Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ringworld: Review

I'm sorry Larry Niven, but what love I had for you (back in the 80s when I discovered science fiction) is rapidly disappearing. I read The Mote in God's Eye recently and wasn't nearly as thrilled with it as expected. I'm very tempted to go back and reread Lucifer's Hammer to see if it really is as good as I remember. I enjoyed that one when I read it. My memory tells me that it actually had a plot with a real story arc.

Ringworld doesn't really.  Oh, yes...there's a plot of sorts. Let's have Louis Wu,our hero, team up with a Pierson Puppeteer (a two-headed, three-legged, horse-like [?] creature with it's real brain in a camel-like hump on its back), a Kzin (a huge, war-like, cat-like alien), and a human woman, Teela Brown, whose main purpose seems to be to love [and make love to] Louis...until she doesn't any more, to serve as a "good-luck charm" for the expedition, and to, occasionally, offer some fairly good insight into rather complex ideas [Hey, look, the woman has a brain! Why isn't she allowed to use it all the time?], and send them off to investigate an unexplored area of the universe in the hopes of finding a safe place for all the species when the radiation effects from explosions at the center of the galaxy reaches inhabited space. They discover this massive artificial structure shaped like (surprise!) a ring and orbiting a sun and make a pretty half-baked effort to investigate it. There you go. Sure, they meet people (really--very human-like people), but don't really interact with them much. They kindof, sortof explore--but not really.

Here is the plot in a nutshell: Long, lead-in where the Puppeteer convinces Louis and company to join the team. Smaller portion where the team is with the other Puppeteers getting ready to launch the trip. Long portion for travel to Ringworld. Another long portion traveling around on Ringworld. The End. There is no real goal--investigate and report back; conquer Ringworld; whatever. The story just really stops. I understand that this is part of a series and this was basically the book setting everything up--but 342 pages of setup? Add to that the fact that we really don't learn a whole lot about the characters and they don't seem to learn a whole heaping lot about themselves during this great grand adventure. Probably because there aren't many large problems for them to work through.

The science fiction conceit is brilliant. The idea of Ringworld itself is fabulous and was a major draw for me to read this story. But I really expected to be more engaged with the characters. To be honest--Louis and Teela didn't interest me much. Louis isn't very knowledgeable about space and exploration and seems more interested in making it with Teela than anything and Teela seems to be more decorative than anything else. The most interesting character is Speaker, the Kzin. I would love to have learned more about Speaker and his people. Both stars are for the basic idea and the potential that I can see for great stories--I certainly hope the rest of the series builds on this and ups the ante with some good story-telling. I'm not sure whether I'll be reading any more to find out, however. ★★

4 comments:

bloodymurder said...

I did read some of his stuff in the 80s but nothing since then - and in fact, I think my brother was more into him than I was anyway ... sorry it wasn't better, Bev!

Cath said...

I remember reading this in my twenties and thinking it was quite good. But now I'm much more picky, particularly with the issue of how women are portrayed in these books, so I think a reread, judging by your experience, might be a mistake. I have The Mote in God's Eye to read - I haven't read it before - and I'm kind of wondering whether or not I actually *should*...

Bev Hankins said...

Cath...I'm beginning to think that Niven (and Pournelle with whom he wrote many of his books) is one of those authors for whom there was a window of opportunity for me to appreciate. That would have been during the 80s with my younger self. If you missed my review of "Mote"--you can find it under the Reviews by Author tab up at the top of my blog.

fredamans said...

I just don't think it's something for me. Great review though.