Saturn's Race 

2000-07Saturn NovelA Tor Book, published by Tom Doherty Associates, Inc., July 2000

0-812-58010-9Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

paper, Tor Saturn Collaboration, co-written with Steven Barnes
prequel to Achilles' Choice


Lenore Myles has her whole life ahead of her following her graduation, with career opportunities opening everywhere. Lenore's class' graduation party, held on the idyllic artificial floating islands which make up Xanadu, couldn't be in a better spot to secure future employment for the young and the gifted. Whilst on Xanadu, Lenore meets Chaz Kato III, a millionaire who has sponsored Lenore's education—and who has watched and adored her from afar for years. Chaz offers Lenore not only a lucrative employment package but a place in his life as well.

However, the bubble is set to burst (as it surely does in all such perfect settings). Lenore accidentally stumbles onto a plot which could change the destiny of mankind. Sickened by the knowledge, Lenore flees Xanadu at her earliest opportunity, but makes the mistake of succumbing to a artificially induced nap at an airport.

Chaz, realizing that Lenore has left under mysterious circumstances, tracks her down and wages an online war with an unknown assailant, just in time to save her life from the mysterious entity hiding behind the guise of the "Saturn" avatar.

As Lenore tries to recover from the attack on her mind—and fails—she finds that the two days that she spent on Xanadu have been wiped from her memory by the mysterious Saturn, whilst Chaz finds himself under greater and greater surveillance as he tries to determine what Lenore may have stumbled across..... all the while the sickening plan of the Xanadu Council is coming to fruition in the third world.

This story is an easy read and does quite a good job at portraying the worlds of the "haves" (Xanadu) and "have nots" (India). I can't really say more about this plan without spoiling the plot, but it does make you wonder what reaction the Fertility Board faced in the early days of Known Space.

I particularly enjoyed the underwater communities of Xanadu and its enhanced species, and would have liked to have seen a greater emphasis of the Dolphin characters in the story, even though the Dolphin communities and indeed the ending reminded me of the 70s movie "Day of the Dolphin". I wondered if these Dolphins were a fore-runner to the Dolphins of Known Space who discovered the Sea Statue—they had artificial hands too. For such a dramatic revelation in the final pages as to the identity of the mysterious "Saturn" would probably have been better leaving the ill-doer amongst the cetacean species—although my favourite line of the book (perhaps a slight nod on the authors' part to the recently departed Douglas Adams) was Barrister's answer to the meaning of life, "if you don't keep moving, you sink!"

As far as fitting into the universe framework, this story—a prequel of sorts to Achilles Choice—is actually set in the Dream Park Universe (if you count the throwaway paragraph about using Dream Park VR equipment).