The Patchwork Girl, by Larry Niven

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The Patchwork Girl, by Larry Niven

Postby Omphalos » Wed May 05, 2010 11:58 pm


The Patchwork Girl by Larry Niven is a 1980s short-novel entry in the author's Known Space sequence. This three-pronged story is basically a murder mystery set on the moon, but it also delves quite deeply into the legal arena, both legislative and judicial. The novel is fairly typical for a Niven story; it is hard science fiction that deals with manufactured social issues - specifically Niven's organbank controversy - that handles its internal conflicts in a procedural, almost workmanlike manner, that shows a slightly liberal society with loose sexual mores, and that resolves unambiguously, and positively. My main reason for picking this story was because I am very interested in legal issues in speculative fiction. Take a look here for a legal analysis of this story. But there is definitely something about Larry Niven's stories that appeals to the younger, more innocent part of me. I think I have mentioned before that Larry Niven's Ringworld was the story that really got me interested in SF as a young man. This one particular story never really floated my boat, at least until I became interested in legal issues in SF. With that in mind, this story now has more interest for me than it ever did before...Please click here, or on the book cover above, to be taken to the complete review.

There is also a separate legal review of this story; see below:


In the ephemeral annals of legal-related SF, Larry Niven’s short novel The Patchwork Girl is a rare find indeed. Not only does it provide a Sherlock Holmes style murder mystery and police investigation/procedural, but it also deals with legislative approaches to the death penalty, and provides extended court-room trial scenes with cross examination of the defendant, witnesses and experts. It is everything that a legal themed piece of fiction should be and it is also SF. I have written a book review of the SF elements here. You should read that first to get the gist of the story, then come back here for the legal analysis. The legal issues are not of paramount importance here, but coupled with the criminal investigation they are the main vehicle by which Niven pushes the story along. The legal issues have to deal with fundamental fairness in the judicial system, particularly the processes by which society guarantees the rights of those accused of crimes, and the social utility of the death penalty. Niven does this through a three-pronged approach. One of those prongs is a legislative process, and another is a criminal trial. The third is detailed in the literary review that is linked above...Please click here, or on the book cover above, to be taken to the complete review..
Something is about to happen, Hal. Something wonderful!

-James C. Harwood, Science Fiction Writer, Straight (March 5, 1956 - May 25, 2010)

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