I keep telling myself I need to read more science-fiction, so I decided to make good on that, starting with a classic, Ringworld by Larry Niven. I haven’t read any books by Larry Niven before, although Ringworld is part of his Known Space book universe.
Ringworld is about an artificial world, 3 million miles across, that is built in the shape of a ring that spins around a sun (the concept is similar to a Dyson sphere.) Nessus, a Pierson’s puppeteer (a cowardly alien species with two heads) leads a motley crew on a top-secret mission to explore it. Louis Wu is a two hundred year old world-famous adventurer, Teela Brown is an extraordinarily lucky twenty year old girl (and Louis’s lover), and Speaker-to-Animals is a ferocious Kzinti diplomat.
The book starts off as an exciting adventure, I really enjoyed it up until the point where the expedition actually lands on the Ringworld (halfway through the book.) After that, it got a bit tedious, like Niven didn’t know what to do with his characters.
Some of the ideas mentioned and explored in this book are pretty interesting – I enjoyed the discussions about the different kinds of evolutions (what the puppeteer’s fight or flight response meant, for example) and how that led to different priorities for different species. I also liked the Ringworld itself, as well as the puppeteer’s home world. Teela’s “psychic luck” was also an interesting concept, although I found it implausible.
The characters are interesting to start off with, but like I said above, halfway into the book, they get pretty dull. I also found the descriptions of Louis Wu’s (constant) sex kind of awful (“she impaled herself” is an awful description.) Also, the writing felt a bit dated; I think our conceptions of space were very different in the 70s.
I probably would not have stuck through this book if it was not part of my 25 book challenge, but I’m glad I did because it’s a classic, and at least I’ve read it now! I probably won’t be reading the other books in the series soon, but maybe eventually.
This is book 11 of 25 of my Dec 11, 2011 book challenge.
- “Fannie’s Last Supper” by Christopher Kimball
- “New Spring” by Robert Jordan