Larry Niven
Ringworld Cover

The Big Dumb Object, still with a sense of wonder


The book did not have the same impact on me as all those many years ago when I first read it. Knowing about the sequals now, the book, a relatively short (and minimalistic) novel, obviously sets up what is to follow, in which Niven further explores possibilities of his creation, endearingly listed under wikipedia's entry for "Big Dumb Object" (coined by critic Roz Kaveney), which is somewhat unwarranted.

Apart from the descriptions of what the explorers encounter, which in there own right are compelling and imaginative, and the tension between the very different individuals forced into co-operation and competition, which provides an ever-present undertow in the novel, the Ringworld itself is the actual star of the narrative. Scientific criticism aside, the boundless Ringworld that is both skillfully conceived and thoroughly defined in terms of potential future technology and physics (such as centrigugal force, the Slaver stasis field, hyperdrives, selective breeding, to name but a few), is the stuff of sf - a triumph of the imagination. In this aspect the Ringworld overshadows the various protagonists.

Despite its flaws, of which the twist towards the end featuring Teela is probably the worst of it all, it is an enjoyable read, still with enough wonder and magic to keep you going. Niven remains basically optimistic, unlike many of his contempories, and his celebration of the transformation power of engineering and technology endures as one of the most exciting and rewarding examples of the true nature of sf.