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Ringworld by Larry Niven

Ringworld (original 1970; edition 1981)

by Larry Niven

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6,52499584 (3.83)165
Authors:Larry Niven
Info:Del Rey (1981), Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Read and Released
Tags:science fiction

Work details

Ringworld by Larry Niven (Author) (1970)

  1. 101
    Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (codeeater)
    codeeater: Another story about a mysterious alien artefact.
  2. 70
    The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another hard science fiction book about a fully realized world with lots of technical details.
  3. 40
    Eon by Greg Bear (santhony)
    santhony: If you enjoy the science fiction genre featuring huge, interstellar habitats, this fits the bill.
  4. 30
    Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Space Opera, updated. Strange mystery, assemble a crew of lively characters, go explore it. Sound familiar?
  5. 20
    Sundiver by David Brin (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Space Opera, updated. Strange mystery, assemble a crew of lively characters, go explore it. Sound familiar?
  6. 31
    Foundation by Isaac Asimov (nar_)
    nar_: Space travelling and interminable, huge lands and space... so huge !
  7. 20
    Titan by John Varley (lquilter)
    lquilter: If you liked the gee-whizziness and adventure / exploration of RINGWORLD, but couldn't stomach the sexism, try Varley's TITAN (and sequels in the trilogy, WIZARD and DEMON) -- all the fun but only a fraction of the annoying ideology.
  8. 00
    Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement (Michael.Rimmer)
  9. 00
    A World Too Near by Kay Kenyon (mentatjack)
    mentatjack: One of the blurbs on the cover of A World Too Near compares The Entire and the Rose favorably to The Ringworld series by Larry Niven.

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English (91)  Spanish (2)  Hungarian (2)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (98)
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
[SPOILERS AHEAD] As with many works of classic science fiction, Ringworld has its flaws. In fact, narratively, it seems to below to that era of science fiction stories which build promising frameworks and hint at dark secrets, only to end like the proverbial damp squib. Think of the writing of Clifford Simak: full of wild and wooly and dark speculations, only to end suddenly, as though in the midst of writing the ending he remembered that he had left something in the oven. Or think of Ray Bradbury as far as the premise goes, except that usually Bradbury knew how to bring a story to a satisfying end.

It's a shame with Ringworld, because there was so much that could have been done with the first book and still left room for the seemingly inevitable sequels. The story plods along in the beginning (in this edition, we're on page 52 before the four explorers even leave the Solar System - about the first fifth of the book). There's not so much heavy-handed exposition as a lot of pseudo-philosophical banter, from which only careful reading will extract the necessary clues about this version of Earth, roughly a thousand years in the future. Races are introduced (the Puppeteers and the Kzin), and gradually we're let into the backstory that all of the characters already know. Considering the revelations made later in the book, the term "puppeteer" assigned to Nessus' race is more than a little apt. But who are the puppets (hint: the book will tell you eventually)?

After finally reaching the Ringworld (having first to visit the Puppeteer's homeworlds to learn about it), the book truly goes into "let's just get this over with" mode. The science at this point is all over the place: there's some sort of massive explosion at the core of the galaxy that will annihilate the Earth, her colonies and enemies, in 20,000 years' time, but that's more or less mentioned in passing. The bit about breeding humans like Teela for their "psychic luck", which fails only at plots convenient to move the story forward, reads like a weird mix of Philip K. Dick and the Buck Rogers TV series. The Ringworld appears to have undergone a total systems failure, except for when its convenient to the story. Oh, and the Ringworld itself? It's as ginormous as a ginormous thing can be, but conveniently, all of the relevant action takes place within a reasonable distance from where our heroes' ship has crashed.

There are some great imaginative twists here: some notions of technology like the floating buildings and fly-cycles, indestructible starship hulls with unfortunately destructible wings, teleportation pads spaced along streets at every corner. It's just a shame that, with the weird but ultimately comprehensible system of swearing ("tanj", "Finagle"), a little more work didn't go into making the whole thing cohere a little better.

At the end of the book [spoilers, obviously], things just abruptly tail off. Teela swans off with some adventurer she's met called Seeker, Nessus the Puppeteer, despite having lost an entire head, is left presumably with enough spare parts to be mended, but is still in hibernation, the Kzin Speaker-to-Animals and Louis are left to philosophise vaguely as they and the surviving Engineer, Prill, try to get their crippled ship off the Ringworld. They get into space, only to find that... the book's over. Just like that. Really? Even heard of a dénouement, Niven?

(And while you're at it, is it not possible to have character names better differentiated than "Seeker" and "Speaker"? It just seems lazy, having rhyming names.)

It's a shame, really. I always hate to see a good premise, or even just a serviceable premise, wasted. Not sure if I'll bother with the next book, even if it would answer some of my questions. But I can somewhat disappointedly check this one off my list of "classic sci-fi to get around to reading". And as far as this edition goes, I didn't notice any obvious errors on the editorial and text side, which was a welcome relief. ( )
  Bill_Bibliomane | Apr 3, 2015 |
  ngunity | Nov 23, 2014 |
This is everything I hate about 70s science fiction: female characters who could literally be replaced by a stuffed animal (except that the main male character has to have a lady around to bang or else he'll rape an alien), inconsistent aliens that don't quite make sense, an obsession with impressive numbers to the detriment of story, and, oh yeah, alien species with non-sentient females. Yeah. It's readable enough, and parts of it were indeed interesting and fun, but mostly I wanted to set it on fire. ( )
1 vote jen.e.moore | Sep 23, 2014 |
If there is a book that you want to pick up for some interesting reading, try Larry Niven's "Ringworld." Though the book purports to be about Louis Wu and his motivation for going with a Puppeteer on a journey to handle Wu's bored 200 year old life, it's really about the dumb luck of Teela Brown, a ditzy dame with a charmed life, whose never known pain or loss.

Story Points:

I have read a few of Niven's stories and enjoyed his Man-Kzin Wars and other such stories in this same universe. To read his early novel of the Ringworld was really enjoyable, since it touched on science but stuck to the character development I've often enjoyed in Niven's books.

Niven tends to get off to a slow start. If you have read Niven's books before you know about the transport booths that can instantaneously step onto any part of Earth – and he makes a point that culture is so inter-mixed that London is the same as Bali as the same as Minnesota, etc. Is this a commentary on our own "jet set" mentality where we go and travel so much as to lose a cultural identity? Or am I making a fun story so serious?

The Puppeteers (two-headed beings, a cowardly race – even their most exalted king is called the "Hindmost." Taking up the rear, oh boy!) have been trading with the human race for many years but then suddenly packed up their entire civilization and took off towards the Clouds of Magellan.

One of their more insane, Nessus, wants to put together a team of human and Kzin (cat-like warriors, who lost a few wars to the tenacity of Man) on a secret mission to explore a strange place in a system so far that only the Puppeteer's special hyperdrive can reach it in a short time – the Ringworld.

Niven gets into some of the romance and danger of the Ringworld, but really the story is about Teela Brown. We find that the Puppeteers have been manipulating the human race, breeding it for luck. Unfortunately Luck is a power that our group soon finds is much more dangerous than one supposes.


The kzin are painted as tamed warriors but Niven does this much better in his Man-Kzin Wars series of novels. I'm not sure if Ringworld is the first appearance of these aliens, but it is interesting to see the cunning and yet the unabashed complexity they see in us humans. I know the feeling.

Louis Wu touches on various places and times that I remember reading in other Larry Niven tales of other worlds and other colonies. These are not well expressed – but the emotional "snarkiness" of Wu is the most enjoyable part of the book. There is some light sexuality embraced between Wu and a couple of female characters and we get a peek into the psychology of a 200 year old man.

Teela Brown: The true mistress of the tale: a woman who just wants to have fun, knows nothing of pain or anxiety, yet has been bred for luck. So lucky that she ends up on a Ringworld and her team thinks her luck is protecting them – aren't they in for a surprise!

Ringworld Engineers: The Ring is mostly abandoned or lost in savagery – its once great floating cities are now crashed to the surface, its inhabitants hairy savages who worship "gods" some of whom are actually Louis and his crew. They often play the "God gambit" when in need of food and supplies.

Bottom Line: Interesting adventure. If you have not read more detailed views of Niven's worlds, then the book might seem somewhat wandering and the reader feeling left out and lost! I have read other reviews that Niven's science was a bit off, but this should be handled in later editions. The book flows well and is a quick read. Recommended.

( )
  jmourgos | Sep 12, 2014 |
First off - I will bet everything I own that the main character's name is pronounced "Louie" and not "Loo-iss." I made a suicide pact with myself at the beginning of the novel that would take effect should I start repeating "Loo-iss" in my head throughout three-hundred-odd pages. I'm still here, so it's "Louie." Capiche? Alright.
Anyway, this book sat on my shelf for a couple of years until I took a couple of general physics courses in college because I had heard of Mr. Niven's legendary "hard" sci-fi (or SF for all of the hipsters out there who are suddenly too good for Flash Gordon; still love ya, Flash). While a little math background was helpful in visualizing some of the engineering feats described, I probably should've just sucked it up and read the book. It's really that good.
Without spoiling the plot too much, the story follows a very old young man, a hilariously paranoid alien who doesn't fit in with his own race, a young woman who might just be the luckiest person alive, and a very large and muscular tabby-cat-man. If you're a person I would not want to punch in the face in real life, you will stop reading this now and read the damned book.
This lovely cast is in pursuit of a bizarre engineered world that (combined with a neat FTL travel option supplied by said paranoid aliens) could just be the ticket to saving all of their races from imminent death in 20,000 years, give or take a century.
While I'm never one to turn down a good space opera, what really hit home for me were Louis Wu's musings on love, loss, and feeling used - I got to that point after being dumped, you see. All-in-all, Larry Niven's a great author, this is a great book, and you should have stopped reading two paragraphs ago. ( )
  zhyatt | Aug 9, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (30 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Niven, LarryAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cullen, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, DonCover printingsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giancola, DonatoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, Steven VincentCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sternbach,RickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the night-time heart of Beirut, in one of a row of general-address transfer booths, Louis Wu flicked into reality.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345333926, Mass Market Paperback)

A new place is being built, a world of huge dimensions, encompassing millions of miles, stronger than any planet before it. There is gravity, and with high walls and its proximity to the sun, a livable new planet that is three million times the area of the Earth can be formed. We can start again!

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Two humans and two aliens, who are traveling to distant reaches of space to prevent a future catastrophe, crash on a ringworld apparently created by superior technologies.

(summary from another edition)

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