Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review - The Descent of Anansi by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

Short review: A lunar orbital colony desperate for money sells its wares to Japan, but Brazil isn't going to take this lying down.

Independence day!
Raise funds by selling cable
Fight the Brazilians

Full review: The back cover of the book says:

"It's the American Revolution all over again. But this time it's a rag-tag band of space colonists vs. the United states. And the fate of the world hangs by a thread - 200 miles above the earth."

This blurb is almost completely unconnected with anything that actually happens in the book. This doesn't make it a bad book. Actually, the story that is in the book is probably better than the one the back cover describes. It is definitely a better story than the one contained in Achilles' Choice was.

Falling Angel is a research and manufacturing facility in the Moon's orbit. Early in the book, the handful of inhabitants, tired of being ignored by the U.S. government and having their funding cut, vote to sever ties with the U.S. This leaves them needing money, so they auction off their most valuable product - a super-thin and super-strong monofilament cable - to the highest bidder. The last two firms bidding are a Brazilian firm and a Japanese firm. The Japanese firm massively outbids the Brazilians and Falling Angel sends the shuttle Anansi to deliver the goods.

Instead of taking being outbid lying down, the Brazilians take steps to steal the cable. They arrange with a Muslim terrorist organization to blow up the shuttle with a missile, but the Brazilians double-cross the terrorists to merely damage the shuttle so a pair of their own shuttles can go and get the cable by persuasion or force. The experienced crew of the Anansi has to improvise to defend against the armed and numerically superior, but inexperienced, Brazilian pirates.

The U.S. government doesn't factor into the plot in any way other than the most tangential manner. The only thing that hangs by a thread is whether the Japanese will get the cable they bid on, and whether the crew of the Anansi will survive.

The back cover is a lie. The book, however, is still good.

1983 Locus Award Nominees

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  1. Oh I remember this book. Wasn't half-bad.

    1. @Julia Rachel Barrett: It was a good science adventure story, although there weren't a whole lot of ideas in it that Niven and Barnes haven't explored in numerous other books.