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Ringworld by Larry Niven

Ringworld (original 1970; edition 1985)

by Larry Niven

Series: Ringworld (1), Known Space (8)

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8,684162698 (3.78)227
For use in schools and libraries only. A two-headed creature and a large, red-furred carnivore are among the members of a party that arrives to explore a mysterious world created in the shape of a ring.
Authors:Larry Niven
Info:Del Rey (1985), Edition: Reprint, Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library

Work details

Ringworld by Larry Niven (1970)

  1. 131
    Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (codeeater)
    codeeater: Another story about a mysterious alien artefact.
  2. 110
    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. 51
    Foundation by Isaac Asimov (nar_)
    nar_: Space travelling and interminable, huge lands and space... so huge !
  5. 30
    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.
  6. 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?
  7. 20
    Gateway by Frederik Pohl (sturlington)
  8. 20
    Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement (Michael.Rimmer)
  9. 31
    Sundiver by David Brin (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Space Opera, updated. Strange mystery, assemble a crew of lively characters, go explore it. Sound familiar?
  10. 10
    Dune by Frank Herbert (sturlington)
  11. 10
    Ring of Swords by Eleanor Arnason (libron)
    libron: Cat people! Sentient bipedal tiger aliens!
  12. 10
    The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks (LamontCranston)
  13. 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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» See also 227 mentions

English (150)  Spanish (2)  Hungarian (2)  French (2)  Swedish (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (159)
Showing 1-5 of 150 (next | show all)
Ringworld is a pretty much the poster child for the hard science fiction 'big dumb object' novel. In that way, it's very similar to the first of the Rama series (actually published 3 years later; my review). It's light on plot and characterization, instead opting to spend much of the novel on the titular Ringworld itself.

The technology of the Ringworld itself is interesting, although a decent amount of exactly how it works and its long history are left out. Essentially, take all of the planets and other objects in several solar system and turn them into a ring roughly 1 AU in radius. Spin it fast enough that you get fake gravity by way of centrifugal motion, add overhead plates to block sunlight into a fake day/night cycle, and add some plants. Bam Ringworld.

Plotwise, we basically have an alien with an experimental super-fast hyperdrive recruit a crew of three dubiously qualified others then set off to the Ringworld. They crash and spend a while exploring towards the rim of the Ringworld (it's a million miles across...), find various remnants of civilization, and then head back. We never actually learn much about who built it or what happened to them.

Writingwise, the prose isn't great and the dialog doesn't feel at all natural. It's readable, but you can tell this novel is primarily intended as a vehicle for ideas rather than something more modern to be read for the characterization and story.

Characterwise, we really only mainly have the four crewmembers sent to the Ringworld:

Nessus is a puppeteer. Basically, they're a very old species which have done some crazy solar system level engineering but are extremely risk averse. The entire plot kicks off because they are worried about explosions in the core of the galaxy which will reach us in twenty thousand years. Nessus himself is considered a bit crazy in that he actually takes some risks.

Louis Wu is two hundred years old, although he doesn't really feel it. He's got a scientific mind and sometimes goes stir crazy and flies off into the stars. I'm not entirely sure he has much characterization beyond that.

Speaker-to-Animals is the other alien, from some sort of warrior race which tried to kill humanity several times in the past but has mostly given up on it. He's actually fairly interesting, mostly as a counter to Nessus.

Teela Brown is the other human crewmemeber. She's a twenty-something that's lucky (that's actually a weirdly large plot point, see below) and woefully inexperienced for something like this. Other than the luck, the only reason she seems to be about is to have someone for Louis to have sex with? Towards the end of the book (when Louis has found a new sex target), this happens:

"He got very uncomfortable and stopped sleeping with me. He thinks you own me, Louis."
"Slavery for women, I think. You'll tell him you don't own me, won't you?
Louis felt pain in his throat. "It might save explanations if I just sold you to him. If that's what you want."
"You're right. And it is."

So... yeah.

Speaking of luck:

One of the entire plot points of the book is that Nessus' race was apparently engaged in some very long term behind the scenes breeding programs. They bred
Speaker-to-Animals' race to be less aggressive, which is probably not a terrible idea, but I get why
Speaker-to-Animals is pissed about it. For the humans, they instead instituted a lottery for the right to have children. After several generations, this is supposed to have bred 'luckiness' into mankind,
of which Teela is apparently the luckiest. It's a really weird, psuedo-sciencey plot point and takes up an unusually large amount of the book.


Anyways, if you enjoyed Rama or other 'big dumb object' books, you'll probably also like this (I actually liked Rama a bit more). If not, perhaps give it a pass? Reading summaries of the sequels, I think I will give them a pass, at least for right now. ( )
  jpv0 | Jul 21, 2021 |
Pretty amazing book. Incredibly enjoyable, although definitely distinguishable when it was written (it has a similar feel to several to Heinlein's books and characters, but a little more distinguished). ( )
  smallerdemon | Jul 5, 2021 |
I’d heard the Sci-Fi channel was in the process of making this book into a mini-series and decided to give it a shot. Being an inspiration for Halo also tipped my interest. This one follows the idea of a Dyson Ring, which has always been an intriguing topic to me. The idea that one Dyson Ring could have the habitable area of 3 million earth-size planets is mind-blowing. The world was more interesting than the characters, unfortunately. There is some controversy about the minimized role of women in this book, which I’d also agree with. ( )
  adamfortuna | May 28, 2021 |
Revisiting Ringworld decades later surprised me. I had remembered the remarkable hard-SF construction of the Ringworld itself -- call it the eponymous hero of the book, because the moving, speaking characters fall short of what they could be. Even for 1970, the book was astonishingly sexist. "Nonsentient females" in alien races, for goodness sake: mothers unable to teach or protect the young, how would that possibly be a survival trait? Two human women in the story, presumably sentient: lots of sex seems to be their function, as characters (considering Teela's luck which largely drives the plot as something that affects her, not something she wields). Woman 2, Prill, whom they pick up on the Ringworld, was a member of a spaceship crew comprising 33 males and 3 females. No need to ask what her job was, the human male sneers, and indeed we find out almost immediately that she is very good at it. (He's surprised to discover later on that a "space whore" has to have a fair bit of incidental knowledge just to survive on a ship.) I'm not sure that I actually want to keep this book, this time around. There might have been a reason that I let it slip away thirty years ago. ( )
  muumi | Apr 6, 2021 |
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 150 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Niven, Larryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baumann, BodoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cullen, PatrickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davis, DonCover printingsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary 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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Locus (1971Novel1971)
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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For use in schools and libraries only. A two-headed creature and a large, red-furred carnivore are among the members of a party that arrives to explore a mysterious world created in the shape of a ring.

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