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Fate of Worlds
by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Tor, $25.99, 317pp
Release Date: August 21, 2012
The Fleet of World series, of which this is the 5th, continues and convenes the storylines Niven began in his short stories, the Ringworld saga, and the Man-Kzin Wars. Lerner has proved a competent co-author, bringing depth and complexity to many key characters. While I would not regard any of the Fleet books as standalones, they all are engaging dramas set against a backdrop of the end of the home galaxy, more or less immanent, depending on your sense of time scale, not by heat death, but by the inexorable action of gravity and the all-consuming hunger of a black hole. The major species of Puppeteers, Humanity, and Kzin have different reactions to the prospect of the galaxy’s demise, but all three species have been distracted by the Ringworld’s lure of valuable technology. Whether by subtlety, stealth, or conquest, agents of each species have tried to profit from the Ringworld. Now, while some colonies of all three races seek safety and independence, other rivalries are intensified by bitter disappointment, and war seems inevitable.

It’s wonderful to spend more time with these characters, some of whom have been old friends for decades. Louis Wu, Nessus, and Sigmund Ausfaller are my core favorites still. If this really is the End of the series, I will miss them. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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