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The Goliath Stone    by Larry Niven & Matthew Joseph Harrington order for
Goliath Stone
by Larry Niven
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Larry Niven is an SF old master, one of the greats. I love his work but was disappointed in his collaboration with Gregory Benford in Bowl of Heaven, which I found heavy on science but light on story. This new piece, The Goliath Stone, written with Matthew Joseph Harrington (author of Soul Survivor) is something very different - and highly entertaining - the authors clearly have tongues firmly in cheek throughout. Events mostly take place in the early 2050s.

One of the main characters, Doctor Toby Glyer, is the brilliant scientist who developed nanonites, in order to be able to deal with the next Dinosaur Killer. He was forced out of his research by public and governmental fear of nanonites reproducing inside the human body. Before that happened, though, a cargo of Toby' s nanonites was launched into orbit and reached an asteroid. The authors describe their evolution through many generations. Now they're heading home, but with what intent?

In 2052, May Wyndham (a pilot whose company launched the nanonites into orbit) tracks Toby down. As they reminisce, they're contacted by an agent of William Connors, a wheelchair-bound genius who worked with Toby on the first nanos - she kisses Toby vigorously and passes on a cryptic message. Soon both their bodies are flooded with specially designed nanos and they're changing. Where did William take Toby's research?

With William pulling the strings, Toby and May end up on the run from authorities - they head to the Olympics, where it becomes very obvious how William has been tinkering with humanity. And after William - who has also benefited from nanonite facilitated upgrades - pairs up with ex-federal agent Alice Johnson, the dialogue reminds me of Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, while the plot shares elements of John Scalzi's Old Man's War.

Though The Goliath Stone requires a more serious suspension of disbelief than the usual SF fare, hard core fans will enjoy the ongoing references to favorite authors (like Terry Pratchett) and their work, and anyone (especially women) can appreciate the societal satire here. The story ends with a flight 'up to orbit in a spaceplane to talk to the nanos.' And you have to love the ending, and the final quote.

The Goliath Stone doesn't take itself too seriously and neither should the reader. But it's tons of fun to follow, with some serious commentary on social ills underneath all the humor. Enjoy!

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