Ringworld by Larry Niven

Better late then …

My book reading has declined with as I have been getting back into the never ending flood of scientific articles competing compete for my attention. Funny enough, it has not declined as much as my apparent lack of writing even short reviews here. Sad. I have, in fact, been able to read some fiction during the autumn, but been to lazy to write any updates. I hope to remedy this right now by catching up on some of the books.

In September or so I felt like reading some science fiction again, and maybe even catch up on a classic. Said and done, I went out and grabbed Ringworld, a book I have been looking at it in the book shops for years but never picked it up. Larry Niven’s work is known as a masterpiece, and has inspired a lot of later literature.

The main protagonist is Louis Wu, human inhabitant of earth, some time in the future is contacted by a Puppeteer – one of the few alien races that the earthlings have had any contact with – called Nessus. The alien want Louis to help him mount an expedition. The destination is not imminently clear, but the puppeteer is very specific on the type of crew members he want. Louis and Nessus are in time joined by Speaker-To-Animals, from a race that has been at war with humanity several times, and by Teela Brown – a human chosen for her luck. The book tells of their journey and exploration of the distant Ringworld.

In my opinion this is an old school science fiction story, and I mean that in the absolute best possible way. Exploration and ideas has priority over the intrigues. Do not misunderstand me, there is a solid, well written story there and the character interaction is very nice. However, what impress me the most is the grandiosity of the ideas that is presented in the book, and how said characters and story is used to present them. The main concept might be the Ringworld itself. Inspired by the Dyson sphere it is one of those fantastic ideas that seems – at least ot me – to be one of the marks of the science fiction classics of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The exploration of what lies ahead of humankind through great fiction and great thinking.

There are a few passages where the age of the text shows. Ringworld was first published 40 years ago. For instance the time frame for some evolutionary ideas seem kind of short in my opinion. On the other hand 40 years ago genetic science was brand new. That is part of science fiction aging proces, and more importantly the idea is still as fascinating.

I would really recommend this book as one of the classics in SF literature. Why not pick it up on your next flight? It will be worth it, guaranteed. Ah, and if you, your kids, your workmate or any other gamer thought that Halo world came out of nowhere… read it!

.L

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