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When the SunSeeker leaves Earth, bound for the planet called “Glory,” its crew knows they will never see the Earth again. None of them can ever have imagined, however, what they will find along the way. A gargantuan object, with its own star nestled inside. BOWL OF HEAVEN. The bowl-shaped structure is following the same path as the SunSeeker, and it has a habitable area the size of millions of Earths. A landing party is sent to the surface, where they encounter some of the structure's inhabitants—wildly differing species, and not all of them friendly.
SF doyens Benford (Chiller) and Niven (the Ringworld series) collaborate on a strong SF series launch. Something goes wrong with Earth's SunSeeker space expedition, leaving the crew without enough fuel or supplies to reach their destination. Just as things get serious, they spot a curious phenomenon in space: an enormous bowl-shaped object, larger than any planet, cupping and half-encircling a star. Its inner surface is oddly Earth-like, and already inhabited. The Bird Folk watch the humans' every move, trying to decide whether to allow them to colonize or kill them all. Much of the book is written from the point of view of Memor, the Bird Folk representative assigned to study the humans; Benford and Niven helpfully give her a soap opera of primate behavior to observe, as Cliff loves Beth but sleeps with Irma because she's more convenient, and the various exploration teams bicker over leadership. While hardly groundbreaking, this is a solid work that will appeal to fans of classic hard SF.