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The Mote in God's Eye | [Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle]

The Mote in God's Eye

The Mote In God's Eye is their acknowledged masterpiece, an epic novel of mankind's first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre. No lesser an authority than Robert A. Heinlein called it "possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read".
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Publisher's Summary

Writing separately, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are responsible for a number of science fiction classics, such as the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Ringworld, Debt of Honor, and The Integral Trees. Together they have written the critically acclaimed best-sellers Inferno, Footfall, and The Legacy of Heorot, among others.

The Mote In God's Eye is their acknowledged masterpiece, an epic novel of mankind's first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre. No lesser an authority than Robert A. Heinlein called it "possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read".

©1991 Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • All-Time Best Science Fiction Novels (Locus Magazine)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (3955 )
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  •  
    J. Rhoderick Frederick, MD USA 02-12-10
    J. Rhoderick Frederick, MD USA 02-12-10 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A great read!"

    The Mote in God's Eye, set far in the future, tells the tale of humanity's first contact with an alien species. Despite being first published in 1974, the science holds up fairly well. There are a few funny oddities that show the story's age, such as the mention of "microwave ovens" and "pocket computers" as if we would be shocked by their ubiquity, but these are rare. However, in this tale, the science isn't the star of the show. Rather, it's the nature of humanity and how that nature compares to the Moties who represent a unqiue threat.

    The characters, while not of any great depth, are passable for sci-fi. Some reviewers may complain about this but, as an avid sci-fi reader, I have seen much worse. I never really developed any strong attachment to the characters, but I did get to know them well enough to keep the story engaging.

    This is a moderately paced story with some parts moving rather quickly and others trudging along. There are a handful of dull portions, mostly involving Empire politics or background exposition, but just when I started feeling bored, the story picked up. The plot, while sometimes predictable, still leaves enough mystery to keep you reading. The story is long, perhaps a bit longer than it needs to be. For example, I think Horace Bury's character added nothing to the story and could have been cut entirely.

    I don't understand why some reviewers disliked the narrator. Personally, I think LJ Ganser does a superb job. Ganser can handle a room full of similar characters while giving each one a unique voice. His narration of Admiral Kutuzov deserves a freakin' medal. His reading never once interfered with my ability to absorb the story.

    Overall, I'd say this is a great read. It isn't the best first contact story, and it isn't the best sci-fi novel ever written, but it's fun, engaging, and memorable.

    56 of 56 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Mesa, AZ, United States 08-21-09
    Michael Mesa, AZ, United States 08-21-09 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Oldie but goldie"

    I read this book in paper format more than 30 years ago, but I had forgotten how good it really is. When I saw it available in audible format I jumped at the chance to listen to a previous good read.

    Some of the reviews I have read are very hard on the book, but I believe that the are looking in the wrong place. What makes this book so interesting and unique, at least to me, was the idea that humans could encounter aliens so different that all of our assumptions would be wrong. How do two species interact when one is general and adaptive in nature and the other is differiented. That is at the core of this story; at least for me.

    The process of meeting, all of the mistaken assumptions and the final realization as to just how different the species are is, I believe, a very interesting story with, for new readers, an unknown conclusion.

    But listeners should know that this story is from 1974 and hence some of the story line is 35 years out of date. I believe that to be the cause of some of the bad reviews. Perhaps those listeners did not know the copyright date and might have been more charitable to the male-centered character of the story.

    All in all I think this is a nearly great book with more than adequate reading.

    73 of 76 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Union, NJ, United States 09-14-10
    Christopher Union, NJ, United States 09-14-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Why, oh why won't someone make this into a movie?"

    For fans of hard science fiction, this book will not disappoint. Unfortunately, it's unlikely to ever be made into a movie because the story is quite long and complex, and to present it visually would probably be very difficult and require a lot of CG. Therefore, this audio book version is as close as we're likely to get. This is a very good production, and I much enjoyed the reader's performance. If you liked this, I recommend Niven & Pournelle's "Footfall."

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Aerindel 07-28-09
    Aerindel 07-28-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Book gets a 4, reader gets a 2"

    When I first read this book seventeen years ago it was the most realistic and impressive Sci-Fi that I had read to date and Moral of the story seemed all too true. Unfortunately this book now seems a little dated and simplistic compared to Dan Simmons and Peter F. Hamiltions works for example. This is really too bad since this is one of the books that I have been wishing would come to audible for ever since I became a member.This is still an excellent story and the Motie Aliens are as well thought out as the Kzinti or Puppeteers, (two of Nivens other alien creations). The only real complaint about the writing is the pacing of the story, it seems to climax halfway through, get lost for a while and then come to a resolution.
    The reader on the other hand, (The gripping hand as the Motie's would say) is a real annoyance usually I don't care that much about the narrator when I'm picking out audiobooks, its the book that's important, not the reader. But this audio book makes me wonder if I've been spoiled by audible's other narrators. The voice is understandable and the speed and emphasis is fine but this man is just no fun to listen too, particularly for twenty hours. I can't come up with any better description, but this is the first time reader has been bad enough to be distracting.

    70 of 76 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ed Marietta, GA, United States 08-08-09
    Ed Marietta, GA, United States 08-08-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Narrator does matter...."

    I read the book many years ago and loved it. It is dated, but if you like shows like "Firefly", it won't bother you too much. The science isn't really dated...just the cultural norms. The story is interesting, as are the aliens. As others have mentioned the narrator is annoying. He would have been okay for 1 character, but having him read all the parts just didn't work. It is worth listening to.

    29 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike From Mesa 08-21-09 Member Since 2003

    MikeFromMesa

    HELPFUL VOTES
    1130
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    Overall
    "Oldie but goldie"

    I read this book in paper format more than 30 years ago, but I had forgotten how good it really is. When I saw it available in audible format I jumped at the chance to listen to a previous good read.

    Some of the reviews I have read are very hard on the book, but I believe that the are looking in the wrong place. What makes this book so interesting and unique, at least to me, was the idea that humans could encounter aliens so different that all of our assumptions would be wrong. How do two species interact when one is general and adaptive in nature and the other is differiented. That is at the core of this story; at least for me.

    The process of meeting, all of the mistaken assumptions and the final realization as to just how different the species are is, I believe, a very interesting story with, for new readers, an unknown conclusion.

    But listeners should know that this story is from 1974 and hence some of the story line is 35 years out of date. I believe that to be the cause of some of the bad reviews. Perhaps those listeners did not know the copyright date and might have been more charitable to the male-centered character of the story.

    All in all I think this is a nearly great book with more than adequate reading.

    28 of 30 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sara Reller 12-28-09
    Sara Reller 12-28-09
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    "ALIUMS!"

    A good book about alien contact and it goes into the depth to which we would likely misunderstand anything that would be alien. Well written with a fair amount of societal and structural understanding. Not as much of a War In Space book as I was concerned about, good mix of military and social sci-fi. Recommended with only slight reservations.

    17 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ann Raleigh, NC 02-10-10
    Ann Raleigh, NC 02-10-10 Member Since 2009

    Ann

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    "Smart, interesting read"

    I really enjoyed reading this novel. I thought the authors came up with a very smart and clever story of humanity's first encounter with an alien race. I was surprised to find that the alien race described was very different from all other sci-fi books, tv shows and movies that I've seen before. I was expecting the aliens to be a copy from a "star trek" idea, but they were quite different.

    The book also explores human nature by describing humanity's reaction to the aliens. The story unfolds throughout the novel. So there is action and questions to be answered right up until the end.

    I would recommend this book to anyone that likes to read fiction especially for those who like books that explore human nature in a "what if" scenario.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul levy 11-06-09
    Paul levy 11-06-09 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Beautifully Clever"

    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.

    Rgds

    Paul Levy

    33 of 37 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew mORRINSVILLENew Zealand 08-14-09
    Andrew mORRINSVILLENew Zealand 08-14-09
    HELPFUL VOTES
    343
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    "Top notch, classic Sci - Fi"

    Read this twice in my youth so when it recently appeared on Audible I took the opportunity to re-visit it. After a dubious start I found myself sinking into the story and was soon hooked. Still a fantastic story all these years later. Good old straight forward sci-fi with all the elements.
    Really enjoyed it.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 177 results PREVIOUS1218NEXT
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  • Dennis
    Altrincham, Cheshire, United Kingdom
    1/19/10
    Overall
    "Very glad I went back to this"

    This book is well known in SF circles as a classic. A must read for any SF fan. Well I did try to read it as a teenager and failed to get into it. I have now read it as an audiobook because I listen to Leo Laporte's TWiT podcasts and he had Jerry Pournelle on one of his shows. They mentioned the book and I felt I should revisit it.

    Very glad I did. It is a masterpiece. The success of the book hinges on the nature of the aliens (Moties), their biology, history, the way they consist of a collection of specialised sub-species, their planetary circumstances, the consequences of all those taken together and the dilemma it creates for the humans.

    The specialised castes are particularly frightening. Sub sentient engineers who can't talk but could get hold of your car, fiddle around with it for 5 minutes and hand back to you something that would win the next Monaco GP. Then there are the mediators who can observe humans, quickly learn their language and mimic and understand them so well they appear to read minds.

    Humans are presented as clumsy jacks of all trades. Put them up against any of the specialised Moties in in their specialist area and the humans are in trouble. Fancy trying to negotiate the future relationship between humans and Moties against a Motie mediator who knows you better than you know yourself?

    The book does show its age. There is a rationale for the human political system, the pre-eminence of the aristocracy, religion, military service values (the human spaceship navy runs exactly like the US Navy) but you'd still expect things to be further removed from today given the setting 1,000 years into our future.

    And the narrator is utterly clueless about Scottish accents to the point of cringe-making embarrassment. That is no exaggeration. And his portrayal of the only female character is painfully stereotyped.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Thomas
    Bridgend, United Kingdom
    5/4/10
    Overall
    "Listen before you buy!"

    This might be a good book.........I wouldn?t know.

    My own fault, I should have listened to an excerpt.

    The narrator reads it as if every fourth word comes as a complete surprise to him. The intonation of his sentences gives the distinct impression that he hasn?t prepared in any way for the job of telling this story. Reading the book quietly to himself in advance might be a good start!
    His attempts at differentiating between the voices of different characters takes the form of speaking more loudly or attempting an impersonation of a Scotsman (I recommend him not to try it in Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night).

    I was bitterly disappointed that I had wasted my money on this pathetic attempt and would ask Audible to consider instituting a satisfaction guarantee. I am afraid I was unprepared for such a bad attempt at reading a book after the excellent narration I have experienced in the 20 or so other books I have bought. Quite frankly I have heard better narration in the free public access books produced by amateur volunteers for organisations like LibraVox.

    17 of 20 people found this review helpful
  • S
    Bury St Edmunds, United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "The best 'First Contact' novel ever"

    I first read this book 20 years ago and was totally engrossed. It mixes a great mix of characters in a struggling future Empire of Man with the effects of the sudden discovery - at last - of a totally alien race.

    It combines great entertainment with thought provoking situations. The background to it is a really logical and believable science.

    I think it's the best thing that Niven has written or co-written and that's a big claim.

    The reading is OK - a strong American accent but then that represents the racial background of the lead character Roderick Blaine. The pace is good and him pronunciation is right too.



    This is a long, engrossing listen that will draw you into the sequels.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Takasuwa
    EXETER, DEVON, United Kingdom
    2/11/10
    Overall
    "Best First Contact sci-fi out there."

    The Mote in God's Eye is an exquisite tour de force novel that tries, within limits, to present the most likely outcome that may result on that day, far in the future, when the human race finally encounters another intelligent species. With homour and homage to earlier science fiction work(like a ship's engineer with a thick Scotttish accent!), the authors tackle the deep fears, positive and negative prejudice, that such a discovery can present. Unlike most modern sci-fi which nowadays tend to be about fantastical situations and technolgies, this book is that genuine expression of rarefied science speculation that one can try and rationally explain, to a certain extent, without it all becoming gibberish or nonsensical. Well written piece of hard science fiction. Recommended to all serious sci-fi fans.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Martin
    Inerness, United Kingdom
    12/3/09
    Overall
    "Not what I expected, but good."

    I would have given 4 stars for the enjoyment I got from the book, as it is good - but I found that the description did not quite match up to the experience so only gave 3 - possibly 35 years when published it would have been fair to describe as "....transcends the genre" - it really doesn't nowadays, though if you see past the fact it is a little dated it is a very enjoyable book. I think a fairer description is necessary though.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • BDM
    Germany
    11/11/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Timeless SciFi Classic"

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book, you would never guess it was written so long ago. Well worth the credit

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sean Inglis
    Matlock,UK
    5/5/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fizzing With Ideas - But Showing it's Age"

    The scores here are based on the first few hours - I didn't make it to the end of the book unfortunately (a decision I might revisit).

    For me the main problem is that a lot of science fiction has been written since this was first published, so many of the themes of the book that were novel on publishing aren't anymore. That doesn't detract from the level of detail and imagination, but although I can acknowledge and admire it, I can't unread what I've read in the meantime.

    Dialog is dated and off in odd ways - "Rape the passengers!" as an exclamation of dismissal may well be idiomatic for the naval period on which the working command structure described might be based, but it can't help but jar.

    Ganser's performance follows the slightly dated and clipped feel of the prose. 3* feels a bit unfair written down as I couldn't fault it technically, he has a good voice for this sort of thing (as you'd expect), but in matching his style to that of the prose and basing it on that, 3* is where I get.

    So in summary, a lot of ideas squeezed into a small space (despite the length of the book), but either too dated or not dated enough to make it worth persisting with for me at the moment.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Duncan
    Huntingdon, United Kingdom
    2/1/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Trust is a human concept"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This is a book I'd recommend to everyone. Layers under layers with layers on top. Just how would you trust an alien species with no reference points?


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Mote in God's Eye?

    That photographic frame that showed 'something' being ejected from the helpless craft. After years in slow space why would you do that? Do you have something to hide?


    Which character – as performed by L J Ganser – was your favourite?

    .


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The light bulb moment when everything suddenly became clear.


    Any additional comments?

    A truly worthwhile book to listen to or read,

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Robert
    Putney, United Kingdom
    1/17/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Different"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Mote in God's Eye to be better than the print version?

    Never read the print version


    What other book might you compare The Mote in God's Eye to, and why?

    I haven't read/listened to that many 'classic' sci-fi books involving spaceships and the future. This wasn't what I was expecting though... the social complexities of the Mote's was far more detailed than I would've expected. The depth in the story is amazing.


    Which character – as performed by L J Ganser – was your favourite?

    Sinclair or Carlisle


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Suspense and anticipation. Not laughter and crying... it was an intriguing story that built up to thrilling moments but I had no laugh out loud moments. Was never anywhere near crying.


    Any additional comments?

    The climax was good but unexpected and, in someways, disappointing.

    Thoroughly enjoyed it and would've liked the story to continue into future years, but don't think it's a masterpiece.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • knuckle
    United Kingdom
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "The one the got me hooked"

    This is the book that kept me past my free trial of audible. Interesting book about humanity's first encounter with an extra terrestrial intelligence.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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