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.
Ringworld by Larry Niven (Ringworld, #1)
Ballantine Books, 1970 | Buy the book