Book Review: The Mote in God’s Eye

The Mote in God's Eye The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Holy cow. It’s been a long time since I couldn’t put a book down. I went to the library to renew this one since I didn’t think there was any way I could finish it before it was due, but I was wrong.

When I was a kid, I remember seeing this book on the shelf at the library almost every time I went to browse the SF/F section. For some reason, I’m not really sure why, I never picked it up. Perhaps the religious implications of the title made me uneasy- I had issues with that sort of thing back then.

Anyway. Man, what a ride. This book is long, but you won’t notice. It’s relentlessly engaging, sometimes running, sometimes stumbling, but always moving toward that event horizon past which you cannot see, that rubicon from beyond which there can be no return.

Interestingly, the “science” part of this fiction predicts stylus-operated palmtop computers with wireless access to localized networks with almost eerie precision, just about 35 years before their pedestrian debut. Of course, there’s also a fair bit of named-for-its-inventor-so-we-don’t-need-a-scientific-word handwavium for the drive and shield technologies, but you can hardly call them cliches- emulation of writers like Niven and Pournelle, grandmasters of the genre, are WHY these are SF cliches today.

We are treated to a variety of viewpoints, both human and alien, that reveal the complex motivations and fully realized internal struggles of the characters- no cardboard cutouts here, at least among the main cast. The aliens are, conveniently, linguistic geniuses; another trope that has become common; for the most part, I suspect, as a time-saving literary device. But, while I would have found more linguistic xenoanthropology fascinating, it might have slowed things down, and there was simply no room on this ride for anything that would put a drag on the breakneck pace as both the protagonists and the reader struggle to make sense of a thoroughly intriguing, and just as thoroughly alien culture, before both of their races are doomed.

I finished this book at 2am last night, and I plan to hit the library for the sequel today- oh, crap, is it Sunday? Must… have… more… >_<

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~ by oberon the fool on July 14, 2009.

One Response to “Book Review: The Mote in God’s Eye”

  1. That’s high praise. Wish you’d said a bit more what it was about. I guess I can find that out myself (and you did share a bit while you were reading it).

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