Beowulf’s Children by Larry Niven
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Reading Beowulf’s Children I found my self equal parts absorbed and frustrated. I enjoyed the setting, no, I loved the setting – a beautifully constructed world that the inhabitants were struggling to understand and live in, with lifeforms that struck the right chord between alien and believable. Where I struggled was with the protagonists. More specifically the protagonists’ages. Here we have a community where 16 and 17 year-old’s have a genuine say in the politics and governance of the community, take younger children away for extended trips in the dangerous wilderness and are concerned with their careers as biologists, scientists and artists. At the same time this maturity is juxtaposed with their constant desire for sex, playing practical jokes and breaking free from the control of the adults of their world. It just did not sit comfortably with me. Whenever the characters were talking about “examining the specimen” or “organising a hunt” I would read it, accept it and then remember that they are 16 and complaining moments before that the adults are too stayed and controlling. It continually dragged me out of the fiction. I don’t know why it was such a problem for me. Perhaps it says more about me and what I believe young people are capable of, then it does about the novel. The “youth must break free” themes / message just feels inconcruous with the freedom the characters / society have and I found it hard to believe. I was going to rate this novel 2-stars, but the beautifully constructed environment gave it a bump to 3-stars.