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    Review of THE GRIPPING HAND by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (see his website)

    Pocket Books, 1993

    Review by Jennifer Vilches

    In this sequel to The Mote in God's Eye (buy it), humans and the alien 'Moties' once again come into contact with dramatic results. The Empire of Man has a blockade to keep the Moties bottled up in their own system because the Moties are explosively expansive and would quickly overrun the Empire. Horace Bury, an Imperial Trader, and Kevin Renner, his pilot, travel through the Empire helping Naval Intelligence quell rebellion. But Bury and Renner, veterans from the first contact with the Moties, have another goal: to make sure that the Moties stay penned up in their system. When they find possible evidence that the Moties may escape, they pull all the strings they can find in order to visit the blockade. Events unfold quickly and they end up once more in the Mote system, trying to prevent a disaster. They have help of Chris and Glenda Ruth Blain, the two children of the first expedition's captain. The Blaine's have unique insight into the situation because they grew up around the only Moties allowed into the Empire.

    The tension is thick at times, and the space battles are well plotted. However, there are large stretches consisting of political intrigue and Motie history lessons that slow down the plot considerably. I think the sections are interspersed well enough to hold the reader's interest. Some of the plot twists were hard to follow, especially once the Moties are involved. However, considering the chaos involved during battles and throwing in completely alien thought patters, it's probably fair to have some confusion in the plot. The characters are engaging, but I found it a little annoying that some of them just drop out of the story at the end without resolutions.

    The Gripping Hand is definitely easier to read if you have the background found in The Mote in God's Eye. However, like most sequels, it doesn't live up to the promise of the first book. It's entertaining, but not destined to be a classic.

    See more reviews of novels by Larry Niven. See more reviews of novels by Jerry Pournelle.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 3/19/04

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