Fragment(s): Monday Maps and Diagrams (Science Fiction) 1/21/19 — Larry Niven’s The Integral Trees (1984)

Monday Maps and Diagrams 1/21/19

Larry Niven’s output often revolves around “hard” (and often scientifically impossible–*cough* Ringworld) SF premises. The Integral Trees (serialized 1983) is no different. The action in this Nebula and Hugo Award-nominated novel takes place within a “gas torus, a ring of air around a neutron star.” In my Larry Niven period (late teens) I’m convinced I read this one — and possibly its sequel The Smoke Ring (1987), but I remember little. Same thing goes for Ringworld, which, other than its basic premise, was incredibly bland….

As with last week’s installment, Shelly Shapiro created the interior diagram.

The Diagram (click to enlarge):

Citation: His-res scan of my personal copy of the diagram from the 1st Del Rey/Ballantine edition of Larry Niven’s The Integral Trees (1984). [click to enlarge]

(Michael Whelan’s art for the 1st edition)

Series blurb: In my informal Monday Maps and Diagrams series, I showcase scans of SF maps and diagrams from my personal collection. As a kid I was primarily a fantasy reader and I judged books on the quality of their maps. When my reading interests shifted to science fiction, for years I still excitedly peeked at the first few pages… there could be a map!

Related Links:

Monday Maps and Diagrams 1/14/19

Monday Maps and Diagrams 12/24/18

Monday Maps and Diagrams 12/17/18

Monday Maps and Diagrams 12/10/18

Monday Maps and Diagrams 11/26/18

Monday Maps and Diagrams 12/3/18

For a more detailed article on the visual and graphic elements of SF consult Charts, Diagrams, and Tables in Science Fiction.

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

For additional articles consult the INDEX

6 thoughts on “Fragment(s): Monday Maps and Diagrams (Science Fiction) 1/21/19 — Larry Niven’s The Integral Trees (1984)”

  1. Thank you for these! 🙂

    Integral Trees was written in Niven’s “transitional” period, that is after he was good and before he was unreadable. Perhaps he’s had a subsequent revival period.

    It was an okay book and a cool cover, nicely depicting someone raised under micogravity. I remember buying The Smoke Ring as soon as it came out (1987, at least in paperback), and being HORRIBLY disappointed.

    I own two copies of Ringworld — the original (where the Earth rotates backward), the Ballantine edition with the picture of the Puppeteer on it. It is not my favorite Niven book.

    1. I’ve not read Niven in a long long while…. I feel like, in the spirit of this blog, I should go back and read a few of his short story collections from early in his career. Perhaps that will wash away the horror of Ringworld Throne that is still seared in my mind.

      I do not think I read or purchased the sequel….

      Thanks for the visit.

  2. I love this diagram because it’s a great use of abstraction and also deeply inessential. I can’t imagine myself flipping back to the front to refer to it to help clarify the action in my mind, which is intended not as a slam on either Niven or Shapiro. The whole power of the conceit of the book is that it’s something that’s hard for flatlanders to visualize (perhaps Niven was trying to top his previous efforts with the Ringworld?), a problem I also encountered with Williamson and Pohl’s Wall Around a Star and other Big Dumb Exotic Object novels from that era. Curiously enough, I didn’t have that problem with Greg Bear’s Eon and Eternity, and I didn’t need a map for either of those, but that’s probably because Bear is a gifted writer of place and also because huge honking chunks of the text are devoted both to describing the interior of The Way and also various characters’ traversal of it.

    I remember seeing a tiny image of this cover in the SFBC ads in the back of Asimov’s and being intrigued by the also abstract, or vague if you’re feeling uncharitable, title. Either Niven or his editor were fantastic at naming his stories (especially when he was working with Jerry Pournelle), and this is an especially fine example. I remember people not being super enthusiastic about it in reviews, and I’d just churned through Footfall (which, funnily enough, my mom gave me for Easter the year it came out) after devouring Lucifer’s Hammer and The Mote in God’s Eye, so I sorta felt like I’d had enough late-period Niven (even at the time I was no fan of Jerry Pournelle’s politics, but I loved his column for Byte magazine, and he injected enough pulp energy into his collaborations with Niven that I generally thought those books were at least more fun than Niven alone).

    I don’t really feel like there was a middle and late period for Niven, more that he had periods of waxing and waning attention to his craft. The earlier Known Space novellas and short stories are definitely his sharpest work, but even up until now, there are times when he gets invested in what he’s working on and the results are at the very least entertaining. The original Ringworld is long on sensawunda and short on characterization and story, and the general consensus is that the various successor novels are turgid garbage, but I found them to be an improvement in many respect. The same goes for Protector and its successors, and I have a soft spot for the deeply Californian leisure-suited swinger future of the Gil Hamilton stories.

    Also, yeah, I just straight up ignore anybody who claims that Niven, Benford, Forward, et al were somehow more “rigorous” in their extrapolation and “””hard science””” than the socialists and sociologists of the New Wave. That was always more marketing and culture war than reality, and Niven pretty much completely gives the lie to it as a real thing when he introduced the “luck gene” (which I cannot say without rolling my eyes) to Known Space. I mean, if he meant it as a metaphor for privilege and a critique of meritocracy, that’d be one thing, buuuuuuuuuuuuuuut……..

    Have you read Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding yet? I think it’s probably right in your (and mporcius’s) wheelhouse, although… enough people have now told L Ron Hubbard’s story. Anyway, it does a good job of showing how the supposed split between hard sf and the other kinds was fueled by John Campbell’s personal predilections, and a lot earlier than I would have guessed. It’s a weird book when the person who comes out of the whole thing looking best is Robert Heinlein.

    1. I have not read Alec Nevala-Lee’s Astounding. The topic is somewhat earlier than what I focus on…. I should read it — I find it hard to read Hubbard, Heinlein, and the stories in the magazine from its earliest days. But, I suspect the monograph is a fascinating look at early SF!

      Speaking of big dumb object SF, have you read what might be my absolute favorite of the subgenre, James White’s All Judgement Fled? Highly recommended.

      My view of Ringworld decreased when I read the sequels. The first volume managed to hold my interest, I found the premise exciting, the plot relatively engaging but I’ve forgotten it in the last decade…. But the sequels, oh my goodness, they are awful. I quit reading “later stage” Niven after Ringworld Throne (possible the worst SF novel I’ve read).

  3. I quite liked The Integral Trees when it came out but, yes, the sequel was pretty poor!
    Similarly, I liked Ringworld when I first read it but barely managed to the end of the first sequel.
    I did read a 2-volume manga version of Ringworld last year and thought the plot (and the luck gene) was very ropey. I’ve read various other Niven or Niven/Pournelle books but none of them have stood the test of time with me and they’ve all been culled some time ago – except a collectable little promotional pamphlet of a few pages from Lucifer’s Hammer I got before it came out. 🙂

    It may not fit your preferred time period, but if you want a novel about trees in space, I recommend Donald Moffitt’s Children of the Comet. It features Dyson Trees and also space travel with extreme time dilation. It was published after his death in 2015 but written some yers earlier…

    Dyson Tree
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_tree

    1. For an author so fascinating by “hard SF,” I found the “luck gene” parts of the narrative absolutely ridiculous and strange….

      Thank you for the link about Dyson Trees. Seems intriguing, but definitely not something I’m interested in reading at the moment.

Comment! Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.