Larry Niven
A Gift From Earth (1968)
Reviewed: 1998-12-25

The first interstellar ramscoop robots that traveled the stars to search out inhabitable worlds weren't picky. And the settlers who followed on their one-way trip didn't have any choice. The world of Mount Lookitthat is covered by a dense fog of poisonous gas. Only the series of plateaus at the summit of the humongous mountain that gave the planet its name is hospitable to human life. Three hundred years ago the Covenant of Planetfall established at gunpoint the basic order of society: The crew has absolute rule over the colonists, enforced by the Implementation police, with disassemblement for the organ banks as punishment for even trivial crimes.

Ramrobot #143 brings a gift from Earth to the colony, a gift that has the potential to upset the power balance with disastrous consequences. Matthew Keller is just a simple colonist, a miner. By sheer coincidence he is drawn into the struggle of a rebel group calling themselves the Sons of Earth, plotting to overthrow the crew's rule. And yet, Keller will prove pivotal to the future of Mount Lookitthat.

This is a small novel that adds to the rich tapestry of Niven's Known Space universe but otherwise has little going for it. The theme of the organ banks is dealt with more extensively in Flatlander. The storytelling is solid, in Niven's as usually pleasant style, never becoming remarkable. Niven can say a lot in few words, and sometimes the effect is striking. The credibility of the world-building is somewhat marred by the plot hinging on a psionic power. The story is a decidedly apolitical tale of a revolution, whose resolution is too smooth.

A minor book, of interest to fans of Niven's Known Space and quite ignorable otherwise.

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