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The Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven
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The Legacy of Heorot

by Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, Jerry Pournelle

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Heorot (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
An enjoyable guesstimate of colonizing an alien world where life forms already exist including one super predator nick-named a grendel after the famous epic Beowulf. The struggle between the colonists and the grendels is some excellent science fiction horror/action with a detailed ecosystem as to why the grendels are so terrifying. The background setting of how the colony was established and how it operated is well thought out. No FTL, the mission involves the colonists in deep-freeze hibernation and a one-way trip. In other words, survive on the new world or die. There are no other options. Based on the first half of this book, my leaning was for a 5 star review as it is well written, with unique characters. Only mildly disappointing was the highly predictable crisis that leads to the novel's climax. I knew almost from the start what was coming but was willing to wait and see how it played out. What followed is what I consider a soft landing at the end. Still, all in all, this was an enjoyable novel and worth reading.

If you've read this far and don't want a spoiler, stop here.

The concept of the samlon (the local fish) turning into grendels was terribly predictable. How the authors could have better hidden that fact may have been impossible, but the existence of other fish might have helped. As to the ending, the fact the grendels simply stop attacking the humans when the entire novel showed them as having an insatiable hunger was weak. If I had written this novel I would have gone for an ending that the authors had totally set up but didn't use. The grendels are like frogs and the samlons are like tadpoles. After the final battle where the grendel horde is beaten back, a more fitting ending would be no more samlon as the catfish introduced into the ecosystem by the colonists ate all the eggs. It would have worked better than, all of a sudden, the grendels becoming meek. ( )
  MichaelDrakich | Nov 19, 2018 |
A colony on Tau Ceti Four seems like its found Nirvana but one man isn't so sure. He warns the others not to become complacent about dangers but they ignore him. Then, when a monster appears, he leads them into battle against it. But worse is yet to come. Not my favourite Niven work but exciting. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 17, 2017 |
The colonists disagree amongst themselves as they adapt to a new world that becomes more and more dangerous. Heorot was Hrothgar's hall, which Beowolf saved from Grendel. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Spectacular, thrilling read that excells in alien psychology. ( )
  orderflow | Jun 13, 2011 |
The Legacy of Heorot is at its core a science fiction version of Beowulf. The first extra-solar human colony lands on a relatively small island that the inhabitants call Avalon. They find no large fauna, certainly no large dangerous fauna, and the colonists begin to become lax in their security procedures. Cadmann, the lone military/security specialist in the expedition, warns against letting their guard down, but the other colonists mostly ignore him.

Of course, it turns out that Cadmann is right, and the foolish pacifist colonists are wrong. A native predator shows up with the ability to move at terrifying speed and kills a couple of the colonists. The creature is quickly dubbed a "grendel" (to make the parallel more explicit). Under Cadmann's direction, the colonists kill the intruder and eventually root out the remaining grendels on the island, although the foolish colonists ignore Cadmann's advice a couple times, leading to further loss of life.

Killing off the grendels turns out to have been a huge mistake, and due to a life-cycle quirk (that the colonists, being supposedly crack scientists, should have figured out sooner), the colony is beset with thousands of grendels. Cadmann defends the colony, and all is well. The outcome is never truly in doubt, as Cadmann says, the grendels are basically nothing more than animals. Really fast and strong animals certainly, but nothing more than that.

The book seems somewhat disjointed at times, which one might expect from a work resulting from the collaboration between three authors. Some characters seem to forget pieces of information they learned earlier in the book, and some reasonably obvious connections between data are not made for prolonged periods of time. The book makes some attempt to explain this with "hibernation instability", but this seems like an incomplete answer at most, as the information and connections in question should have pretty quickly been linked up by someone of even merely average intelligence.

One side note, at one point the characters state that the follow-up expedition has been "Proxmired" (in other words, cancelled). This is part of a long-running feud that Niven and Pournelle (and many other science fiction authors) have had with former Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire (now deceased), criticizing him for opposing what they considered to be valuable scientific research and funding for the space program in order to (they allege) make sure there was enough money to fund agricultural studies. I tend to agree with Niven and Pournelle on this, but they use the name "Proxmire" in the middle of this book without any explanation, which probably will confuse some readers.

It is a decent book, and an enjoyable take on the Beowulf myth, but not really anything more than that.

This review has also been posted to my blog Dreaming About Other Worlds. ( )
1 vote StormRaven | Dec 29, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Larry Nivenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Barnes, Stevenmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Pournelle, Jerrymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Barnard, BrynCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pieretti, AntonellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pracher, RichardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thijssen, FelixTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walser, AlexisMapssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Jack Cohen is one of the world's experts on fertility and reproduction. He is also a rabid science fiction fan who - inspired by his knowledge of the queerer forms of earthly life - constantly generates new concepts for aliens. He tends to give his aliens away to whatever science fiction writer is standing nearest.

He was at Larry Niven's house when he described an African frog with nasty habits.

It's been a  long time, Jack. Thanks for waiting.
First words
'Cadzie! ...'
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The virtues of the warrior, since ancient times: Protection of the Innocent, Courage in Battle. The greatest of them was Loyalty to the King.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Light years from Earth, 'the pinnacle of mankind's genius is reached:
two hundred men and women carve an idyliic, self-sufficent colony out of the vast planet Tau Ceti Four.
Among the biologists, genetic engineers and farmers is one man who urges caution - Colonel Cadmann Weyland, a warrior among strangers...

They ignore his warnings and tear down his defenses -until a monster of lightening speed and awesome brutality threatens to destroy their peaceful, fragile world. Now Weyland leads the colonists  into a deadly, desperate battle that is only the beginning of Tau Ceti Four's nightmare...
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Bestselling science fiction superstars Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle combine their talents with those of Steven Barnes in an extraordinary adventure of humankind's first outpost in the farthest reaches of space. Light years from Earth, colonists land on a planet they name Avalon. It seems like a paradise-until native creatures savagely attack. It will take every bit of intelligence, courage, and military-style discipline to survive.… (more)

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