Here’s one for the hard science fiction lovers. Imagine a world created by making a ring of material around a sun. Gravity comes from the rotation of the ring, and night from platforms in a tighter orbit around the sun. Think of having three million times the space of Earth. That’s the Ringworld.
Two humans, a Kzin and a Pierson’s Puppeteer are sent to explore the mysterious Ringworld, which the Puppeteers have discovered, but as a determinedly cowardly race refuse to explore on their own. The Puppeteer with them, in fact, is considered insane by others of his own race.
Teela, the human female, can be a somewhat absurd character. She is exceptionally lucky, and it is for that which she was chosen for the mission. But this also makes her incredibly stupid about the danger. Of course, for her, it all works out in the end so it doesn’t matter so much that she doesn’t really understand the danger, pain (either emotional or physical), and so forth.
Honestly, in this case, I enjoyed the concepts of the book much more than the characters. I really didn’t sympathize any of them, although Nessus, the Puppeteer, was often interesting. Not only is the Ringworld well imagined, but so is protecting it from damage, what happens when it is damaged and how the Ringworld would appear to its inhabitants.
Taylor’s Ark is the story of Dr. Shona Taylor, who works for a giant corporation trying to solve the mysterious epidemics striking several colonies. She has some special helpers: an Abyssinian cat, some mice, rabbits, and a dog genetically altered to create vaccines.
In my mind, the biggest problem with this menagerie is that she does not use their abilities in this particular novel. The dog creates no vaccines, and the mice, which are supposed to be highly susceptible to disease, never catch anything. The one time they do any good is when she’s doing routine physicals for some asteroid miners, and the animals help to attract them in, as none of them can afford pets.
The Corporation is headed by some very ruthless men, and one orders a subordinate to ensure that Dr. Taylor joins the Corporation, despite her pregnancy and a new law coming up that will keep pregnant women and minor children from leaving the planet Mars, where she lives. This is done by causing her to miscarry. It’s quite the heartless scenario.
Overall, the story is a fair medical mystery science fiction novel. Yes, all that. I’ve read much better science fiction, however. I think I spent quite a bit of time waiting for one of the animals to be of more use than just a pet, however, and found that rather annoying. I may have to check out the later books in the series to see how they eventually get used.