SF Classic: A World Out of Time, by Larry Niven... and Space/Time Challenge update!

Way back at the beginning of the year I joined Jemima Pett's SpaceTime Reading Challenge.


Jemima has been hosting the SpaceTime Reading Challenge for a few years now, and I keep signing up and then losing track. If you are a SF fan, like a little mind-bending time travel now and then, or just want to find out if you do, sign up and jump in. I recommend following jemimapett.com for ideas about what to read--I've gotten a lot of good tips from her reviews (and currently have two more SF books on my reading pile)!


  • You can read any book that is from the science fiction/time-travel genres. Any sub-genres are welcome as long as they incorporate one of these genres.  Non-fiction is not included in this challenge.
  • You don’t need a blog to participate but you do need a place to post your reviews (even one-liners) to link up. (blog, Goodreads, booklikes, shelfari, etc.)
  • Make a goal post and link it back to Jemima's page with your goal for this challenge.
  • Books need to be novellas or novels, although anthologies count if they meet the page guideline. (At least 100 pages +)
  • You may count books that you do not want to finish if you have read at least 25%, or 100 pages, whichever is MORE. If you have read enough to give a fair mini-review that’s fine.
  • Crossovers into other challenges are fine.
  • The Challenge runs from Jan. 1st to Dec. 31st.

The Targets

There are 4 levels to aim for (or achieve):

  • 5 books: Planet hopper
  • 10 books: Interstellar explorer
  • 20 books: Galactic navigator
  • 40 books: To Infinity and Beyond
I signed up for the Planet Hopper, and so far this is the first book I've completed for the challenge (I failed to meet my goal last year and vowed to read more SF this year...).


Title: A World Out of Time
Author: Larry Niven
Publication Info: Audio book, Blackstone, 2012. 8 hrs. Original hardcover, Henry Holt & Co, 1976. 214 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Blurb:
After more than two hundred years as a corpsicle, Jaybee Corbell awoke in someone else's body and under threat of instant annihilation if he made a wrong move while they were training him for a one-way mission to the stars.

But Corbell bided his time and made his own move. Once he was outbound, where the society that ruled Earth could not reach him, he headed his starship toward the galactic core, where the unimaginable energies of the universe wrenched the fabric of time and space and promised final escape from his captors.

Then he returned to an Earth eons older than the one he'd left, a planet that had had three million years to develop perils he had never dreamed of—perils that became nightmares that he had to escape ... somehow.

My Review:
Some classic SF ages well. Some doesn't. I would have to put this in the latter class, though on the whole I rather like Larry Niven's work. The writing style really shows the changes in our expectations for narrative voice and POV (this is pretty distant, IMO) since the 1970s, and the content felt truly messed up with regard to gender relations. I'd say there are some issues around what we might as well call race, as well.
Guys like Corbell make it clear where guys like Han Solo come from. Women in the book, on the other hand, are pretty much either objects for sex or being whose power is terrifying (or both; I found the ending particularly odious). 

That said, the premise of the book is interesting, and the manner in which it plays out is pure adventure-story. The science behind the changes in the Earth in 3 million years interests me, though (sorta spoiler alert) I think that there are some deep flaws regarding the movement of planets around the solar system. I'd have to talk to my geologist friends to get a good opinion on that.

My Recommendation:
I'm thinking there might be something to be said for more contemporary SF, though it's certainly not all to my taste. Murder mysteries seem to wear better over time.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of A World Out of Time from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”   

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2023
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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  1. Thanks for the boost! Yes, 70s scifi can be very tiring. I was never a big Niven fan, although I read Ringworld relatively recently. Even Anne McCaffrey's space stories suffer from the 'norms' of the time... I think the novellas often do better when reread. I'm dreading Stand on Zanzibar. Having decided to read it, I'm having second thoughts...

    1. It was always Niven's short stories I liked best. I think they were more character-driven than the novels, or than this novel, anyway. That would make them wear better. But the deep unconscious sexism of the period is painful to immerse oneself in, though maybe we need the reminder that it's not that far behind us, and we have to work to keep it from coming back.


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