The Pak were evidently Larry Niven's speculation on why old age is so crippling and the point of it. The concept is a lot of fun and is well developed; the thoughts and motivations of Pthssthpok (sic?) the Pak are worked out in entertaining detail, and the 2nd half of the book is basically how a battle might actually be fought in space with tools and weapons not much more sophisticated than we have now; it is horrifying, claustrophobic and wonderful! The characters are typically Niven; compassionate and smart enough to solve their problems in clever ways. This is one of my favorite books ever.
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