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Juggler of Worlds    by Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner order for
Juggler of Worlds
by Larry Niven
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2008 (2008)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Following on the success of Fleet of Worlds, Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner continue their Ringworld prequel series with Juggler of Worlds, the two books overlapping in time. The latter tells the story of an extreme paranoid (with good reason when dealing with both Earth high officials and aliens), Sigmund Ausfaller, and in particular his attempts to protect Earth from the machinations of Puppeteers, especially our old friend Nessus, still caught between his strong desire to mate with Nike and the odd empathy he feels for some humans.

Juggler of Worlds reads more like a collection of related short stories than a novel, taking us from Earth date: 2637 when Sigmund first exposes a corrupt superior, meets Feather, and joins the Amalgamated Regional Militia (ARM) to Earth date: 2660 when his life work receives its due. Out of assorted villains who populate the book, Puppeteer Achilles (continuing the Trojan theme) is a consistent bad guy, and it's clear from the ending that we haven't seen the last of him (or this series). Achilles once tried to recruit Nessus and is now his committed enemy.

Between the two dates, Puppeteers on Earth are recalled because 'the galaxy is dying', with Nessus left behind. Ausfaller uncovers Nessus's manipulation of the Fertility Board corruption fiasco, survives a quantum black hole and tracks down a 'ship-eating device.' He learns of the Puppeteers' Fleet of Worlds migration and offers them a deal. But when he's betrayed by a human associate, he receives help from a surprising source. And Earth humans finally make contact with human Colonists who are part of the Fleet.

Though I didn't enjoy Juggler of Worlds as much as Fleet of Worlds, I did appreciate both Sigmund Ausfaller's and Nessus's character development, and their evolving relationship. Indeed, when Nessus uncharacteristically faces an armed Kzin late in the book, he asks himself what Ausfaller would see and do in the same situation. If you haven't read anything else in the series, don't start here, but Ringworld fans do not want to miss either prequel.

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