Book: The long arm of Gil Hamilton - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Book: The long arm of Gil Hamilton
Tuesday, 21 October 2008 at 06:34 pm
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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.


Moooood: okayokay
Tuuuuune: Peter Malick Group: Strange transmissions
Discussion: 5 contributions | Contribute something
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forestofglory: default
From:forestofglory
Date:December 2nd, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
16 days after journal entry, 03:05 pm (forestofglory's time)
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I like the world building in Know Space because it's so big. And I love big fictional universes. But just reading Gil the ARM stories wouldn't show you that. (There are defiantly some holes in the world building though)

Also I like Niven's short work a lot more then his long work. However I haven't read any Niven in a while cause the background sexism bugs me. I used to read a lot of classic SF but at some point my inner feminist critic started to sit up at take notice and I stopped being able to read most of it.
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livredor: livre d'or
From:livredor
Date:December 3rd, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC)
16 days after journal entry, 12:51 pm (livredor's time)
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Fair point about the sexism. For just a few short stories, I was prepared to accept that Gil just happens not to be very interested in women, without assuming that the message was supposed to be that women are inherently uninteresting. I really hope I don't get to the point where I can't read anything that doesn't have good gender politics. Right now I can easily conjure up the inner eight-year-old boy who just likes a good story. And I think sometimes sexism is an aggregate problem, not an individual problem; I mean, if a particular novel has no sensible women characters, that's just that novel, but if you look at all the novels ever written there is a big bias against women.

It makes sense that you can't get much sense of how detailed the worldbuilding is from three novellas. I got on well with the long novel The mote in God's eye, and of course Ringworld, but I can see that this length works well. There is less time for the annoying things to be annoying, but still enough space to explore some cool ideas.
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forestofglory: default
From:forestofglory
Date:December 3rd, 2008 09:28 pm (UTC)
17 days after journal entry, 01:28 pm (forestofglory's time)
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I wish I could still do that -- but it just can't any more. I mean I can read them, but I keep getting pulled out of the story. Would much prefer to turn criticism on and off.

I found the biology in The Mote in God's Eye unconvincing. I find that Niven is general not very good at biology though. (I afraid Jack lent it to me, and I gave it back to him with a long feminist critique.)

Ringworld is the bit of Know Space most people see, and it's got some good stuff. Showcases the aliens quite well for one thing.


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livredor: ewe
From:livredor
Date:December 3rd, 2008 09:38 pm (UTC)
17 days after journal entry, 09:38 pm (livredor's time)
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I need to do a proper review of Mote, for sure. But I agree entirely that the biology is utter crap. It's a pity, because the whole premise of the book is based on not understanding evolution At All. But I pretended to myself that it was fantasy instead of SF and I could look past that bit.

If it's any comfort to you, though, J has been referring to the book as "that long misogynist Larry Niven book", so it sounds like your feminist rant made an impression. A biology rant might have been useful too; I suspect that the Beau gets a lot of his ideas about evolution from SF written by physicists who don't understand biology. I am easily wound up by his teleological assumptions...
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forestofglory: default
From:forestofglory
Date:December 4th, 2008 08:28 am (UTC)
17 days after journal entry, 12:28 am (forestofglory's time)
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I don't know whether to think that is sweet or feel guilty for ruining it for him.

I fail at explaining evolution -- but I did try. I think it would be easier to explain to someone with less background in non-biology cause I get tripped up by hidden assumptions.
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