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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Burning City

Copyright 2001 by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Mediocre (2/5)

I first read this in July 2001.

It is the world of Niven and Pournelle's "The Magic Goes Away". Magical power is gradually draining from the world and science is taking its place. As the magic goes away, with it go the gods and spirits, the spells and the enchantments. In the city of Tep Town, the god Yagen-Atep sleeps fitfully. While he slumbers no fire can burn indoors, but in the rare intervals when he awakens, fire can burn anywhere and a madness possesses the people of Tep Town so that they burn and pillage their own city.

Whandall Placehold is a child in the city. He's arguably privileged to be one of the "Lordkin". While the Lords of the city live their hidden lives in their protected enclave, the Lordkin rule the city taking what they need, when they need it from the other inhabitants.

Whandall is clearly an bright kid, and with the benefit of some unusual formative experiences, and the lessons he learns from them, slowly starts questioning his life and his future in the city.

We follow Whandall as he grows into a teenager and then, working with wizards, ducking and diving, dealing and fighting his way into a man of notoriety and substance.

Now a book based on the assumption of the existence of magic should be pure fantasy, but this is Niven and Pournelle, so there's a rationale and logic behind the magic. They convince you that there's some sort of scientific basis for it, and it's quite fun trying to figure out the rules.

This is a more powerful work than "The Magic Goes Away". I've been noticing recently how Niven and Pournelle's writing has improved over the years and it shows in this exciting and stimulating novel.

However, although this book is stronger and better written than Magic, Whandall does start to remind one a little too much of Heinlein's independent, highly intelligent, supremely competent, tough yet caring heroes, of which I've had just about my fill.

Loaded on the 3rd August 2001.
Cover of The Burning City
Cover art by Darrell K. Sweet

Reviews of other works by Jerry Pournelle:
High Justice
The Mercenary
King David's Spaceship
Exiles To Glory

Reviews of other works by Larry Niven:
A Gift From Earth
Neutron Star
Inconstant Moon
A Hole In Space
The Flight Of The Horse
Tales Of Known Space
A World Out Of Time
The Magic Goes Away
Convergent Series
The Patchwork Girl
The Ringworld Engineers
Ringworld's Children

Reviews of other works by Larry Niven and Brenda Cooper:
Building Harlequin's Moon

Reviews of other works by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle:
The Mote in God's Eye
Lucifer's Hammer
Oath Of Fealty
The Moat Around Murcheson's Eye
The Gripping Hand
Burning Tower

Reviews of other works by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes:
Dream Park
The Descent Of Anansi
The Barsoom Project
Achilles Choice
Saturn's Race

Reviews of other works by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn:
Fallen Angels

Reviews of other works by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes:
The Legacy Of Heorot
Beowolf's Children
The Dragons Of Heorot

Reviews of other works by Larry Niven, Poul Anderson and Dean Ing:
The Man-Kzin Wards

Reviews of other works with covers by Darrell K. Sweet:
Heechee Rendevous
A Talent For War