Author: Larry Niven
Details: (c) 1976 Larry Niven; Pub Ballantine Books 1976
Verdict: The long arm of Gil Hamilton is entertaining fluff.
Reasons for reading it: I am finding that Niven fills a very particular need, namely when I'm travelling and bored out of my mind, but too tired and too disturbed by airport atmosphere to concentrate on anything that needs serious attention. His stuff is just about intelligent enough to be more entertaining than sudoku, but not much more than that. So I was very happy to read this on the way back from Norway.
How it came into my hands: cartesiandaemon, who is something of a fan of Niven, lent it to me.
Niven has some cute ideas, notably the pyschic arm and the organleggers concept, but also little details like a woman who can make a telepathic connection to anyone she's in love with, and uses this to protect the cops in her division, and the people who become addicted to direct electrical stimulation of the brain to induce pleasure. These stories develop them quite nicely, though the worldbuilding is otherwise nothing special, just a fairly conventional over-crowded but reasonably well governed earth in tension with anarchistic outer parts of the solar system. I went back and forth on whether the organlegger thing is plausible, though I was certainly prepared to buy it for the sake of the story.
The detective story format is exciting enough to maintain tension, though they're not particularly brilliant examples of the genre. I think the middle story, The defenceless dead is the strongest, and I really liked the solution to the mystery, based on an invented technology but one that could be predicted from earlier clues in the story. ARM didn't work for me; it gets bogged down in a tedious tangle of time machine paradoxes, and Niven admits in the afterword that it was an attempt to resurrect an earlier flawed story.