Ringworld

Monday, April 29, 2013


Ringworld
Larry Niven, 1970

Hugo Winner - 1971

Premise: Louis Wu is bored on his 200th birthday. He's seen and done a lot in his long life. Now, however, he's bored, so when an alien named Nessus from the reclusive species known as puppeteers asks him to come on an expedition past the edge of known space, he quickly decides to go. Louis, Nessus, a Kzin called Speaker and a girl who Louis met at his party will comprise the team to explore the anomaly spotted on long range scans, the anomaly called the Ringworld.

Ringworld is not really about the Ringworld. I mean, yes, about half of it takes place there, and it is the iconic idea that lasted in the sci-fi consciousness and made the book famous. However, the book is really about the four main characters and how they reflect 'futuristic' and/or alien ideas about life, love, sex, destiny and humanity. You can find out nearly everything you need to know about the Ringworld by reading the back of the book, though.

The descriptions of the Ringworld are great, and some of the adventures that the characters have getting there and on the Ringworld are interesting. On the other hand, I have somewhat mixed feelings about some of the characters. The conflicts are interesting, and following Louis as he pieces together Nessus and Speaker's secrets was enjoyable.

Teela is brought on the expedition because Nessus believes that she is lucky. She is a frustrating character, because her apparent incompetence and naivete is necessary for her plot arc. It all makes a certain amount of sense by the end, her resolution is either the most satisfying or the most frustrating, and getting there is annoying.

Between her and Prill (the only other major supporting female character) I am left with the sense that in the world of this book women are as much an alien species as kzinti or puppeteers, if not more so. As a female-type person, I find that frustrating unless it's extremely well handled. It's not enough to make me wholly dislike the book, but it was a repeated annoyance. There is one piece of extremely problematic narration that caught me off guard late in the book that I found actually quite offensive, though.

Still, there were a lot of intriguing moments here, and I enjoyed the setting overall.

3 Stars - A Good Book, with some issues.

List of Hugo Winners

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