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Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven

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Submitted by James Barclay 
(Jul 23, 2007)

This book had a massive impact on me as I began to write my own novels. What it demonstrated for me included how to write action, tension and jaw-dropping moments of 'Oh God we're all going to die!' type stuff.

Makes me laugh reading reviews that blither on about betrayal and demand SF to reflect on man's destruction of his environment, blah, yawn etc.

Look, this is an action adventure. It does not pretend to expound any theory or hypothesis barring the one that involves 'if you kill the predator, who eats the prey?' it is great fun, it rips along at a huge pace and is breathlessly exciting, even after all these years.

A terrific read for those of us that want entertainment rather than an environmental lecture. Too many SF novels get lost in the technologies, worlds and theorems they are discussing and forget they should be telling a story. 'Legacy' does not forget.

Submitted by Hans Masing 
(Jul 10, 2007)

Contrary to previous reviewers statements, this novel holds up even nearly 10 years after it was written. "The Legacy of Heorot" is a tightly written novel in an environment where nature has the upper hand. The thread of this book is more about how the main human character, Cadmann Weyland, is forced to overcome adversity as other colonists deny his claims that they are in danger and that they have tipped the balance of the local ecology and that the local ecology is biting back.

I have revisited this book at least six or seven times over the past many years, and have also read the followup - "Children of Heorot", a well-executed follow-up. If you enjoy tight writing, Niven/Pournelle/Barnes styles, then this book is up there with their combined best.

Submitted by Piotr 
(Jan 19, 2006)

I love the way Niven and Co. disspels some antiquated and arrogant notions of humans required (or even being able) to "protect the nature." In this book Nature can protect itself, thank you very much, and when humans try to interfere with the natural order of things they almost pay the ultimate price. Somehow the recent ill-advised calls to "prevent global warming" come to mind, although another book deals with that subject. Finally, the greatest message of the book is - the survival of the fittest works even in space

Submitted by Brad Torgersen
(Sep 26, 2000)

Larry Niven is a science fiction master. Of that there is no question. And although some of his work with Pournelle has not been the greatest, "Legacy of Heorot" is a fast-paced and wrenching tale of man vs. nature that simply CANNOT be put down. Tree-huggers and nature nuts beware! Your contrived anthropomorphizing of the natural world has been convincingly shredded in this tense, delicious read.

"Legacy of Heorot" borrows much from many genres: techno thriller, horror, SF, wilderness, and blends them seamlessly and convincingly. On Tau Ceti Four, ten light-years from help, humanity has only its wits to help defend it from a native ecology that thinks of humans in only one mode: lunch. At first, the colonists are content to let down their guard. Their self-made kingdom of Camelot on the island of Avalon seems safe enough. But the coming of the Beast, a nightmarishly voracious and super-metabolic predator, smashes their smugness and forces them to confront an awful truth that civilization on Earth has long since glossed over: nature isn't cute and cuddly.

Far from it! Nature is hungry!! And if we don't beat it at its own game, we're toast! More or less.

In the process of having to defend their territory against the Grendel and its ilk, the colonists on Tau Ceti Four return to an earlier, more alive time, when men with tools carved civilization from the heart of the wild. Lead by Cadmann, an obsolete old soldier stranded in a society that had no need for soldiers--until the Grendels came--the Tau Ceti Four humans pit mind against muscle, wits against claws, in a battle to determine which higher life form is going to rule the planet.

It has been said that "Legacy of Heorot" is weak because it glorifies the destruction of the natural world. But nothing could be further from the truth. "Legacy of Heorot" is a naturalist's novel in the spirit of Jack London: wild, gorgeous frontier awaits the human adventure, with enticements and dangers aplenty. The colonists on Tau Ceti Four don't want to obliterate the world, just tame it a little. Certainly the colonists don't do to the Grendels what the Grendels have not already done to the colonists. And given the Grendels' natural disposition, domestication is problematic. In short, there is no good Grendel save for a dead Grendel. At least on Avalon. Elsewhere, on the mainland, Grendels still hold court. But on Avalon there shall be no more children eaten out of cradles.

If you're a fan of the 'Aliens' movies or 'Jurassic Park', you'll probably like this book. It's very much in tune with these films, and the whole man vs. nature conflict in general. Some Stephen King fans will admire it too, especially for the taught horror approach in some phases. All in all, it's a winner of a novel, and I suggest it 100% I have yet to read the sequel, called "Beowulf's Children/The Children of Heorot" but you can be sure I'm going to!

Thankyou, Larry Niven and Co. for another superb read. Old SF writers don't just get older, they get better too.

Submitted by Jeff Palermo
(Dec 09, 1999)

What Barnes, Niven and Pournelle have wrought with "Legacy" is nothing short of a betrayal of all that Science Fiction holds important.

Here we have a group of colonists who travel ten light years to Tau Ceti Four only to discover that they have built their first city amidst a carefully balanced ecology. When a part of this ecology attacks the camp, what do our heroes do? They take their much vaunted science and decide, rather than move to another part of the planet or attempt to coexist, to wipe the animals out! Then, when they discover that they have tipped the balance of the fragile ecology, they simply kill off thousands more! And Niven, Barnes and Pournelle seem oblivious to what they are writing about here! Why
are Cadmann and co. heroes? Because after messing up a virgin planet's ecology, they then commit mass genocide and kill thousands of alien lifeforms? Hooray for science used to kill and three cheers for mankind!

If this subject were being handled by a better class of writer, we might have had a thoughtful meditation on how man will repeatedly destroy any environment that threatens him, whether he can avoid it or not. By having the colonists shout out ridiculous phrases about man coming to conquer
and TC4 being their planet, the authors show that they have no idea of what they are espousing. Our heroes are heroes because of their ability to kill the "evil" grendels. Even Beowulf itself, from which the authors borrowed part of the title and the story, gives Grendel a moment of sympathy!

They should be ashamed of trumpeting out heroes who travel halfway across the galaxy to commit genocide without addressing it directly. From the tone of the novel, they seem to be celebrating it. Christopher Colombus is not dead, he's just vacationing on Tau Ceti Four. A shallow, irresponsible
adventure novel. What this has to do with SF I will never know.

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