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Publisher's Summary

In this first collaboration by science fiction masters Larry Niven (Ringworld) and Gregory Benford (Timescape), the limits of wonder are redrawn once again as a human expedition to another star system is jeopardized by an encounter with an astonishingly immense artifact in interstellar space: a bowl-shaped structure half-englobing a star, with a habitable area equivalent to many millions of Earths...and it’s on a direct path heading for the same system as the human ship.

A landing party is sent to investigate the Bowl, but when the explorers are separated - one group captured by the gigantic structure’s alien inhabitants, the other pursued across its strange and dangerous landscape - the mystery of the Bowl’s origins and purpose propel the human voyagers toward discoveries that will transform their understanding of their place in the universe.

©2012 Gregory Benford and Larry Niven (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.4 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    50
  • 4 Stars
    45
  • 3 Stars
    59
  • 2 Stars
    30
  • 1 Stars
    16

Performance

  • 3.8 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    53
  • 4 Stars
    69
  • 3 Stars
    36
  • 2 Stars
    13
  • 1 Stars
    8

Story

  • 3.3 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    43
  • 4 Stars
    36
  • 3 Stars
    51
  • 2 Stars
    30
  • 1 Stars
    17
Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Look up in the sky ... there's a bowl !?

(Reprised from my Goodreads review)

Scenario: There's a strange megastructure artifact in space, and some curious folk want to take a look-see. The premise, quite a well-traveled science fiction road, recalls favorites such as the ring of Larry Niven's Ringworld, the cylinder in Arthur Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama, the sphere in Bob Shaw's Orbitsville, the pipes in Alastair Reynolds's Pushing Ice, even the hole through the planet in Benford's own Furious Gulf.

The basic elements are the discovery, the trip, the entry, the exploration, the encounter with strange beings and the escape. Bowl of Heaven goes through discovery-trip-entry fairly quickly in the opening chapters, and here, the hard sf backgrounds of the authors certainly come to the fore and provide impetus for the story. Of course, one has to like hard sf to be able to tolerate all the physics references, otherwise this segment could be a chore. Then, the exploration-encounter phase sets in and this is where, perhaps, the story bogs down a bit.

Things pick up again as the aliens decide to focus in on the human escapees, and a hot pursuit begins. However, just as soon as the action picks up than the book ends. This is probably a publishing quirk, splitting a book into two, increasing margins and whatnot, but quite annoying. I would still take a look at the continuation of the series just for some form of resolution.

Recommended for fans of the genre and of these authors in particular. The style may be too stiff for many readers, like listening to a training manual. That does say a lot about my personal likes though.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

One word: poor

Would you try another book from Larry Niven and Gregory Benford and/or Zach Villa?

I am not inclined to

Would you ever listen to anything by Larry Niven and Gregory Benford again?

Again, not inclined

Which character – as performed by Zach Villa – was your favorite?

Not one but the performance is not the issue, the very weak, uninteresting and inconsistent characters are. Their contributions to the story are shallow and they resort to cheap antics (like "relief sex") where there's really no justification in the background story for it.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The fundamental idea of an inhabitable half dyson sphere with a surface equivalent to several large planets is tantalizing, to say the least. It is however very weakly explored and just focuses on a largely uninteresting Logan's run

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • LesPaul
  • Chatham, Ontario, Canada
  • 11-05-12

Nothing Happens... Nothing Happens... Its Over

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Maybe someone who lives in the future who already can read whatever the rest of the books in this series will be... but even then I wouldn't recommend it.

What could Larry Niven and Gregory Benford have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

If they made anything at all happen in the book at all... also they could have finished the book in some way.

Would you be willing to try another one of Zach Villa’s performances?

I usually don't pick books based on the narrator... but I think I would avoid this one. The voices for characters are either dull and monotone or an annoying stereotypical nerdy voice.

What character would you cut from Bowl of Heaven?

All of them... or none of them... it doesn't really matter none of them had any reasonable personality to them.

Any additional comments?

I was relatively enjoying myself with this book up until about the midway point.I decide that if the story picks up a bit it will likely be an interesting story... however instead of picking up it just switches back and forth between the two groups of humans and tells the same story from slightly different angles over and over for 6 hours. <br/><br/>Some reviewers are saying this book ends with a cliffhanger... which really isn't true... it simply ends without any rhyme or reason. It is like they ripped a full book arbitrarily in half and decided to just publish that.<br/><br/>This could very likely be the worst book I have gotten from Audible in the 5 years I have been a member.

13 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Boring.

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Maybe a robot.

Would you ever listen to anything by Larry Niven and Gregory Benford again?

Yes.

What didn’t you like about Zach Villa’s performance?

It wasn't bad, it wasn't good.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment.

Any additional comments?

There is really no plot here. Just describing science and technology. The characters are nothing more than a device to move from one bit of technology to another, so it can be described in utterly boring detail. That sort of stuff should be in the background to help the plot and characters out, not the other way around. <br/><br/>Sounds like there might be more books coming in the series. I won't be getting them.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Ringworld wearing a Beanycopter

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Someone who hasn't read Ringworld. This is a slight variant on the Ringworld, and most of the interesting issues about the big artifact are the same ones dealt with, much better, in that book. <br/><br/>The aliens here are new, and it looks like there might be interesting issues with them, but the book ends in the middle of the story before any of that gets going.<br/><br/>If you haven't read Ringworld, listen to that book instead of this one.

What could Larry Niven and Gregory Benford have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Put a whole story into this book, or provided some kind of resolution or payoff at the end of it. Or at least labelled this as only part of a story, so I would have known to avoid it. This is not the first book in a trilogy, because it is not a complete book in any sense. It ends at a seemingly random, insignificant point in the plot. <br/>

Any additional comments?

Niven and Benford, individually, are much better than this. Listen to just about any other of their books, but skip this one.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

The End Really Sucks

I have been reading Larry Niven for years, the end of this book is such a non conclusion, one wonders why I began reading it in the first place. Not your classic Niven

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Charles
  • Easley, SC, United States
  • 10-22-12

RIng world beat into a soup bowl

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The imagined odd arrangement of the Dyson Hemisphere was about as bad an idea as the 2D genetically confused and manipulated polychromatic Big-Bird Wanna-inhabitants. Genius of Ring-World was that the engineering problem solved was inadequate land reachable given C speed limit, limitless time and smarts, and 1 solar system mass equivalent.

What could Larry Niven and Gregory Benford have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

They should have storyboarded a plot rather than just waiting for the editors to blow the whistle and say OK qut and onto the next project.

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Don't waste your time!

Maybe this is one of those books that is better to read than listen to! I could not even finish the book! In my opinion save your credit for something better, I wish I had! I am going to ask for a refund!

6 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Maybe Worst Ever

What would have made Bowl of Heaven better?

Believable characters who behaved as professional adults in tough situations, instead of wide-eyed children on a lark.

What didn’t you like about Zach Villa’s performance?

More than a little over the top. Often laughable.

What character would you cut from Bowl of Heaven?

Cut them all and start over.

Any additional comments?

If you removed the random sex scenes you would have a passable (not good) story for 6-year-olds.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

greatness X 2 = outstanding + well read as well

2 great writers, epic scale story from 2 epic scale masters, outstanding scope, finely detailed aliens of many varieties, social structures, incredible technologies, all delivered with excellent narration. 5 stars is to low, this is a masterpiece IMHO

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
  • DENNIS
  • 04-13-13

RECOMENDED FOR NIVEN FANS

REMINISCENT OF NIVENS RINGWORLD BOOKS WITH SOME OBVIOUS BENFORD INFLUENCES.FAST PACED,WITH BELIEVABLE CENTRAL CHARACTERS,OBVIOUSLY THE FIRST BOOK OF A SERIES,THOROUGHLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK CAN'T WAIT FOR THE NEXT.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Bob Powell
  • 06-10-14

So disappointing

What would have made Bowl of Heaven better?

I wonder how Larry Niven's name ended up on this title. The intricacies and character quality of Niven's other works were in no way evident here. I see this as a cynical promotion of a poor ringworld-esque facsimile.<br/>Perhaps if Niven were actually a participating author?

Would you ever listen to anything by Larry Niven and Gregory Benford again?

Probably not. This was dire

Would you be willing to try another one of Zach Villa’s performances?

The characterisation was wooden and halting. I'll probably stay away.

What character would you cut from Bowl of Heaven?

The shipstar and the folk and the crew. Replace all that lot and you might have something.

Any additional comments?

I bought this because Larry Niven's name was on it. I don't feel as though his hand was in it.<br/>

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Stephen
  • 08-12-14

Showing its age

Would you try another book written by Larry Niven and Gregory Benford or narrated by Zach Villa?

Probably yes, but id need to be low on options. The narrator did his best and he did a good job, but the plot and characters didn't really give him much to work with.

Would you ever listen to anything by Larry Niven and Gregory Benford again?

Yes

Did Zach Villa do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

His use of inflection and tone was great, fleshing out your mental model of the character well

If this book were a film would you go see it?

No.