Wednesday, January 02, 2013

What A POD Peep Reads - The Gripping Hand and Outies

Title: The Gripping Hand
Title: Outies
Author: Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven
Author: J. R. Pournelle
Genre: SF
Genre: SF
Price: $6.35 (ebook)
Price: $2.65 (ebook) $14.03 (paperback
Publisher: Amazon Digital
Publisher: New Brooklyn Press
ISBN: 978-0615434148
Point of Sale: Amazon
Point of Sale: Amazon

I’ve long been a fan of Jerry Pournelle, but much of his work is out of print.  Fortunately, he decided to e-publish his backlist, and so I purchased his novel The Gripping Hand, which was a sequel to perhaps his most famous work, The Mote in God’s Eye.  Amazon being more than a big river in Brazil, they pointed out that his daughter Jennifer had written an authorized sequel to The Gripping Hand, entitled Outies.  In for a dime, in for a dollar I thought, and so I downloaded that ebook as well.

On a technical note, The Gripping Hand ebook is very much a self-published work.  The original (now out-of-print) novel had several maps and charts.  These are reproduced in the book, but they are very clearly just scans from a printed copy of the book.  I suspect that the ebook text is OCR, although well-edited, but it was still quite readable.  Outies, on the other hand, was created in 2011, and so is a full-fledged member of the ebook world. 

The books are true sequels of each other and The Mote in God’s Eye.  Basically, in Mote, elements of the Second Empire of Man discover aliens in the vicinity of the Coal Sack Nebula.  Pournelle postulates a red giant star, which when viewed from a certain set of stars makes the Coal Sack look like the eye of a hooded man.  The aliens appear to come from this Eye, using a lightsail powered by a green laser.  The green laser is seen as a “mote” in the Eye of God by some locals, resulting in the aliens being christened “moties.”

The aliens are the first encountered by man, and are seen as a giant threat to mankind.  Fortunately, humans are able to prevent the aliens from leaving their star system, although at great expense.  The Gripping Hand starts 25 year after the events of Mote.  Horace Bury, a wealthy merchant, has (not entirely voluntarily) dedicated his life to making sure the Moties don’t get out.  It seems that they have gotten out, which causes great alarm and activity and propels the events of the book.  Outies then takes place a year later, and wraps up the events of the second book.

It’s very difficult to follow the events of these two books unless you read all three in order, as they build very closely on one another.  To a certain extent, that’s a shame, and since Gripping Hand came out almost 20 years after Mote, this linkage resulted in Gripping Hand getting some bad reviews.  In fairness to the reviewers, Gripping Hand is simply less “novel” than Mote – after all, we’ve already discovered the aliens.

I found Outies much the better of the two books.  Jennifer Pournelle was involved in reconstruction in Iraq, and her experiences greatly informed the events of Outies.  In addition, the book frankly had a more coherent plot and a stronger ending.  Still, I found both books entertaining, and frankly you have to read all three to understand what’s going on.

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