Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Title: Ringworld
Author: Larry Niven
Series: Ringworld, book 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1970

Recommendation: Decent read if you can get past all the scientific explanations.
Rating: 7/10

Summary: Louis Wu is approached on his 200th birthday by Nessus, from the race of puppeteers who have long left human space. Nessus is looking for a crew for a mysterious mission. The rest of the crew are Speaker-to-Animals, from the violent race of kzin, and Teela Brown whose ancestors are all Birthright Lottery winners. Together they will explore Ringworld.

Reactions: This is one of those books that I've heard mentioned many times and with many praises. Yet somehow I managed to open the book without any foreshadowing of the plot or characters. Still, I am pretty surprised about this book winning Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards.

The biggest problem for me is that reading Ringworld didn't have the mental or emotional impact I have expected. There is some thinly veiled commentary on human psychology and genetics that don't come as a particular surprise. Yes, humans have sex a lot. Yes, it's a cool thought experiment about the genetics of luck. But there is no oomph to it.

Having said that, it was not an unenjoyable read. The main characters are all very colorful, varied, and it's fun to watch them interact with each other. I found Teela to be rather irritating, but the rest of the crew was great. The plot pacing is pretty flat, but it kept my interest throughout. All the scientific explanations took the pace down a notch unfortunately while managing to sound rather implausible to me.

There were a few places of revelations that stood out for me. In particular, the place where Speaker, Louis, and Teela learn more about puppeteers survival methods and interference. The fallout is something to watch! It made the reading a lot more fun.

To sum it up, it was a decent read, but didn't live up to my expectations of a great classic science fiction novel. I don't regret trying it out though and might even consider braving the next book for the sake of the colourful characters.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed it enough to keep going with it. I looked back and my review and if I had rated it on a 10 point scale like yours I would have given in an 8.5. I liked it quite a bit more than you did. Some of the scientific explanation bogs down a bit but I found it plausible enough to keep the pages turning. The ringworld was a pretty novel concept for the time so it doesn't surprise me at all that it won the awards that it did. I too want to read the next book at some point, but like everyone else I have a pile to get to. It is sitting close by, in my bedside drawer for someday.

  2. Well, we can compete on who will get to it first then :)

    I guess I can see why it got all the awards, but I often find it hard to judge the work based on the time period it was written. Need more exposure to science fiction of that era.

  3. I like to think that I can put myself back in that era to judge stories but the reality is that it is mostly my imagination and assumptions based on what little I've read. The reality is that I am in the same boat as you, I don't have enough exposure to really be anything but a person with an opinion.