Finished my first Larry Niven novel, having opted for the obvious choice, Ringworld. It’s still a great work, not dated in any significant way, with lots of really well developed scientific ideas, and a very strong ‘Culture-ish’ feel to it. The weakest aspect for me was the characterisation – by the end of the book I still felt zero connection to any of the four principals, whether they lived or died, or anything about them. I guess in this sense it’s pure sci-fi, with the characters mere vehicles for the plot and concepts.

Overriding everything, starting from the title, the cover, and working on in, is the Ringworld, the sliced Dyson-sphere of the title. Sadly for me the concept will always be shaded by the best known recent things it inspired – Culture Orbitals and the game currently keeping Microsoft in the black. In particular, the sections of Consider Phlebas which are set on an Orbital make the narrative impact weaker, at least for me. Of course the other logical conclusion is that Iain Banks was strongly influence by Niven, which recommends him all the more highly.

The most irritating plot device for me, was the exploration of luck as an inheritable trait, and its use, in the form of pre-destination, as a tool to advance the plot. While necessary when dealing with a habital surface on the scale of the Ringworld. It seemed like a very easy tool to explain many things away.

Posted Thursday, June 12th, 2008 under books, geek, scifi.

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