The Goliath Stone by Larry Niven & Matthew Harrington (book review).

‘The Goliath Stone’ by Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington is standalone novel set between 2026 and 2052.

Toby Glyer as a child, learnt about the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. He had nightmares for a month afterwards. Then he decided he would do something about it when he grew up.

And he did! He led the team that designed and built an asteroid killer spacecraft. It is not the typical take a bomb or warhead up there to blow it up into smithereens or divert its course. Instead, the spacecraft converts most of its material into nanobots, which can then reconfigure themselves into telescopes or motors or whatever is required. It was designed to locate a potential killer asteroid, travel to it, eat some of it to convert into ejection material, attach a linear newly built linear motor and bring it into Earth orbit to be mined for minerals.

Only the nanobots did not behave quite as expected and, in 2051, the whole swarm of them and their equipment are on a collision course with Earth. Their combined mass is much more than the original asteroid the spacecraft was sent to retrieve.

Now the US Marshals want to arrest Toby for having put nanotech into space. Toby gets help from one of his ex-employees, the genius how developed the nano-technology and much more besides.

So begins this nano-opera. Well, it is not a space opera in the classic sense, especially as they make the nanotech do so many interesting things. It is also action thriller, romance, humorous and literary fiction as well. You definitely get a lot for your money.

It is worth reading ‘The Goliath Stone’ slowly, because it is densely packed with plot twists, laughs, super-action and literary references, particularly to famous Science Fiction novels. We have for example, ‘Bring your towel and put the fish in your ear’, being quoted from Douglas Adams. Blink and you will miss something interesting.

If it were not for the compactness, the style and some of the subjects covered is very reminiscent of the later Heinlein novels, but using modern thoughts on future technology.

If there is an issue to be had with this novel, it is one of the characters, Mycroft Yellowhorse, also known as William Connors, is a know-it-all and super-genius who gets Toby and his friends out of too many predicaments. If only he would stop talking in such a smug self-satisfied way when he is on page.

Nevertheless, the novel’s conclusion is nicely rounded and satisfying. ‘The Goliath Stone’ is fun, where most readers can indulge their favourite whim in Science Fiction.

Rosie Oliver

December 2020

(pub: TOR/Forge, 2013. 312 page hardback. Price: $24.99 (US), $28.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-3323-0)

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