Niven had a few things to say in The Magic Goes Away, and said them, so I’m always surprised when I see another story set in that world. But they’re generally good, and seem to be a way for him to have a bit of authorial fun. As is usual with Niven and Pournelle book, this possibly better than anything else set there; it’s a little hard to judge because it’s longer and a more involved story than any of the others I’ve seen.

However, the first half of the book is a very slow burn. While much of it is important, one way or another, to the rest of the book, I found watching Whandall grow up a bit wearing on my patience, and which that it had been cut down a little. The rest of the book somewhat surprisingly breaks into two very uneven sections. The first (technically part of part 1, but it has more of the feel of the rest of the book) deals with having gotten out of the confines of proto-Los Angeles and is more of an adventure in spirit. Once the plot is really moving, the book suddenly skips twenty-two years, to where Whandall is established with his own family when events finally circle back to the first part of the book.

Yes, part of the idea behind this book is that it deals with the area of Los Angeles in the prehistoric time of The Magic Goes Away universe, with the rest of the book happening in the central valley. There’s a number of references to the modern area (the La Brea Tar Pits are naturally a major location in the story), some of which I probably don’t get because I’m not that familiar with the area. (And some are no doubt in-jokes; I have a feeling that Condigeo is a reference to Con Diego, a spectacularly unsuccessful convention attached to San Diego Comic Con at one point.)

Despite my grousing at the pacing, overall this is another good Niven and Pournelle book, and as with the majority of them, well worth reading. Despite the physical setting, most of the attention is on the various societies involved in the area, and the interactions between them as well as personally shifting from one to another.