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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff....!
Niven is not wthout his problems as a writer. His characters are thin, his prose undistinguished to the point of brevity, and anybody reading him expecting the depth of Banks or even Hamilton will be sorely disappointed. On top of this, much of the science in Niven's early work is now severely out of date. So having dissed the guy utterly, why should I recommend this...
Published on 28 May 2001

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good, not great
This was hailed to me as a classic by several pals who, like me, enjoy hard scifi. My friends were truly passionate about the book, with all its quirky detail and humor, so I agreed to read it. No this is personal, but it just didn't work for me that well.

The plot takes place on a massive belt that is build around a sun, kind of like a ribbon Dyson sphere. As...
Published on 2 Sep 2011 by rob crawford


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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff....!, 28 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Ringworld (Paperback)
Niven is not wthout his problems as a writer. His characters are thin, his prose undistinguished to the point of brevity, and anybody reading him expecting the depth of Banks or even Hamilton will be sorely disappointed. On top of this, much of the science in Niven's early work is now severely out of date. So having dissed the guy utterly, why should I recommend this book? Well, because it's fab, that's why. This, for me is Nivens most successful novel; he does actually have a way with language and he is the master of the classic guy-in-a-situation short story - this is what his technique is built around - his strengths are speed, clarity, economy. This novel dumps you into the thick of known space intrigue. It's actually as sixties a universe as anything by Moorcock, but in a totally different way; a free swinging californian universe full of, well, fun. Mind battering super-science sits so happily with the surreal aliens, humorous touches, and sheer zest of the book, that it's just impossible not to like it. The plot is simple, but perfectly effective, and frames a simple road-journey/travel narrative through one of SF's most singular domains. For those tired of po-faced 'literary' SF on one hand, or multi-volume doorstop space-opera on the other, why not put your literary snobbery in stasis, and go have some fun in Niven's playground.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good, not great, 2 Sep 2011
By 
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This was hailed to me as a classic by several pals who, like me, enjoy hard scifi. My friends were truly passionate about the book, with all its quirky detail and humor, so I agreed to read it. No this is personal, but it just didn't work for me that well.

The plot takes place on a massive belt that is build around a sun, kind of like a ribbon Dyson sphere. As it spins, it creates an artificial gravity for the inhabitants, who are unknown. An unlikely team - an Asian, a felinoid Kzin, a girl gifted with luck, and an alien prostitute - enter and try to unlock its secrets. They go on a long journey and there are many funny asides, such as when the Kzin gets all his fur burned off with the exception of the bush he was sitting upon and a band around his shielded eyes. There are also some very interesting details, such as the medical advances of the time but also the notions that some people are genetically lucky. However, by the end, I did not like the explanation of what had happened: rather than awe, I felt disappointment that it wasn't more clever.

Recommended. It is good hard scifi. I just expected more after so many enthusiastic endorsements.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, but showing its age., 24 Jun 2009
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Ringworld is, on it's surface, a fun space opera with some "real science" thrown in. The worlds are imaginatively built, the pace is good and there is a nice feel of mystery and fun.

The book hasn't aged well in the respect that it's plainly aimed at the adolescent male, brimful with reported or implied sexual encounters, none of which serve the plot in any way. The two female characters are both beautiful (what's the point of an ugly woman, right?) and shallow; one is a petulant brat whose charmed life has left her bereft of humanity, the other is a spaceship's doxy who sees herself as some sort of sexual ambassador -- I mean, really!? ...But at least Niven reveals that the hero is a little insecure about his sexual prowess.

Anyway, I'm making a big deal out the misogyny, which isn't all that bad, for sci-fi of the period. What really ticked me off was that, in-between all the naked swimming and humping, no-one says a sexual swearword! No, really; to avoid using obscenities, Niven invents "tanj", a catch-all swear-word that has no explicit meaning and is hugely irritating to read over and over again. Because casual sex is fine, as long as there's no dirty words.

Writers: for tanj's sake, use an honest-to-goodness four-letter word, use reported speech, or just don't have your characters swear at all. Please!

What else? Oh yeah! Remember I mentioned a character that has led a charmed life? Well, the big revelation at the end of the novel involves Teela (wasn't that the girl in He-Man?)and it explains why she's such an airhead. It is also utterly illogical and a massive anticlimax.

This book won both the Hugo and Nebula awards!? I much prefer Tower Of Glass (Gollancz SF collector's edition) by Robert Silverberg.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Between the finite and the infinite, 29 Dec 2005
Larry Niven's Ringworld has a mundane plot. A party of adventurers crash on an alien artefact and attempt to escape from it. The plot, however, is to all intents and purposes irrelevant. I am gripped by the conviction that Niven envisaged the artefact in question and simply wanted to come up with a vehicle to describe it over the course of 280 pages or so. The construction in question is a solid band circling a planet, a million miles in radius which has been terraformed by architects whose presence is still felt despite their absence, and which has now fallen into decay. Niven muses over the intricacies of its form and function, from the foundation material to the cloud squares which separate night from day, and constructs a wholly convincing environment in so doing. A few paragraphs of scant description will not do his successes in this regard justice, and I would recommend reading it for these evocations of a vast alien environment alone. Ringworld's habitats remind us of our own, yet are described as being of such a scale as to make the reader feel insignificant even within the pages of the book. On closing it, our own world seems rarer and less familiar, increasing in magnitude as we ourselves diminish, overturning the familiar trope of 'the shrinking world' and letting us once again revel in the scale of nature. Iain M. Banks' Consider Phlebas reworks the idea of the ringworld to great effect, but Larry Niven got there first.
Winner of the 1971 Hugo Award, Ringworld is also noteworthy for some (but not all) of its characters. The four adventurers are (ostensibly) led -- or, more accurately, hired by -- Nessus of the Puppeteers, who resembles a large semi-plucked turkey with two necks, a brace of python heads, and bipolar disorder. Speaker To Animals is an oversized brawny ginger tom cat of the warlike Kzin race, which has battled mankind for centuries and been overthrown as a consequence of the Puppeteers technological intervention on behalf of humanity. As it turns out, the Puppeteers have been manipulating both races for their own ends, a fact which Niven (hilariously) tries to deploy as a plot twist; but the clue is in the name, isn't it? The two humanoids, Louis Wu (chosen for his experience) and Teela Brown (chosen for her supposed luck) are, frankly, tedious, and the exposition regarding their relationship slows the book to down to a crawl in a places.
In summary, whilst I could hardly recommend Ringworld for the telling of its story alone, Niven's peerless description of an alien artefact of almost incomprehensible enormousness is what makes this book so satisfying. Take his conjuration of some of that wonder from it and see your own world through it.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 Stars, 31 Jan 2006
By 
A. Morley (Ripley, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ringworld is an adventure/discovery book. It tells the story of 200 year-old Louis Wu who is contacted by a curious 2 headed turkey-like alien called Nessus who wants to assemble a team to explore the eponymous Ringworld his species has recently discovered. The other members of his team include an 8 foot high, orange cat-like alien called Speaker-To-Animals and a naïve, 20 year old girl called Teela Brown we learn is chosen for her luck. The book then proceeds to follow their journey to the Ringworld itself and subsequently across it.
The idea itself, the Dyson sphere, is both imaginative and awe-inspiring. Its humongous scale is exemplified by the huge rim walls and a colossal mountain (over a 1000 miles high) called the Fist-Of-God. It would have been impossible for Niven to flesh out the entire world as there would be too much to cover so it is told from the viewpoint of the four members’ expedition through a limited section of the ‘artifact’. In this respect it succeeds admirably in world-building in a supposedly ‘hard’ science context.
But I gave this 3.5 stars because a good idea itself is not enough to make it REALLY good. The characters for one thing are atrociously developed and two dimensional. This would be forgivable if Niven focussed on furthering the plot but he delves too much into the character’s relationship with each other including a rather odd romance (if that) between a 200 year old man and a girl one tenth his age. Similarly Nessus suffers from seemingly bipolar disorder which seemed completely out of place. The most interesting being for me was Speaker. An angry, violent, 8 foot orange cat sounds ridiculous but his species’ history with humans, his interactions with Nessus and his Samurai-like ways make him, for me, the best of the bunch. As for Louis Wu there’s nothing redeeming about him whatsoever. As a protagonist he’s just too boring! The author attempts some ill-advised sex scenes to spice things up but erotica this is not. Something about Teela being ‘impaled’ did not endear me to his writing.

Therefore it makes it very difficult to read this story if you really couldn’t care less whether a character was killed or not. And apparently neither do the characters themselves when such an occasion does arise. However the novel does have several revelatory moments which make you think “hmm…that was conceptually stimulating” but because the people populating it are so dull and lifeless it is just not a classic SF book in my opinion. I’m all for hard science but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to display dodgy character development and simplistic writing.
Makes you think who were the other contenders for the Hugo and Nebula awards when this managed to snatch them both?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slowly Rotating, 26 Jan 2013
Niven has a prodigious imagination, particularly when it comes to hardware, which is both a strength and a weakness of this book. The universe on display is impressively cogent. There are wonders a plenty, lovingly described, through authorial asides and pages where the characters speculate on their observations. All of which makes the pace rather pedestrian. In fact, much of the book reads like a travelogue. By page 100 I was wishing they'd land the bloody spaceship and get on with things. Eventually they do and the pace does pick up towards the end.

Generally, though, this is a not a book of action but of ideas. Central among these is the ring world itself, which has become an icon of science fiction. Much of the impact of this book depends upon your reaction to this artefact and the less you know about it before you start the better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I like it, 30 Mar 2010
By 
R. Court - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This is a book in Larry Niven's "Known Space" universe. His works in this series are generally free standing, in that you don't have to have read any one to read any other, it is just that if you have read another, you get a slightly broader background. This isn't always good, sometimes flaws of logic in one book make the whole scheme less plausible, but on the whole it's perhaps better that way than not, even so.

Ringworld is developed from an earlier story where the centre of our galaxy is discovered to be going bang! in a big way, with a shockwave coming our way at the speed of light, we have FTL travel so that's theoretically no problem, and it's due to become urgent many millenia from the "now" of the story, but anyway somebody wants some exploring done.

I read a lot of science fiction as a youth, from a local library, this is science fiction. As such it's about ideas more than character development. I can read Ian M Banks, but I'd prefer Niven for tech ideas.

The puppetters are not turkeys, they occur in many of Niven's stories, they are devious intelligent herbivores, and devout cowards, with two front legs, one hind leg, a brain in their torso and two necks that function as arms and mouths that are also hands, they are among the most interesting semi-plausible but really alien intelligent aliens in science fiction.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the Hugo and Nebula Award winning SF classic., 16 Dec 2006
By 
G. Laird "Gavin Laird" (Maine et Loire, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Having read this 30 years ago I recently re-read it and I still like it. The science is consistent, the aliens are well thought out and the imagery of a ring 600 million miles in circumference and a million miles across is stupendous.

This is the story of Louis Wu who lives in the far future and his trip to this huge artefact. They have been hired to investigate by the Pearson's puppeteers, three legged and two headed cowards. They crash on the ringworld and there find out much about the puppeteers meddling with other races.

Other reviewers find the characterisation poor but I would say it is more primitive. Much of science fiction written after this shows its influence. The Kzinti have been described by some as samurai-like big cats on two legs. Speaker to animals commands well, a rare skill in samurai. He thinks on his feet too, making quick decisions. Nessus is a difficult character to portray being half mad and ancient to boot but the author has a stab at it. Teela Brown is shallow but this is part of the plot. Louis Wu shows human failings but do these detract or add to the character?

Is this a masterwork? Yes! Its bold and innovative, internally consistent and rapidly sketches out a scenario which has succesfully supported dozens of works by many other authors. For the affioncado there are glimpses of this everywhere. I once saw the cartoon version of Star Trek where instead of Warf the Klingon there was a kzinti.

This is a classic old style SF tale. Not everyone will like it but it is still worth a read.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Looking at it critically, 10 Oct 2005
By 
Michael de Waal (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Niven conjurs up some of the most imaginative characters I have ever read, but even they aren't quite enough to earn this book a place in the SF Masterworks collection. Of course that's only my opinion, and no doubt many will disagree with me, but looking back over the book it felt a little empty.
Louis Wu, a 200 year old man living in a future world, is the main character. A series of odd and unlikely events brings him and the other 3 characters together (only one of which is human - the other two are fascinating aliens that really make the read that much more interesting. Kudos to Niven for his imagination). The story moves along and they set off on their journey to Ringworld, but that's only the beginning as the majority of the book is actually on the Ringworld itself. Although it can be very interesting, at parts it can also be a little tedious, and sometimes you may find yourself having to re-read over certain passages to grasp what's going on - though in honesty it's not often, and for the most part it's very enjoyable, easy reading.
I feel that Niven goes beyond himself a little in the sense that he creates a world millions of times the size of earth - all through the book emphasising it's grand, unthinkable scale - and in the end it's quite beside the point. In fact, the end is what really let me down the most. Niven seems to be building up to something all the way through the book - right until the ending chapters - and when it finally does come you don't feel all that satisfied. Sure there's a good twist and some of your questions are answered, but then many of them aren't, and for a Masterworks I think Ringworld could have generally been a bit better. Perhaps it was too predictable, or the world just wasn't interesting enough? On occasion I found myself losing interest in the story - always expecting that all important twist to be just around the corner - though as I mentioned previously, it doesn't come until the end (and even then it's not all that mind blowing).
I realise that I'm just spilling out my thoughts and trying to be as critical as possible. Too often I come by reviews which just hail the book full of praise and when I finally read it, I end up being slightly disappointed. So here I've tried to highlight on the negatives in the hope that you will read it and see that in fact there are also many positives. It could have been better for a Masterwork, but it's a book I'm very glad to have read. Niven leaves it on a bit of a hanger which would suggest he wanted us to continue with the other Ringworld books, but I doubt I shall.
Overall, I would give it 7/10, saying it was enjoyable but had the potential to be so much better. If anything, it's worth reading for the characters, and the fact that the world they travel is bigger than any you're likely to ever come across. I don't know whether I'll ever get my mind round it's unimaginable size (something in the region of 300 million times bigger than earth).
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Boys own adventure in space, 11 Nov 2010
A novel that rests on a great premise - a group of mixed races goes off to explore a newly discovered and amazing artificial environment in space.

The good stuff is in the notion of the Ringworld itself and the intriguing 'known space' races - the primary races of the novel being the humans, kzin and puppeteers. Their interplay, shown via the three main leads, reveals an interesting history with the vastly more powerful puppeteers manipulations of the other races history. The puppeteer, Nessus, makes an oddly appealing character. None of the races are treated with great depth and only the puppeteers feel truly alien but it's interesting enough as the novel starts.

One might say the plot serves to explore the ringworld but there is a sense of disappointment about it, not enough insight into the ringworld's creation and history is revealed which leaves it not as a tantalizing mystery but as something that is simply incomplete in its explanation. Though I concluded the adventure was a means to look at the ringworld it is also true that the ringworld serves as a base for adventure. Basically the characters spend their time flying over the inner surface encountering ruins of a once great civilization and the remaining, now relatively uncivilized and unfortunately rather uninteresting populace. What ought to be a most fantastic journey ends up as a rather superficial 'boys own adventure' of daring do and escapades which seem a little cheap in the context of such an amazing artifact.

Other weaknesses in my view are the relatively superficial characters, the reader doesn't get much chance to develop insight into the characters. The female characters in particular are appalling caricatures, one gets the sense that the author either didn't understand women or preferred to think of them in the way they are presented. Indeed the attempts at 'romance' in the novel are faintly embarrassing, as if a teenager had written it. I believe Niven was in his thirties so there really is no excuse!

I'm sure cursing and popular expressions change over time but, however credible it might be, it just sounds silly to read of the the lead character saying "Tanj!" all the time. Just my view.

Some of the encounters during the adventure are interesting, especially the vast landscapes and evidence of past civilization, some are a bit too silly for my liking, the laser beam wielding 'sunflower' for example just lacks credibility.

some notions in the novel felt silly to me, the idea of a 'core explosion' threatening the galaxy just seemed, well, silly. Also the impenetrable hulls, the 'slaver stasis' field and other conveniences such as 'boosterspice', transporter tubes/plates and especially the notion that breeding for luck is possible spill over from science fiction into science fantasy, but i suppose that is ok in a novel after all. It certainly shouldn't be considered a 'hard science' fiction novel and I would therefore be unfair in being overly critical about it's science fantasy elements.

Overall it's a shame that an idea as wonderful as the ringworld has been 'taken' in what seems to me to be a 'light' sci-fi adventure book> For me, an idea as good as that needed a deeper approach and, frankly, a better writer.
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