World of Ptavvs

World of Ptavvs

infobox Book |
name = World of Ptavvs
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of first edition (paperback)
author = Larry Niven
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series = Known Space Universe
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = Ballantine Books
release_date = 1966
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages = 188 pp
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"World of Ptavvs" is a science fiction novel by Larry Niven, first published in 1966 and set in his Known Space universe. It was Niven's first published novel and is based on a 1965 short story of the same name.

Plot summary

A reflective statue is found at the bottom of one of Earth’s oceans, having lain there for 1.5 billion years. Humans have recently developed a time-slowing field, and found that one such field cannot function within another. It is suspected that the "Sea Statue" is in fact a space traveler within a time field. Larry Greenberg, a telepath, agrees to participate in an experiment. A time-slowing field is generated around both Greenberg and the statue, shutting off the stasis field and revealing Kzanol, a living Thrint, a member of a telepathic race which once ruled the galaxy through mind control.

Eons ago, Kzanol's spaceship had suffered a catastrophic failure. It could still reach a Thrintun-controlled star system, but not safely decelerate. Kzanol aimed his ship at an uninhabited planet used to grow food, put on his spacesuit and turned on its emergency stasis field to survive the impact. The resident thrint overseer, living on the moon, would then be able to rescue him. However, Kzanol's timing was bad. While he was in stasis on the way to the planet, the slave races revolted against the Thrint. Facing extinction, the Thrint decided to take their enemies with them, constructing a telepathic amplifier powerful enough to command all sentient species in the galaxy to commit suicide, and set it to repeat for centuries. Every sentient being in the galaxy perished. The planet Kzanol crashed onto was Earth; after hundreds of millions of years, the yeast food mutated and evolved into, among other things, humans.

After his telepathic encounter with the Thrint, Greenberg is confused by having two sets of memories, his own and Kzanol's. He instinctively assumes he is the Thrint (as those memories remember reading thoughts of other species, second nature for the Thrint). Both Greenberg (or Kzanol-Greenberg) and the real Kzanol steal spaceships and race to reclaim the remains of Kzanol’s ship on Pluto, which contains a thought-amplifying machine (in another stasis field) that is powerful enough to enable him control every thinking being in the Solar System.

A major element of the story is the Cold War existing between Earth and the Asteroid Belt "Belters," which threatens to burst into a highly destructive war over control of the same device.

Eventually Greenberg's personality reasserts itself and, armed with the knowledge of how to resist the Power, Greenberg traps Kzanol again in a stasis field.


*The Thrintun had been mentioned in the earlier Known Space story "The Handicapped". "World of Ptavvs" reveals a number of new aspects to them, including that they were not a particularly intelligent species and only built their empire through the control of more intelligent species.
*A Ptavv is a Thrint who lacks telepathic powers. Thrintun consider it a matter of great shame to have a Ptavv in their family and usually tattoo them pink and sell them as slaves.
*Bandersnatchi are enormous intelligent creatures, consisting of one gigantic cell, and resembling a mountain-sized white slug. They were supposedly created as food animals for, and were found delectable by, the Thrint, but were actually spies for their designers, the Tnuctipun, a highly intelligent slave species that led the revolt against the Thrintun. Only the Bandersnatchi survived the war, as they were specially designed to be immune to Thrintun mind control. Humans encountered the Bandersnatchi when they colonized the planet Jinx, and were able to deduce that they were intelligent.
*Larry Greenberg, the protagonist of "World of Ptavvs," had volunteered to emigrate with his wife to Jinx to help the colonists communicate with the Bandersnatchi.

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