Ringworld (Ringworld, #1)

By Larry Niven

Rating: 3 stars

On his 200th birthday Louis Wu is travelling the world, when he is intercepted by an alien who offers him the opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to travel to and explore an unknown destination and come back with the fastest stardrive in Known Space.

I felt like I should have liked this book more than I did. It had everything I love in this sort of novel: high concepts, mind-boggling scale and a deep mystery, but it just didn’t entirely come together for me. I did enjoy the book, just not quite as much as I would have expected. Maybe the writing was slightly flat, or maybe it was the characters or it could just have been me, but I didn’t engage as much as I wanted to.

The Ringworld itself is as mysterious and interesting as you would like, and you feel the disappointment of the explorers as they explore it and find that its civilisation has fallen. Louis’s realisation of what the mountain Fist-of-God is, and its use to escape from the Ringworld is ingenious but should have felt more of an event than it did.

The characters are interesting, especially Nessus, the Pierson’s Puppeteer who is the guiding light behind the mission and its (disputed) leader. This species is one I found particularly fascinating, although possibly a little caricatured. Although, in saying that, their ‘cowardice’ did lead to one of the undisputed highlights of the story: the Fleet of Worlds, which is almost more mind-boggling than the Ringworld itself!

The Puppeteers’ meddling in both human and kzinti genetics is also fascinating, especially the final result that is Teela Brown. Teela remains a cipher for me throughout the book but as we’re seeing the world through the eyes of Louis Wu, to whom she also remains a mystery, perhaps this isn’t surprising.

So definitely a worthwhile read and one full of good ideas, but it perhaps need another buffing to make it as shiny as it should have been.

Book details

ISBN: 9781857231694
Publisher: ORBIT
Year of publication: 1970

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