This is another science fiction novel set in Known Space. It takes place in a fleet of Puppeteer worlds, this novel delves deeper into the Puppeteer society and psychology than any previous novel, at least that I’ve read.
The story involves a small band of Humans among the Puppeteers who take on the risky tasks that the Puppeteers shun. They uncover a dark secret that the Puppeteers have kept, and wonder where that information will lead.
Although the story is interesting, it has a different feel from the other stories set in Known Space. It is darker. It shows a darker side of Puppeteer involvement in Human affairs, although this has been suggested, it is now part of the story.
Some of the characters seemed poorly developed. A relationship developed between two main Humans, Kirsten and Omar. Although Kirsten had rebuffed Omar’s advances, there wasn’t an adequate explanation of her change of heart. Other than that, there wasn’t really any character development. There were social changes at the end of the story, but the characters didn’t seem to change.
Although I did enjoy the story, I feel that the character flaws will keep me from recommending it. There isn’t much character development in Niven’s stories in general, and the stories are good. Perhaps the co-author introduced them, but they are inadequate and I feel they detract from the story due to their inadequacy.