This is a beautifully clever book. It is a worthwile spend of your time, but to avoid disappointment do not be too impatient at the outset.
I find Larry Niven slow going at first. I even get irritated by the care with which he sets the foundations of his proes, but then it hots up and you are transported to his world. A well thought out, clever, insightful and exciting place that is just around the corner. The world could be, or would be as he describes if we were only able to develop the technology to travel from star to star.
This is an excellent book. I recommend it strongly but prescribe you give the start a chance, you will be richly rewarded.
His book Ringworld is similar. It starts out slow and thereafter the only disappointment is that it ends.
I don't often give 5 stars but didn't have to think twice about giving them to this book. One of the best SF books I ever read (and I have read many)
Couldn't put it down and was sorry when it was over already.
Excellent narrator too, although it took some getting used to in the beginning.
Highly recommended !
This massive novel is a tour de force of first contact stories. The reader does it justice, using accents and inflections sparingly and when appropriate. I first read this book when I was in my teens, and I've read it several times since, but it never quite came alive for me the way it did with this reading. This 24-hour read actually felt too short to me. Highly recommended!
My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books.
My memory of this book from years ago was that it was a classic. One thing about memory is that we often omit the bad or average. I still think the book is good and an enjoyable read, just not a classic.
The aliens in this are the best. I don't want to tell you too much about them as that is part of the fun of reading the book. I will mention that they don't waste anything and everything and I mean everything is custom made. We get to hear not only about our misconceptions about them, but there misconceptions about us. I love a book that puts the reader in the mind of the alien. This book is very creative, but believable.
What did kind of bother me, was the belief that a space faring nation will have queens, kings, princes and an aristocratic society. Course I have trouble believing that that still exists in modern society. I could not believe that the prince loses a battleship and then is treated like a hero. We are also given examples of competent men who can not advance because of there bloodline, but they are happy with that. The attempt at a love story here is pathetic and should have been omitted.
My favorite Niven books are Ringworld, Protector, The Integral Trees, and Limits.
All that being said, I gave this four stars and I believe it a must read for all Science Fiction Fans.
This is one of my favorite science fiction novels and now one of my favorite audiobooks.
The themes and the writing as superb, as is to be expected from Niven and Pournelle, and despite what other reviewers might say, the narration is also excellent; a mix between dramatization and plain reading that adds a layer of interest and helps differentiate the many characters in the story.
I got this book by suggestion of the TWIT podcasts.
My basic conclusion is that the book has some interesting things to talk about, but in audio form it's somehow hard to follow things that are said.
Many of the non-essential characters are too similar, such as the crewmen who are always contributing to conversations. I still have absolutely no idea who's who. It doesn't ultimately matter, but it's frustrating to know in the back of your mind you have no idea who half of the cast are.
After finishing the book, I had to listen to the first segment all over again because of the above problem. Had I read the words on a page, I might have remembered that the opening quote is by a man later introduced in the story. I might have understood better the early hints and discussions concerning Rod's royal family. Somehow I didn't properly digest that fact until the third part of the book.
Going into this book, you should keep in mind that the story is not meant to dazzle you at thrilling pace with a home run ending fit for pop culture. The book is very much the story of first contact with an alien race. Note that that's very different than being a story about a life-and-death war with an alien race which the humans almost lose their homeworld. If you understand the kind of story being told, the story is excellent.
My only wish is that the writing style would be more explicit about certain things. After the book takes you through in-depth description of a major event, 2 minutes after the event supposedly ends a character suddenly reveals that the event actually extended hours longer with bits it never even suggested had happened. I sometimes found myself actually tilting my head in my car and saying "..wha?" aloud. I had to rewind a minute or so and listen again to make sure I wasn't going crazy, that I really didn't fall asleep during my commute.
Good book though. I give it my rating with the glass half full, not half empty.
I've read a lot of Niven and Pournelle's collaborations over the years, and at the height of my Very White Space Opera phase (i.e., when I was a teenager with no taste and liked anything with spaceships and aliens in it) Niven was one of my favorite authors.
The Mote in God's Eye was their first collaboration, and never having read it before, I was expecting something like Footfall. It kind of is, but of course it was written over twenty years earlier. This shows mostly in the fact that like most 70s science fiction, computers are still big clunky shipboard installations, and interstellar communications are formatted like telegrams and decrypted on tape machines. Other than that, though, the SF holds up pretty well; Niven and Pournelle have always written relatively hard SF, and their close attention to astrophysical, engineering, and biological detail makes this a book that, aforementioned computer/communications issues notwithstanding, reads like a fairly contemporary work.
Sci-fi-wise, that is. Character-wise... oh boy, that's another matter.
So, let's start with the setting. It's the Empire of Man, some millennial after humans left Earth and began colonizing the stars. There have been collapses and previous empires before now, and the current Empire actually has technology inferior to what bygone space empires had. But in all these centuries, no sentient alien race has ever been discovered. Then an Imperial warship encounters a probe launched from a star system that is a "mote" in a stellar nebula; the probe contains a dead alien pilot, and results in a ship being sent to investigate the system it came from. The crew discovers a race which the humans call "Moties," who appear to be friendly and peaceful and highly civilized. They are actually superior to humans, mentally and technologically, their only disadvantage being that they haven't yet figured out how to build working faster-than-light starships, so they are still trapped in their home star system.
The rest of the book is mostly told from the human point of view, but sometimes switches to the Motie one. We learn that the Moties, well, aren't so peaceful (surprise!) and they have a few secrets they are trying to keep secret from the humans.
As a First Contact novel, this is a very good one. The aliens are alien, and don't fall into any easy roles. They're not malevolent, per se, and individual Moties can be friendly (and refreshingly, they are individuals - Moties, like humans, don't all think alike or subscribe to the same philosophies and racial strategies), but they are definitely a threat. When the humans finally figure out the truth, they face a real moral dilemma.
Where The Mote in God's Eye fails, though, is characterization of the non-aliens. The humans are all straight, and I mean straight, out of 70s Central Casting. You have heroic square-jawed aristocratic naval officer Roderick Blaine, ruthless planet-killing Admiral Kutuzov, the sleazy bad guy Horace Bury who of course is a Muslim Arab, and Lady Sally Fowler, a noblewoman, anthropologist, designated love interest, and the only woman in the book, who at one point informs the Moties that humans have birth control technology but "decent women don't use it." We're supposed to admire the generally lawful and benevolent Empire of Man, even though it's about as socially progressive as Victorian England, and like Victorian England is in the middle of colonizing other human worlds by force. The stereotypes would have been less grating if the characters weren't also so flat; they did little but play their roles.
So, this is good science fiction, but hardly great literature. If you want interesting aliens and an examination of civilizational ethics, with a decent amount of spaceship action thrown in, enjoy, but there isn't a lot of depth, nor characters you're really going to care about.
Besides incessant listening to audiobooks, I also read on my Kindle at night, birdwatch, garden (roses, daylilies), and do genealogy.
I tortured myself through 2/3 of this book before I decided life is just to short to read such a boring, dull story. Half way through, I had to read the Wiki on the book, so I could know what was going on. Reading that, I realized it was even more ho-hum than I could have imagined. The characters were not well-developed and seemed very stereotypical. No one was any more likeable than anyone else. I didn't care what happened to them. The aliens were no better. No one had any sort of personality that shone through.
Yes, the narrator added to my dislike of the story. His pacing was awful and his accents not so good, either. Still, much of this could have been overlooked with an engrossing story.
I have believed, from childhood, that nothing could be more monumental and fascinating to the human race than our first contact with an alien species. Who could have known it could be so boring! Maybe I need to rearrange my thinking.
So, why are there so many fabulous reviews? I just can't figure that out. Perhaps because the book has a very catchy, memorable name? Perhaps Niven and Pournelle have a loyal following? Perhaps this IS truly a great story and I just missed the boat?
THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE is a science fiction novel written by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. The main premise of the story is the first contact of humans with a nonhuman alien civilization and all the problems, conflicts, and potential benefits that may come with that encounter. This first encounter comes in the future with technology that is far advanced to that which we have today and in a society that is centuries in the future in comparison to ours, where an Imperial Monarchy exists for humans in an interplanetary civilization.
While some science fiction creeps heavily on the fiction side when it comes to science, this novel does a good job of incorporating factual scientific theories into the story. Things such as how the 'Motes', the alien civilization, would have or could have evolved are presented in a scientifically plausible way. Also, though the drive and the shield technology talked about quite often in the novel are not explained, other things such as Trojan points, societal technology advancement, and how gravity can be simulated on space ships are quite accurate in theory.
Overall, the story, while slow at timesand bogged down with periods of explanation, is quite riveting when it arrives at the Imperial politics, rebellion, interaction with the alien civilization, and sequences where naval officers are in a fight for their lives in space or trapped behind enemy lines. I would recommend this novel to any science fiction fan that wants a 'hard' sci-fi read.