Juggler of Worlds
by Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner
Cover Artist: Stephan Martiniere
Review by Tom Easton
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765318268
Date: 16 September 2008 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
In Fleet of Worlds, set some 200 years before the time of Ringworld, we saw that Niven's two-headed Puppeteers had set six worlds in motion to flee the explosion at the core of our galaxy. One of those worlds, Nature Preserve 4, was occupied by human slaves, a few of which had been selected to serve the hyper-cautious (paranoid) Puppeteers as scouts. Alas for the Puppeteers, those scouts got suspicious and learned the truth of their enslavement. In the end, they won their world for their own, renamed it New Terra, and left the Puppeteers feeling very wary of them. The same story told us that Nessus, once master of the scouts, had been reassigned to return to Earth, whose economy had been shattered by the departure of the Puppeteers and the end of their supply of impregnable spaceship hulls and other technology, and do everything he could to block the search for the Puppeteers.
Juggler of Worlds is the tale of Nessus's efforts. The search is being run by ARM, the UN's military. ARM agents are professional paranoids, usually thanks to drugs. A few agents, such as Sigmund Ausfaller, are natural paranoids. Very few are as good as Sigmund at ferreting out plots and conspiracies given the tiniest of clues. He can—and does—spot the flow of Puppeteer funds to high officials, see threats in the discovery that antimatter can destroy a Puppeteer hull, and be driven to extreme measures when he suspects that Beowulf Sheaffer, Gregory Pelton, and Carlos Wu have far too much to do with each other. It doesn't help when his girlfriend, Feather Filip, who wants children but cannot on an overcrowded Earth that refuses to give Sigmund (or any other natural paranoid) a birth permit, winds up in Carlos's bed.
The plots are real enough, but not all of them come to Sigmund's attention. The Puppeteer Achilles, for instance, dreams of ruling a world, if not the Puppeteer homeworld, then the human slave world; if he cannot, he will destroy everything. The mysterious Outsiders, liquid-helium-based creatures who sold the Puppeteers their planetary drives, have their own agenda; in the end, they need as much help as anyone else in Known Space and Sigmund, of all people, sees that they get it.
It struck me as more than a little odd that though Earth's economic dilemma and Sigmund's search for conspiracies occupy more than half the book, the purpose of that focus seems little more than to get Sigmund onto the same stage as the Outsiders and establish Achilles as a traditional I-shall-return! villain. The balance seems off, which suggests to me that there will be at least one more Niven-Lerner Worlds novel.