Perhaps the only thing, despite what the commercials say, that does look cool when you are smoking. This is a small circle of smoke created by carefully blowing smoke out using a time-tested method. (see: How to Blow Smoke Rings) The ultimate smoke ring is blowing one large one, and then a smaller one through the middle of the first.

And no, even though I have tried very hard, it is impossible to blow smoke letters like the tripped-out, hookah-smoking caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.

Larry Niven's 1988 sequel to The Integral Trees. * * 1/2.

This is the continuing saga of the characters from the last novel in their quest to survive their harsh environment, unfriendly tribes, empire-hungry elites, and what have you, as well as prize out the secret of their origin.

Although The Smoke Ring is a fascinating concept as a "world", and Niven does his usual bang-up job describing weird new cultures, this novel really does not live up to some of Niven's earlier work. Sigh -- perhaps it's just rising expectations on my part.

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