The collection Neutron Star contains some of Larry Niven's best stories, including the
Hugo winner "Neutron Star". It also contains the stories you'll need to read to get the most out of reading
Niven's most celebrated work, Ringworld.
Spoiler Alert: Do not start with the Crashlander collection!
Other websites may suggest you start with Crashlander. Here is why you should start with Neutron Star rather than Crashlander:
Crashlander contains plot spoilers for Ringworld.
Neutron Star includes "The Soft Weapon", which introduces Nessus, one of the main characters in Ringworld.
Crashlander doesn't have that story.
Crashlander contains major plot spoilers for Ringworld.
Neutron Star includes "A Relic of the Empire", which also has some background on the Puppeteers, who are a very important
part of Ringworld. Crashlander doesn't have that story, either.
Did we mention Crashlander contains major plot spoilers for Ringworld?
All of Crashlander's stories have the same central character: Beowulf Shaeffer. While most of these stories are among Larry Niven's finest, it gives a rather
narrow view of Known Space. Half of the stories in Neutron Star concern other characters and situations, which will give you a broader background.
Sadly, Neutron Star is out of print, so most likely you can't buy it at your local bookstore. If for some reason you must start with
Crashlander, do yourself a great favor and just don't read the "Ghost" sections of the book (a framing "story" chock full of spoilers for earlier stories), and stop
after reading "The Borderland of Sol". Save "Ghost" and "Procrustes" until after you've read Ringworld. You'll be glad you did!
After you've read up on the Known Space background in Neutron Star, you're ready to plunge into Larry Niven's most famous work:
, one of the very few novels ever to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards. This novel is continuously in
print, so you should have no problem finding a copy.
It's not really necessary to read the Neutron Star collection before Ringworld. The latter was the first story by Larry Niven that Ye Editor
ever read, and it stands all right on its own. But starting with the earlier stories will let you get more out of Ringworld, and enhance your reading pleasure.
Third: Protector and Three Books of Known Space
After finishing Ringworld, you may be tempted to continue with its Hugo-nominated sequel, The Ringworld Engineers. Trust us on this: You will want to read Protector first. We can't say more without spoiling the plot.
Some fans even prefer one or another of Niven's early novels to Ringworld. Be sure to read World of Ptavvs, Niven's first novel and of major importance to the Known Space background. That novel is included in the omnibus Three Books of Known Space, along with another early novel, A Gift From Earth, and quite a few Known Space short stories.
You'll also want a copy of Crashlander to read after you've finished Ringworld. This contains the Hugo winning Beowulf Shaeffer story "The Borderland of Sol", along with a couple of newer stories not found in the earlier Neutron Star collection.
The latest Known Space novels, co-authored with Edward M. Lerner, are
Fleet of Worlds,
Juggler of Worlds
and Destroyer of Worlds.
Fleet is a welcome and enjoyable addition to the series. While the book stands alone perfectly well, we do recommend
you first read the Beowulf Shaeffer stories, including "The Borderland of Sol", and Ringworld, because the book contains
spoilers for those stories, and revisits many of the same events. The Beowulf Shaeffer stories can be found in either the
Neutron Star collection or the Crashlander collection. However, Neutron Star
does not contain "The Borderland of Sol"; that story can be found in Tales of Known Space, Playgrounds
of the Mind, and Crashlander.
Juggler of Worlds is a semi-sequel to Fleet of Worlds, and also revisits some of the Beowulf Shaeffer stories. Destroyer of Worlds continues the series-within-a-series, and is in part a sequel to Protector.
You can assemble a nearly complete collection of Known Space stories with the following books:
Three Books of Known Space
The Ringworld Engineers
The Ringworld Throne
Fleet of Worlds
Juggler of Worlds
Destroyer of Worlds
Yes, we did say nearly complete. To find out what you'll still be missing, and where to find a few remaining (or comparatively new) stories, as well as some
other odds and ends, be sure to check out the Bibliography section.