Larry Niven
United States
Known Space
Publication Date

Protector is a science fiction novel by Larry Niven, set in his Known Space universe and with ties into numerous other books set in Known Space.

Plot summary Edit

This novel expands the story of the Pak Protectors which was begun in the 1967 short story The Adults (short story).

At the heart of this novel is the concept that Humans evolved from the juvenile stages of the Pak. Pak are a species with a distinct adult form ("protectors") that have immense strength and intelligence and enormously protective of younger Pak of their bloodline. Change to the protector stage is triggered by by consumption of the root of a particular plant called Tree-of-Life, which cannot be effectively cultivated on Earth. The species is described in greater detail below.

The novel is in two parts which are separated by 220 years.

The first half of the book deals with a Pak Protector named Phssthpok who travels from the Pak homeworld to our (Earth's) solar system looking for what remains of an old Pak colony. The word "old", in this context, means about 2.5 million years.

When he arrives he captures a man called Jack Brennan, a Belter, who becomes infected by Phssthpok's store of tree-of-life root and is transformed into the human variant of a Pak Protector. They land on Mars and Brennan kills Phssthpok and is rescued by two Humans, Nick Sohl and Lucas Garner, who had set out to meet the alien. Brennan tells his story to Sohl and Garner before heading for the outer solar system.

The second half of the book begins 220 years later and follows the story of a man called Roy Truesdale who has been abducted but has no memory of the event. While searching for his abductor, he befriends a Belter named Alice Jordan who helps him figure out that the man he is looking for is Jack Brennan. Truesdale and Jordan find Brennan in the outer solar system where Brennan has built an artificial world called Kobold.

Brennan has discovered that a Pak invasion fleet is headed towards human space and takes Truesdale to the Human colony called Home in order to divert attention from Earth. During their journey they battle with scout ships from the Pak fleet. When Brennan and Truesdale arrive at Home Truesdale realizes that Brennan plans to turn the entire colony into a Human Protector army to fight the Pak invaders.

Truesdale kills Brennan and lands on Home, but is himself infected with a mutated strain of the Tree-of-Life virus and transforms in the Human Protector. Upon his conversion, Truesdale immediately understands the need for Brennan's plan and breaks out of hospital - deliberately infecting the entire population of Home. The modified virus either kills or converts the remaining inhabitants, resulting in an army of childless protectors. Lacking any direct descendants to protect they "adopt" the whole of humanity and start preparing for battle with the Pak invasion fleet.

(It emerges that while in the outer solar system Brennan sent a large ice asteroid to crash into the planet Mars in order to raise the water content of its atmosphere. Water is lethal to the Martians' metabolism, and they are wiped out. This demonstrates the Pak Protectors' xenophobia and ruthlessness when protecting their descendants.)

The events which lead Brennan to this action are told in How the Heroes Die (short story) and At the Bottom of a Hole (short story), two 1966 short stories which were originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction and later in Inconstant Moon (collection).

See alsoEdit


The Pak Edit

An intelligent non-human race, see main article.

Origin of Humanity Edit

Two and a half million years ago, a group of Protectors hollowed out an asteroid, turned it into a ship, and set sail for the galactic arms. They eventually settle on Earth, but discover that the Tree-of-Life root would not grow because of a lack of Thallium Oxide on Earth. This mean that Breeders will not turn into Protectors, and anyway. Protectors die without the root. The Protectors spent their time building a laser strong enough to send a message for help back to the Pak homeworld. Eventually, the Breeders, known to us as Homo habilis, evolved into present-day forms, including Humans.

Phssthpok Edit

A Pak Protector, see main article.

Persephone Edit

According to this novel, Persephone is the tenth planet (when the novel was written Pluto was still considered to be a planet) of our solar system. The planet was actually proposed in the 1970s' to account for perturbations for the orbit of Neptune but here Niven gives it additional qualities such as retrograde motion, an orbit tilted 61 degrees to the ecliptic, and a mass slightly less than that of Saturn.

Kobold Edit

A small artificial world created by Jack Brennan, see main article.


External linksEdit

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