Welcome to Ringworld, an intermediate step between Dyson Spheres and planets. Ninety-three million miles in radius - the equivalent of one Earth orbit or 600 miles long - 1,000 meters thick, and much sturdier than a Dyson sphere.
What other advantages are there to this world? The gravitational force created by a rotation on its axis of 770 miles per second means no need for a roof. Walls 1,000 miles high at each rim will let in the sun and prevent much air from escaping.
Larry Niven's novel, Ringworld, is the winner of the 1970 Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1970 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1972 Ditmars, an Australian award for Best International Science Fiction.
©1970 Larry Niven (P)1996 Blackstone Audiobooks
Like most hard sci-fi, Larry Niven's Ringworld is not about the characters, but the setting and its technology. In that respect, Ringworld succeeds. Niven has a knack for explaining futuristic technologies in a way that brings them alive to the reader. I only wish that we had learned more of the Ringworld itself.
Ringworld's human characters are boring, and its alien characters are absurd, cartoonish, and uninteresting. Given their dire situation, the characters should be anxious and their relationship complex, but they barely seem to care that their lives are in danger. The characters are so weak, in fact, that I finished the novel a few days ago and I can hardly remember their names.
There are a few moments of tension when we learn of the Puppeteers' history of manipulating other species' evolution for their own benefit, but the situation feels disingenuous, as if their anger is just an inside joke that we know will soon pass. Furthermore, after Teela's disappearance, I was shocked at how quickly everyone wrote her off. But I guess that is excusable because I never once felt attached to any of them either.
The story's plot is simple: the group crash on the Ringworld and need to escape. They run around a bit and explore things before finding a way to get out. Ringworld is a decent read, but I do not understand the hype, nor do I understand why it has won so many awards. It is mediocre in all respects.
While the narrator was quite good, the audio quality is horrible. Aside from the obviously tape-quality audio recording itself, there was a persistent, annoying background echo. Everything the narrator said could be heard duplicated just moments after he said it, as if there was a conversation going on in the background. Sometimes this echo was very obvious and at others it wasn't noticeable. It drove me nuts and I almost stopped listening because of it. The book loses a star for its audio problems.
This book is still a great one. I read it 30 years ago and loved it. It's a classic example of hard science fiction. Interesting characters, interesting plot, lots of science, some "adult situations". Niven is a master of creating aliens with alien motivation. Highly recommended as one of the best of its kind.
I still like the story but it is showing its age. I originally read this as one of the first books that really got me in to sci-fi and reading in general. All these years later and no longer at a boys school I find the attitudes grating.
I quite liked the performance, I don't remember having any issue with how the story was presented and characterized. I'd certainly listen to something by the same performer again.
So the purpose of the female interest in the story is to provide sex to the hero and to massage his ego? She's excess baggage and whether she is a useful part of the mission is purely down to how much use the hero thinks she will be in keeping him happy? So she might as well be a roast beef sandwich or something?
Other than the weird 1960s attitudes to women I would recommend this. But based on this re-reading he wouldn't be the first author I'd suggest for a late teen like my stepdaughter.
I'm 51 so I grew up in the golden era of the Hugo and Nebula awards. Ringworld was always on my list of books I wanted to read but never quite got to. When it was recommended on a recent TWIT podcast, I snapped up the audio book to fill that old omission. Now I wish I hadn't.
Yes, I am older now with a more critical mind, but Ringworld suffers from a couple of flaws of its own making. First, it hasn't aged well. Characters refer to technology that was very much an artifact of the 1960's and 70's. "Tapes" are a good example. Even if the listener mentally updates the technology used, parts of the story fall flat because we already have better solutions. I've written just enough scifi to appreciate how hard it is to predict future tech, but Ringworld feels "phoned in."
The greater difficulty I have with Ringworld is that Niven ends up turning Luck into a controling deity with free will being an illusion. Ok, that is a hypothesis to be made, but Niven never does. His climatic resolution drives the reader right up to the cliff's edge and then strands him there. Quite annoying.
I realize Audible has Ringworld Children, but I'm not sure I could stomach Teela's "luck" another microsecond!
The novel is based around travelling to and investigating a mysterious artificial world. While the ring world would seem to be the focus of the book and was, in fact, quite interesting I found that it was the, more or less, related ideas that made the story sing.
There are three intelligent species in the novel. They are quite simplistic in nature in that the Puppeteers are excessively cautious and fearful but very intelligent, the Kzin are (or were) ultra-aggressive and the humans are in between. But there are interesting caveats to these such as the only ambassadors of the Puppeteers are those that are considered by their own race to be insane because only such a one would brave close contact with such unpredictable species. Or the much discussed evolution of the Kzin toward a more reasoned nature.
The most fascinating facet of the novel to me was the discussions regarding the nature of luck that suffuse the story throughout. Earth has a complex system of laws controlling reproduction wherein each human has the right to one child and more can be won through various means such as purchase, arena combat, exceptional genes, etc., but the salient of which is by lottery. The laws in themselves are intriguing but it gets really fascinating when one human crew member is chosen because her ancestors up to 5 generations back have been lottery winners and this woman has led a particularly lucky existence thus far. The Puppeteer believes she has been bred for psychic luck via the lottery while the other human argues it is simply the far end of a probability curve. Someone out of billions of people was bound to have ended up lucky in most things even if their odds were no better than anyone else and they won't have any better odds than anyone else in the future either. Either could be right and what starts as an interesting speculative argument becomes all the more entertaining and complex as the truth is revealed. I won't ruin the magic but it's quite brilliant.
The listener will also be treated to many more mysteries and audacious ideas such as the history of the ring world and its people, conspiracies of the man and Kzin wars, future tech, traveling planets, and exploding galaxies.
The narrator was mediocre. All of the voices sound pretty much the same with the only differentiation being more or less enthusiasm or gruffness but no truly different accents or anything. He did, however, do a good job relaying the character's emotions and only the narration (not the dialogue) was monotonic.
IN SUMMARY, this is a quirky and thought-provoking adventure in the same vein as Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Dimension of Miracles that anyone who enjoys scifi should consider worth a listen.
I really like the interesting details. Sunflowers unlike any you have ever heard of, landing cannons, transfer booths, and many, many more interesting and unique ideas. Larry Niven has been one of my favorite authors for several years, and this is certainly one of his best works.
I'm not entirely sure I can pick a favorite - but if I had to choose I would probably say Nessus - his race, for one, is pretty unusual. Not to mention their meddling! All around a pretty interesting, and quite amusing character.
Hard to say, as I haven't just read the book - but he does bring the story to life. He reads it just perfectly, giving each character their own voice (as good narrators always do), and I think his reading is very interesting.
"The Galaxy's hugest megabuild"
I really, really enjoyed this audiobook.
I can understand why Ringworld received so many awards after its release in 1970. It created a world that fired the imagination. 40+ years later we have 29 seasons of Star Trek, 18 seasons of Star Gate (including animated seasons for both series), several less successful series and countless movies. Just creating a world is no longer enough. A future in space is not as new and magical as it was 40 years ago.
And thus, the biggest problem with Ringworld. There is not a lot of story development until the end. Throughout most of the book I felt like the author was focusing on laying a foundation for a series. Maybe plot and character development comes in the next book. I’m glad I finished the book because this was a historical release in science fiction but I don’t know if I will continue the series. After listening to the book I felt like I had spent a week in an old grand hotel that has fallen into disrepair. I left thinking “This must have been a really nice place when it was new.”
I loved how Larry Niven describes how such a world could exist. And, how he gave a feeling of largeness about the whole thing. The different cultures, and the interesting tech. Some areas felt a little jumpy, like he forgot to connect a few dots, but overall the book was great!
Niven weaves a tale about a motley collection of explorers, brought together by a weak but manipulative (VERY manipulative) leader, who explore a Ring World from (predictably) the human team member's perspective. The title almost gives the story away, and much of the story seems like it came from a Star Trek novella (yes, the human has sex with an alien).
Still, the interaction between the characters is good, and the descriptions of the physical aspects of the ringworld and its inhabitants make for a decent story reminiscent of Clark's Rama series. The influence on pop culture isn't missed either; the HALO series of video games leans heavily into Niven's uniquely constructed ring world, and the characters could be dropped neatly into any science fiction movie.
Overall, a worthwhile read, but not if you are looking for something profound.
This book can be quite addictive. Great characters and a story you wish would never end. Thankfully there are lots of sequels. If you liked Rendevous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke you will probably like this one. Has a somewhat similar premise.
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