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Protector (1987)

Protector (1987)
4.05 of 5 Votes: 2
0345353129 (ISBN13: 9780345353122)
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Protector (1987)
Protector (1987)

About book: A spiritual prequel to Ringworld, the plot is grounded in some serious science with grand concepts, but is held back by a loose, meandering storyline and a slipshod third act.Setting:Set within Known Space, early on in the timeline - it spans both the Early Interstellar Era and the Intermediate Era. Humanity has begun colonizing a few other planets, but hasn't made first contact with aliens yet. The three parts of the book also take place across time gaps - 200 years between Parts 1 & 2, and 20 years between Parts 2 & 3.Plot:Phssthpok is on a rescue mission. He's a Pak Protector, an alien from a far flung world, traveling to Earth in a desperate attempt to save a failed Pak colony that tried to settle there ages ago. What he finds are creatures that look like Pak breeders, but are far more advanced then they should be. And they smell wrong...The concept of the plot is amazing. The execution...not so much. The first part involves Phssthpok's arrival in the Sol System. The second part is set *two hundred years* later, and involves the after effects of Phssthpok's contact with humanity. It begins with an amazing hook, but the need to link it with the first part creates the disjointed feel of the book. The third part (the epilogue) is little more than expository narration, and would've been better expanded into a full third act, or even its own story, rather than shoved in at the last minute.I've seen this novel described as two novelettes trying to pass as one novel, and that's a pretty accurate description. The two major divisions of the book feel like two separate stories sewn together and made to fit, even if they tear under the pressure. The tone is different. The cast is different. And then there's the epilogue, which breezily narrates an entire other novel's worth of action in a few pages.Characters:Phssthpok is one of the better aliens I've read, but Brennan is the star of the book. It's the strength of his character that keeps the novel moving, and using him as the delivery vector for all the science behind the plot was a smart move. Lucas and Nick are also great characters, but are largely wasted in the plot.The others are not so good. Roy risks *way* too much for too little incentive - indeed, his motivation seems spurious. Niven just needed a character to do what Roy does, but I've never really believed that the character of Roy would've made the choices he did. Tina and Alice have to be two of the worst female characters that Niven ever wrote. He's usually pretty good about his female characters - especially for a writer of the 60's - but here they're completely cliché, and not very bright. It especially annoys me how Alice just happens to drop into the plot right when she's needed.Pacing:The first half is a quick read, since it's basically a suspense story. You get the pov of three different parties and watch as they slowly collide with each other. The second half is more of a mystery-thriller, and is slower to read. It starts with a great hook, but once that wears off, it manages to spend a lot of time dragging around in travel scenes, punctuated by short bursts of action.Notes:The majority of my complaints stem from the fact that the novel's three parts don't fit together well, and that has a simple root cause. Protector was originally a short story called "The Adults," which Larry Niven expanded into the first part of the novel. The second part and the epilogue were then added on in order to make it into a complete, novel length story. So it shouldn't really be a surprise how jarring the transitions between the different parts of the novel are.Spoiler Zone!(view spoiler)[The ending is one of my biggest dislikes. The epilogue just casually describes - through exposition - events that are more exciting than anything that happened in the second part of the book. I would've loved to see that put into an actual story format, rather than narration. The cliffhanger doesn't sit well with me either, because it's never resolved. It has the look of a sequel hook, but there was never a sequel. It drops the huge question mark of a Pak invasion force and never actually answers it. Now, some other stories have discussed the fact that the Home colony vanished, which seems to imply that Roy and his force of Protectors were able to halt the invasion...but no other story deals with this question directly. For all I know, they could still be fortifying the planet and waiting for the Pak to show up. I don't think they are (I'm pretty sure they defeated the invasion, then died), but having read all the pre-Fleet of Worlds stories in Known Space, I haven't seen an answer. Now, I know the new Fleet of Worlds series is probably going to address it...but that would still mean a gap of at least 34 years of writing between cliffhanger and resolution. Given how completely it failed to factor into the rest of the Known Space catalog, I would say it was a poorly planned ending.I'll come back and update this opinion once I get around to reading the Fleet of Worlds series (probably in a few months.)It really annoyed me how, right when Roy realized that he needed a Belter cop, he happened to meet a random woman in the middle of a random national park, on a super crowded Earth, who just happened to be a Belter cop. Complete ass pull, there. Would've been much better if he had to actually go contact someone, and that person could've been Alice. It wouldn't have affected the plot *at all*. As for good things, the shooting a bullet around the Neutron Star was a nice touch. I especially liked that it was the same star (BVS-1) as in "Neutron Star." Brennan's idea to spread the virus a good twist as well. I did not, however, like Roy's decision at the end. As I said earlier, I think he made a series of stupid decisions to go as far down the rabbit hole as he did, but then he decides to betray Brennan right at the end? When he admits himself that he had guessed Brennan's goal almost from the start of their journey together? Did not compute. Roy's kind of dumb. I mean, he's dumb in that "overly nice" way that some people adore, but at the end of the day, he was completely willing to save one planet, with the tradeoff being the eventual extermination of humanity. Not a good cost/benefit analysis, that. Sometimes sacrifices are necessary, and Roy came pretty close to causing the extinction of humanity because he didn't want to kill people. The irony, of course, is that he killed them anyway, once he was converted into a Protector and had the intelligence to see his options more clearly. I think there's probably a message in that.I do have to say, I *love* the concept of the Pak. The idea of taking all of the negative things that happen to the human body as it ages (swollen joints, weak heart, decreased sex drive, decaying teeth, etc) and turning them into evolutionary traits that are leftover from humanity's origin as Pak Breeders is fan-fucking-tastic. Seriously amazing. The human body is *trying* to turn into a Pak Protector still, but these dam yams don't have any thallium oxide in them! More than once, I've looked at yams and imagined that they have the Tree of Life virus in them. Tasty tasty.I kind of want to keep my gonads though. (hide spoiler)]

By 2125 AD, the human race had spread across the cosmos and colonized worlds christened with such names as Wunderland, We Made It, Home, Jinx, and others. Within Known Space, there are two primary groups of humans. Flatlanders are those accustomed to living on Earth or other planets while Belters reside in the asteroid belt.After traveling interstellar space for over 30,000 years, an alien named Phssthpok enters our solar system in search of others from his species, known as the Pak. Their physiology is comprised of three stages: childhood, breeder, and finally, genderless protector. Pak sustain themselves primarily on a root from the Tree of Life. Over 2.5 million years ago, a group of breeders left the Pak homeworld, after it had been ravaged by war. They were never heard from again, but after thorough study of Pak history and astronavigation, Phssthpok set out to find them.As he entered Earth's solar system, Phssthpok encountered and captured a Belter named Jack Brennan. While in captivity, Brennan discovered and consumed a large quantity of Tree of Life root. As a result, Brennan mutated into a human-Pak hybrid complete with hardened skin, enlarged musculature, increased speed, and immense intelligence. Brennan's transformation had completed soon after Phssthpok landed on Mars to conceal himself from other humans. However, telescopes both in the asteroid belt and on Earth had tracked the Pak’s ship. Nick Sohl, leader of the Belters, teams up with retired UN law enforcement officer Lucas Garner to track down the alien (or "Outsider"). By the time they reach Mars, they are greeted not by Phssthpok, but by Brennan--who murdered his Pak captor. Brennan explains to Sohl and Garner the purpose of Phssthpok's journey. Yet, when the Pak realized that there was no colony of breeders, he planned to create one in the same way as Brennan was transformed.Shortly after meeting Sohl and Garner, Brennan escapes in Phssthpok's ship. Abandoning his supply of Tree of Life root, Brennan disappears into interstellar space.Two centuries later, a human named Roy Truesdale is kidnapped for four months and returned with part of his memory erased. Roy is but one in a string of victims abducted by a mysterious strangers known only as Vandervecken. Soon after he awakens from his abduction, Roy encounters a lovely Belter named Alice Jordan and together, they set off to the edge of the solar system where Vandervecken supposedly lurks--and might somehow be connected to the legendary "Brennan-monster".What awaits Roy and Alice near the solar system's tenth planet Persephone? Is it the human-alien hybrid that was once a Belter named Jack Brennan? If so, what is the reason behind the abductions and how is it connected to the pending war between humans and the Pak?Protector is divided into two connected novellas, Phssthpok and Vandervecken, respectively. I enjoyed the development and exploration of the Pak species and the scenes that were written from Phssthpok's point of view, which made his off-camera death disappointing. Finally, the combination of science and storytelling surrounding the ship-to-ship combat near the end kept me turning pages.
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Downloaded from my library & published by BlackStone Audio. It is one of his Known Universe books, there are some touch stones to others, but this stands alone perfectly well & is early in the cycle. It's old school, hard SF that I haven't read in far too long but was one of many that stretched my mind as a kid.The premise of Protector is pretty interesting, as are the protectors themselves. Niven covers a lot of logical & moral ground in this book. I was constantly asking myself if I thought the actions were 'right' or not. They were always correct & practical, but is that enough? Would I have drawn the same lines? Sometimes the answer was no, other times, as much as I hated it, the answer was yes.There are tantalizing overviews of other issues he covers more thoroughly in other books, like the cycles of law to keep the organ banks full or the problems of 'drug' addiction. He actually talks about wireheads, people that have a wire implanted into the pleasure center of their brain for direct stimulation. These issues are covered in more detail in The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton, 3 short stories, I believe, & some other books & stories.With all this philosophizing, the action & mystery never stopped or even slowed down. He logically led me from one situation to another, often spanning years or even centuries. Description was perfect; sparse enough not to slow things down, but rich enough to let my mind see the world. On top of that, the reader was quite good, about perfect for the story.
Ramon Yáñez lópez
Confieso que tengo debilidad por Larry Niven. Cuando era joven consideraba a Mundo Anillo una obra maestra. Con el tiempo, no se si he madurado, pero si que todavia me quedan buenos recuerdos de la lectura de sus novelas. Protector fue una de las primeras novelas que lei en ingles(hace mas de 20 a��os) por falta de traducci��n al espa��ol. Y hete aqui que acaba de ser traducida y como no, he picado y la he comprado y releido.Pues, me han quedado las ganas de devolverla y tener unas palabritas con el traductor. Disparates a doquier en las traducciones tecnicas que dan risa, inconsistencias de tiempos verbales, etcUna novelita entretenida sobre los Pak echada a perder, que dudo que alguien que no haya leido otras novelas del Espacio Reconocido de Niven entienda algo.��Es que no hay correctores de estilo?
Further proof, if it were needed, that Niven is the king of creating interesting, believable, yet totally alien aliens.Take all the features of human senescence: wrinkled, leathery skin, teeth and hair falling out, heart failure, joints swollen from over-use. Now imagine that all of these features are signs not of a body breaking down, but the beginnings of a third-stage of human development: the super-strong, hyperintelligent "protector" stage.The frailties of old age become the strengths of a "protector." Wrinkled, leathery skin grows tough beyond compare--an armored hide. Teeth fall out and the jaw closes together to form a sharp, powerful "beak." Knobby joints give the muscles more torque. The ailing heart, which was never meant to last seventy years to begin with, is supplemented by a second heart, which grows near the groin, where the major veins and arteries branch off to feed the legs. Other changes include an increased brain size for hyper-intelligence and an overwhelming hormonal urge to protect your descendents.The choice to become a proector is a Faustian bargain. Hyperintelligence means there's only one way to accomplish any given goal--the right way. And the hormonal urge to protect your bloodline means that your goals are in effect chosen for you, too. Free will, morality, sentimentality--all gone. What's left is a frighteningly effective and wholly alien super-being, like a Kwisatz Haderach on crack.
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