Review: Glorious (Bowl of Heaven #3) by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven

Rating: 8.5/10


Audacious astronauts encounter bizarre, sometimes deadly life forms, and strange, exotic, cosmic phenomena, including miniature black holes, dense fields of interstellar plasma, powerful gravity-emitters, and spectacularly massive space-based, alien-built labyrinths.

Tasked with exploring this brave, new, highly dangerous world, they must also deal with their own personal triumphs and conflicts.


Glorious is the third and final book in the Bowl of Heaven series by authors Gregory Benford and Larry Niven. This story picks up with the crew of the SunSeeker headed to Glory with the Bowl of Heaven trailing behind. The draw of this book is that the reader finally gets to see Beth, Cliff, Redwing, et al, follow through on their mission to explore the planet Glory and the planetary system to which it belongs. We spend two whole books in the Bowl, and there is a lot of excitement surrounding the final leg of this trip. It promises to have plenty of surprises and strangeness in store for readers.

And Glorious certainly delivers on those promises, and more. The authors go to great lengths to describe a world so different from ours at times that it is almost unimaginable; yet, in other ways it is very similar to Earth. The species and landscapes are varied and odd, the writing so deep and descriptive that it is easy to get lost in the imagery. That is almost what it sounds like the authors were doing: sitting back and letting their imaginations run wild. As a reader, when I see an author put so much into the book – time and energy; when I can tell they let themselves go it becomes easy to become a part of their world. That is what it has been like to experience this series, and I have really enjoyed that feeling.

Another aspect of this book (and series, overall) is the science. Sciences, I should say. Geography, geology, psychology, sociology, astronomy, physics, particle physics, archaeology. Name a word that ends in “-ology”, and this book at least touches on it. This whole series has been one big exercise in world building (in a lot of ways), which has been a lot of fun to follow. One of my favorite aspects of fantasy stories is the world building, and to bring that into a sci-fi book like this adds another dimension to an already intriguing plot makes it that much more interesting. I have a lot of admiration for much of the writing in this series.

If I could do one thing different with this book, I would add a little more action to the end. I liked the end a lot, and the way things tie up was fitting – but some more action scenes would have balanced the story out a little. This is more of an afterthought than anything, so I do not think it detracted too much for me along the way.

Glorious is a good ending to a very good series. The story was fun and interesting, and it was really thought-provoking along the way. I comp this series to Star Trek (due to the classical, episodic-feeling nature of the writing and story) meets Falling Skies (the TV show starring Noah Wyle for the it portrays human nature vs alien nature). I recommend it for fans of sci-fi.

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