to be missed.
Profile Image for Darth.
384 reviews9 followers
August 24, 2013
In my many years of reading Larry Niven books - I have frequently (almost always) found that the ones in which he is collaborating with another author or authors, are not as good as the ones he does alone. Oath of Fealty comes to mind, and the MOTIES sequel, and the one with the space shuttle - ANANSI I want to say....

As a result, this one, and it sequel have spent YEARS on my shelf, until I had read and in some cases re-read almost all of his other books. Well, I am running out of Niven books to read, and shelves on which to store them, so it was time to clean this duology up.

Now I do not know whether to be sad I waited to so long, or thrilled to have this golden nugget just recently under my belt. This is one of the best books I have ever read - whether by Niven or anyone else.

The story sucked me in straight away, and it kept a pretty good pace throughout, with only a few sluggish points in the second act, and one development that to me, was clearly a plot device and not how an actual person would have acted - and, I guess, an irritating over-use of self comparison to the olde English tale of Beowulf...

It was similar in feel to some of Heinlein's books - especially TUNNEL IN THE SKY - but it did not have feeling of being derivative - despite borrowing some nomenclature...
So it probly doesnt hurt that I happen to like most of Heinlein's work, but this stands on its own.

The plot is not too unusual for a sci-fi novel. People travel to a faraway place and face dangerous circumstances, and barely pull through, and learn lessons, and grow stronger. As gross over-simplifications go, that covers MOST sci-fi out there. But most of it doesnt grab the imagination the way this did for me.

I see a number of reviewers did not share in my enthusiasm for this - I guess we all like different things, and that is good too, uniformity is boring - but for my taste, this was a FANTASTIC read that kept me up in the wee hours to finish.
Profile Image for Andrew.
2,232 reviews
November 9, 2014
I read this book many years ago while preparing for my exams, yes there were far too many distractions even then - I decided to read the book again remembering how much I enjoyed it the first time.
Having read the authors individual works I was interested in seeing how they worked as a collaboration (they have in fact collaborated on a number of books all of which I enjoyed to differing degrees and for different reasons) and even though the authors have been criticised in the past - some of which I totally disagree with it was interesting to see how their strengths rather than their flaws were pooled in this story.
The story takes several references to the original Beowulf tale, which is not entirely unintentional. However for me it was the appealing mix of acton and science that I enjoyed. Too often the militaristic all action type end up in conflict with science where one wants to study while the other was to put down the threat, here you see them working together to solve the problem (although there is still their fair share of antagonism). For me the Grendel is the perfect predator however flawed it is - and to me reminds me a lot of the other (more famous) alien predators of science fiction, perfectly adapted to the environment it lives in, exploiting its advantage once humans blunder in to its domain.
And the conclusion although satisfying sets up for a sequel - which I had to wait some years before being able to finally see what happened next.
Profile Image for Vincent Stoessel.
600 reviews29 followers
August 10, 2016
Last stop on my Niven revisited tour. This was the last Niven novel I read decades ago. Hoping this 3rd book is the charm in terms of holding up to expectations.
So the verdict?
In today's eyes parts of this might be considered slightly sexist but not to a degree that it weakens the story. In fact, this story has held up very well over the years. I may check out the sequel after I read a few goodreads reviews on it.
Profile Image for Craig.
5,140 reviews123 followers
March 11, 2018
This is one of the best hard-sf colonization stories, and perhaps the best of the Niven-Pournelle/Barnes collaborations. It's a well-plotted and fast-paced story with excellent characterization and a fascinating setting. The eco-system is particularly complex and compelling. Recommended for fans of Steele's Coyote series or the Alien movies.
6 reviews
June 19, 2015
The SF aspects are excellent, but the sexism is eye-rollingly simplistic.
Profile Image for Dmitry.
34 reviews
July 18, 2016
Excellent colony novel by a trio of masters. Niven and Pornelle are well known for their worldbuilding in The Mote in God's Eye. The duo is joined by Steven Barnes, a relative unknown at the time, who provides the action and - numerous - sex scenes.

Its a wicked little romp with many false peaks - every time you think the threat is over, you look at the progress on your kindle and what do you know, youve only read thirty percent of the novel. What could possibly happen next? This excellent pace is a notable feature - i found it hard to put down. Polished it off in just two days in the middle of the working week.

Theres lots of interesting characters here, but the most intriguing thing of all is the anguish of the scientists who suffered brain damage during their hundred-year voyage in cryosleep. Chosen from the best of the best, they must now cope with the plodding IQ of average human beings. A fascinating and original concept i have never encountered before.

This is a great light read, highly recommended to fans of the colonization process.
1 review
September 27, 2019
I created an account purely to share my views on this book.

It is problematic to say the least. Great premise, setting and overall plotline, but jeez, the characters are awful. The writers seem to completely lack an understanding of what normal human conversation is actually like, at various points characters seem to be either reading one another's minds or are just totally dysfunctional, speaking in unworldly philosophical prose out of nowhere. The women are all totally one dimensional and described only by their looks, while the men are similarly bland, with absolutely no character development. I did not care one iota when characters were killed off, and found it hard to distinguish between who was who. I cannot think of one book that is better for having multiple writers and this really falls in that category. I cannot stress how many times I questioned my judgement after reading a conversation between Cadmann, Mary Ann and Sylvia.

Despite this, I did get through it, and quite quickly. The action scenes were decent, with a few twists. An easy sci-fi read, with cool monsters.
Profile Image for Chrisl.
607 reviews87 followers
March 25, 2018
Niven's Mote ... unlike most of his other books, captured my interest, earned a re-read.
The Mote in God's Eye

The Legacy of Heorot is the only other Niven I finished. The story was not captivating, but as it unfolded, I became increasingly curious. What's coming next? How will the authors end this? In an attempted recent re-read, I didn't get far.
Profile Image for Michael Drakich.
Author 13 books72 followers
November 19, 2018
An enjoyable guesstimate of colonizing an alien world where life forms already exist including one super predator nick-named a grendel after the famous epic Beowulf. The struggle between the colonists and the grendels is some excellent science fiction horror/action with a detailed ecosystem as to why the grendels are so terrifying. The background setting of how the colony was established and how it operated is well thought out. No FTL, the mission involves the colonists in deep-freeze hibernation and a one-way trip. In other words, survive on the new world or die. There are no other options. Based on the first half of this book, my leaning was for a 5 star review as it is well written, with unique characters. Only mildly disappointing was the highly predictable crisis that leads to the novel's climax. I knew almost from the start what was coming but was willing to wait and see how it played out. What followed is what I consider a soft landing at the end. Still, all in all, this was an enjoyable novel and worth reading.

If you've read this far and don't want a spoiler, stop here.

The concept of the samlon (the local fish) turning into grendels was terribly predictable. How the authors could have better hidden that fact may have been impossible, but the existence of other fish might have helped. As to the ending, the fact the grendels simply stop attacking the humans when the entire novel showed them as having an insatiable hunger was weak. If I had written this novel I would have gone for an ending that the authors had totally set up but didn't use. The grendels are like frogs and the samlons are like tadpoles. After the final battle where the grendel horde is beaten back, a more fitting ending would be no more samlon as the catfish introduced into the ecosystem by the colonists ate all the eggs. It would have worked better than, all of a sudden, the grendels becoming meek.
103 reviews
September 8, 2019
This is a serious page-turner. Imagine, Sci-Fi, as literature. The book is a future setting of Beowulf. It's been some time since I read Beowulf, but I can remember the desperation of Grendel's foes . . . I felt it here, too. Every time the good guys thought they were out of the woods . . .BANG!!, people are dying again. Good to the last page . . . think of keeping your pedal to the metal, and then realizing you've passed the finish line, at full speed. That's what it was like, at the end of this book.

I know, I know, the book was written thirty years ago. Again, I apologize. I am that far behind in my reading. But, don't let that deter you from reading this book, if you haven't read it already. And, as an added treat, read Beowulf (again?) just before this one. Don't let the Science Piction pigeonhole keep you from enjoying a gripping tale.
245 reviews10 followers
August 28, 2021
Another SF book I've read that's attracted over 240 reviews. I can't add anything new, I am sure. So simply: it's got a clever and really unexpected twist. What's annoying to me is that the militarist, who disdains his fellow colonists who just want peace and quiet, turns out to be the hero.

How about one day we get some SF where the military guy is wrong and dangerous instead of a hero?
Profile Image for Cindy.
992 reviews3 followers
September 5, 2021
Great world-building about colonists inhabiting a seemingly benign planet and starting to raise crops, bear children, and introduce Earth species when something happens to one of the dogs…. Overall the book felt dated with its multiracial group of male scientists and women as scientists-breeders. My main problem was how it perpetuates the approach of manifest destiny: humans land on a planet and suddenly it’s our planet to rule, destroying any sentient beings that get in our way.
Profile Image for Neil.
1,155 reviews9 followers
January 6, 2019
It was fun to revisit this book, this world. It is about a group of two hundred colonists who left Earth to colonize the fourth planet orbiting Tau Ceti. An island about the size of New Zealand is selected for colonization, and, for all intents and purposes, it is paradise. That is, until an ugly serpent rears its beastly head and ruins paradise for the colonists. It moves at a good pace, developing both main and secondary characters over the course of the novel. It starts out kind of slow, but it definitely picks up the pace (and not just because it jumps ahead “into the future” at different points in the book, moving forward a few weeks to a few months at a time between chapters). I thought it had good character development over the course of the novel; I am not sure who develops ‘most’ as a character (other than maybe Terry Faulkner, Sylvia’s husband). Cadmann probably has the ‘best’ overall character development; or, he just seems to ‘come into his own’ over the course of the novel.

Based on the island alone, the planet has some fascinating flora and fauna, and I would have enjoyed reading more books that explored this alien planet. Granted, even though the second book in the series introduces some even more crazy species, it still feels somewhat “lacking” in terms of so much more that could be said about the island as well as the main continent (let alone the entire planet). One thing about this book is that it does remind me, albeit indirectly, of Forgotten Planet in that both books are inspired by various animals living on Earth (except Forgotten Planet has giant mutated Terran insects whereas the Grendels in this book are based on the life cycle of an African frog). It was interesting to read as various colonists discussed how bizarre the island was, how it should have been teeming with life instead of being as barren as it was. Eventually, they do figure out why the island is so void of life, but this knowledge does come at a high price.

It really hit me this time around that this book could be seen as the “adult version” of Robert Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky. I say this because there were numerous homages and references to his classic book about a group of high school and early college-age survival classes all lost on an alien planet and having to survive. Some obvious references are the Dopey Joe references (148) and how Cadmann thought he was better at square dancing then everybody else on the dance floor (178) (which is reminiscent of Rod Walker thinking the same thing about himself in reference to his fellow square dancers). The square dance became the ‘highlight’ of the colony’s ‘social activity’ on Avalon as well as in Tunnel in the Sky; it was a time of fellowship and feasting, where the colony came together and celebrated being alive in both books. Also, Cadmann’s “last stand” in the Colony itself and his efforts to save the Colony from the attack of the Grendels was very reminiscent of the Dopey Joe attack on the colony in Tunnel in the Sky. The groups in both books attempt to use fire as protection against their foes; both books have parties that have to survive an attack that lasts all night; both books have the survivors retreating to a type of redoubt as a bastion for one ‘last stand’ against their foes. Both books jump to ‘a future date’ (over one hundred days later in this book and almost two years later in Heinlein’s book) in which the “stobor” are being ruthlessly killed to avoid a future attack like that which nearly wiped out the respective colonies. Both Rod and Cadmann are injured in the leg during the attack. It was funny, reading this book this time around, how much it reminded me of Tunnel in the Sky - especially with the attack on the colony.

I also enjoyed the reference to Heinlein’s Red Planet ( Burn the egg sacks! (198)). That was a fun reference I ‘geeked out’ on when reading, and I also enjoyed the reference to the original Godzilla movie (the original 1954 version, in which an “oxygen destroyer” was used to kill Godzilla and a similar device was designed to be used against the Grendels).

The group dynamics of this colony are fairly interesting. There are no religious leaders or any kind of “faith” or spirituality in the group, as a whole. If anybody in the group does have any kind of religious beliefs, they keep them to themselves (although some comments are made throughout the course of the book implying some members do have some kind of religious belief or religious background). This is a group of scientists, people who “do not believe in god,” that were selected out of vast multitude to colonize a new world for mankind. As a result, the morals are on a bit of a slippery slope. Oddly, there is no thieving or murder or stealing on this planet, in this colony. Instead, there is rampant promiscuity and adultery that occurs. Some people are married, yet have no issues sleeping with other partners. For some, it is ‘okay’ to cheat as long as they are not caught. Some people may remain monogamous, but most of the colony seems to consist of people who are either single or no longer consider themselves a couple (or, their spouse died during the voyage). Yet, despite all of this rampant promiscuity and sleeping around, nobody ever catches or passes any kind of sexually transmitted disease. Granted, nobody would have been allowed to be a colonist if they had had some kind of disease or genetic defect in their body. What’s even ‘funnier’ is that some people come across a as a bit ‘puritanical’ about the promiscuity of their fellow colonists, and yet these ‘puritanical’ people themselves have no issues having multiple partners, regardless if their partners are married or single themselves. So, it is a humorous level of hypocrisy that is going on in which the parties do not realize how hypocritical they are being when (while) judging others.

I did like how the story developed, how the colony developed over the course of the book. It discusses how some members of the colony have been ‘injured’ via ice crystals to (in) the brain that resulted from the long-term hypersleep (I could not quite decide if it was the people who were awakened more than once who were affected the worse, or it if did not matter if you were awoken multiple times or just the one time before planetfall). It also has the colonists going from very smug and complacent to a war footing where they are fighting for their lives against an intractable foe.

I think the fact that I still hate how Cadmann is treated by the rest of the colonists even after multiple readings shows how well the book was written. I still hate that he is judged and deemed an outcast, that the colony’s actions nearly get him killed. It is funny how stupid the colony seems to be when it comes to Cadmann trying to protect them and ensure the safety (and future) of the Colony. At one point, Cadmann makes the point that he is happy the Grendels have begun attacking when they did. Otherwise, if they had waited three or four generations, the complacency of the initial colonizers would have become a part of the fourth generation’s attitude and they would have been ill-prepared to survive in the Grendel onslaught. It had to be the original colonists who ensure the future survival of the human colony by surviving the waves of Grendels that sought to kill them and devour them. Had the Grendel onslaught not occurred when it did, the complacency of the human colonists would have spelled its doom.

I also thought it was an interesting observation that the colonists had essentially disarmed Cadmann and left him to die, alone and unable to defend himself, after they took away his weapon. I thought the authors did an excellent job at describing the scene, how horrific it was. It was described as being a moment when Cadmann’s “manhood,’ a part of his identity, was forever taken away from him by their actions and he nearly paid the ultimate price from it in the end (as he nearly died and then was severely injured as a result of the Grendel’s attack).

I found myself wishing Ernst had survived. I ‘loved’ his character and he was greatly missed over the course of the rest of the book. He was definitely a friend who stuck closer than a brother!

To be honest, I always thought the discussion throughout the book about “Hibernation Instability” was an interesting discussion, as I never once thought there was any kind of danger associated with being put into suspended animation. The authors talk about how the colonists were frozen for the duration of the journey with the expectation that they could be and would be awakened without any kind of injuries or disabilities or whathaveyou. As it turned out, the ‘experts’ were wrong and some of the colonists did suffer different kinds of mental injury due to ice crystals in the brain. For some, it was very pronounced, and they had been ‘reduced’ to children or mentally handicapped in terms of their ability to think, to understand, and to process what was going on around them. For others, it was not nearly as severe, and they appeared ‘normal’ for all intents and purposes. So, yeah, it put long-term suspended animation in a new light for me, and the ‘dangers’ discussed in this book was something I have never truly considered.

There were some lines I liked in the book, or that stood out to me this time around:
”We’re still Homo interstellar. The one and only, now. If we fail here, what lesson will we teach the Sol system? There won’t be another ship for a thousand years. Maybe never. We came as conquerors. Some of us died as prey, but we ate the samlon too. When we get through this, we’ll eat every Samlon in the Avalon rivers while our crops are growing. -----, I wish I’d recorded that!” (Rachel’s speech, 296)

They looked nothing at all like an army. . . . they moved very much like an army (299). This was an interesting juxtaposition in the book where it occurs.

She (Mary Ann) felt Sylvia’s touch on her arm. “Love, what will be will be. We all came here to die. What matters is how we live.” (367). This stood out to me as an interesting and ‘accurate’ statement about these colonists. They knew they could never return to Earth; they also had a pretty good idea they were the ‘only ones’ that Earth sent to Tau Ceti. This was it. In any case, all humans die, so if they had not come to Tau Ceti they would have “just” died back on Earth. That being the case, live to make some kind of difference or leave some kind of positive impact upon the world around you.

Beowulf was killed by the dragon.
It was too late for any of them to change.
And perhaps, just perhaps, there was no dragon after all (367).

In closing, it was still a fun book to reread and revisit. It was a ‘perfect blend’ of science fiction and horror, as it starts out with the colonists striving to learn how to survive on this new world and segues into the colonists trying to survive against a deadly predatory alien species they could not conceive of when they first left Earth. Some of it still triggered those “HOLY CRAP!!!!” emotions I felt the first time around when I read this book. It was a fun (re)read.
Profile Image for James.
258 reviews7 followers
September 29, 2018
Listened to on CD. Read by Tom Wiener who is FANTASTIC! Great story inspired by Beowolf. TRULY scary thriller. Can't wait to read the sequels!
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