Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: A World Out of Time, Larry Niven

Jaybee Corbell subjected himself to cryogenic freezing in the twentieth century with the belief that he would be awoken once society found a cure for his cancer. Two hundred years later he's revived into someone elses body and under threat of instant annihilation. He is told he owes the State for his life and must become a Rammer--a deep space pilot--to repay his debt, and complete a mission that will take 70,000 earth years. Jaybee is having none of that, and takes the Rammer ship on his own course, one that returns him to the earth three million years later--an earth so drastically changed that he finds it orbiting Jupiter.

Brilliant, funny, gripping beginning. Dull, interminable, seemingly pointless middle section. And I can say little about the end because I didn't read it. I hear this novel began life as short story. I think I would have preferred that version. Corbell the Rammer was far more interesting than Corbell the explorer. I had been hoping his return to an earth drastically different from today would be as fascinating as Wells's The Time Machine, but it wasn't. The cat-tails were cute though.

I think part of the problem was he didn't have a snappy antagonist in the latter part of the book. Pierce/Peersa, a servant of the State, showed off Corbell's snarky, determined side, but unfortunately those aspects of his character disappeared when Peersa did.

I thoroughly enjoyed the beginning of A World Out of Time (1976) and I'll happily try more Niven, with the hope that they sustain my (perhaps short--but I like to think, picky) attention.

Acquisition note: This was another from my dad's bookshelves. Sorry, dad, I did try to love it!


  1. This sounds like a book I would love, assuming I don't also end up being disappointed with the drastically different future. I've never heard of this one, but I'll definitely be checking it out! :-)

  2. You call that a review? You admittedly did not finish the book! The story has a fantastic wrap-up, you should finish it.

  3. Yeah, Peersa returns as an important player at the end. The Dictator Immortaility is kind of a weird / interesting idea. I agree the middle part is kind of a slog.