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.
Found myself on the edge of my seat and can't wait on what will happen.
A very nice story for Sci-Fi Fans!
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.
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?
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!
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.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
Like other reviewers, I was looking forward to re-living my youthful nostalgia about this book. Unfortunately, time, as they say, can be unkind. Sure there is the realisation that this book was a forerunner; that it went where others had barely thought to go before it; that it has so many coincidences with Gene Roddenberry's "Star Trek" franchise (from the irascible Scots Engineer to the naive Soviet Midshipman, warp speed and hyper-space); and that it was a darn fine piece of SF in its day - but its day has passed. The chauvinism (gender, nationalist and just humancentric) grates after a while. I know that was part of the message, but the humans are just too damn smug and condescending. Then there is a very unlikeable love interest (Sally), a bit too much monarchy and not enough science anymore. When I first read it I remember the science being intriguing. I guess I was in high school then and now people are beginning to debate if E=MC2!
For all that, I'm glad I re-visited the book because there are still some parts of it that are fascinating (like the Moteys themselves), the undiscovered history of their civilizations (like our own incomplete fossil record) and the catastrophic rise and fall of species (now keenly debated amongst biologists and palaeontologists). But hell, I was making up most of this interest because it was not part of the original sub-text, so there was only so far I could push it.
The worst thing however was the audio performance. I regret to say I found Mr Ganser's interpretations flat and unconvincing. He must have one of the worst scottish accents in the business and his transitions between characters were inconsistent and unsustained (with the exception of the Soviet Admiral, which he did passably well). The "Sally" voice was woeful.
All up, unless you are re-living a memory like I was, I'd give this a miss. Really it's a 1.5 at best (but nostalgia must count for something).
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.
Love the story and the reader does a good job with the exception of his Scottish accent that sounds Irish.
The narrator in my opinion spoiled this book. Accents of characters felt more like a racist stereotype than authentic attempt. Disappointed that I bought this and bothered to listen all the way to the end.
"Good Story, Bad Narration"
Unfortunate Scottish Accents abound. If you can't do the accent, don't.* Powered through it for the great story.
*I am from Glasgow
"Dated and boarding"
The worst book I have listened to. Plot was slow and very little happened. Characters were weak and indistinguishable from each other. only thing carrying the book were a few sci-fi type concepts.
Narrator is terrible. whoever told him he could do acents must have been playing a crule joke....
"Good sci-fi, average narration"
Narration ok overall. There a couple of Scottish characters and the narrator's efforts are gratingly bad (Mel Gibson's Scottish accent sounds like a native in comparison)
"A Timeless SciFi Classic"
Thoroughly enjoyed this book, you would never guess it was written so long ago. Well worth the credit
"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.
"Trust is a human concept"
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?
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?
The light bulb moment when everything suddenly became clear.
A truly worthwhile book to listen to or read,
Never read the print version
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.
Sinclair or Carlisle
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.
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.
"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.
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