Larry Niven
A World Out of Time (1976)
Reviewed: 2000-08-05

Corbell was a man of our time, dying of cancer when he had himself cryogenically suspended. Some two hundred years later he is returned to life. Science still can't restore a frozen corpse, but the mind it houses is transferred to the body of a criminal whose brain has been wiped. Corbell awakens in a world ruled by a totalitarian State that leaves him little choice about his future. Trained as a ramship pilot he is to go on a mission to carry terraforming probes to some nearby stars. On his way out of the solar system, Corbell unilaterally changes plans. Preserved by cold sleep and time dilatation at relativistic speeds, he takes a long trip and eventually returns to an unrecognizably changed solar system three million years in the future.

The bulk of the book deals with Corbell exploring a far future Earth that has become an alien world. Neither the idea nor the details of its execution are particularly original. Long-time Niven readers will find many familiar ideas and motifs. There are the ruins of a lost civilization, a quest for immortality, and many gadgets used elsewhere throughout Niven's work. The book feels a lot like Ringworld on a smaller scale. Some of the science is clearly bogus. There is no electrical activity in the brain at liquid nitrogen temperatures, and other than short term memory the mind is not electrically encoded. Niven's science of aging is laughably naïve.

Call it Ringworld Lite.

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