In the novel Bowl of Heaven by Larry Niven and Gregory Benford, the editing is sloppy and there are many, many continuity errors. It's quite awful.
22% of reviewers on Amazon gave the book 1 star out of 5, so I'm not alone in having this opinion.

Have Niven or Benford ever commented on the editing or production of this book?

Some examples of editing and continuity problems:

  • A character is trapped on one side of a diamond wall, and then on the next page is suddenly through the wall. Problem solved. No explanation. A clear continuity error.
  • There are two different descriptions of the treatment of one person's serious injury, treated by two different people. Not a clever literary device, just a mistake, or two draft versions accidentally left in.
  • At one point the captain leaves the bridge and a page or less later leaves the bridge again.
  • Near the end of one chapter a comment is made that communications from Earth stopped 100 years ago. But a few chapters later we are treated to a page of discussion of the latest communication from Earth as if it were a routine event.
  • It was previously established that ship has been traveling for approximately 80 years. How then can they have lost contact 100 years ago?

There are plenty of other editing problems, like repetitions, redundant sentences, and things like that.

cover of Bowl of Heaven

  • 6
    The more general questions would be: What the heck went wrong with Bowl of Heaven?
    – Buzz
    Jun 6, 2018 at 1:15
  • 6
    I've contacted both authors via their official emails. Hopefully one/both will comment or respond
    – Valorum
    Dec 19, 2018 at 10:13
  • IIRC it was also never mentioned in the book covers or promotional copy that it was an incomplete story that ended smack in the middle of a sent. (Almost.) I didn't buy part two and I sure won't be buying Glorious.
    – davidbak
    Dec 19, 2018 at 23:57

1 Answer 1


I've been in touch with Larry Niven by email. I'm sure he won't mind me sharing that the book had several continuity errors simply because there were multiple errors in the first draft and that he and Benford simply didn't catch them all, I presume because of pressure to meet submission dates.

On the plus side, he seems confident that the upcoming sequel, Glorious has been given a thorough look-over by accomplished book editor Bob Gleason who he says caught a few that managed to get past the draft stage.

  • 1
    Are you at liberty to quote his e-mails? Dec 19, 2018 at 20:24
  • @Thunderforge - He didn't say I could quote him verbatim, so I've paraphrased, pending permission to share
    – Valorum
    Dec 19, 2018 at 20:32
  • @Thunderforge - That being said, it's pretty much all there.
    – Valorum
    Dec 19, 2018 at 20:32
  • Super, I thought it would be exactly that. I'm surprised they did a bunch of the editing themselves though. The authors I've been involved with usually seem to hand their manuscript on to professional editors who do a lot of work on it. Dec 19, 2018 at 21:05
  • 1
    Didn't "catch them all"? I'd hate to have seen the manuscript before they removed the errors they "caught". It was a write-only book glued together in a hurry. There's no evidence that either author actually read it as a "complete" work. I like Niven's work - all of it - except for this disaster. And the "science"?!?! And the timeline!?!? Niven is known for credible hard science fiction. I've been assuming he was a victim of identity theft and was embarrassed to admit it.
    – davidbak
    Dec 20, 2018 at 0:00

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