Larry Niven
Ringworld Cover

An interesting adventure, but ultimately disapointing


Larry Niven's Ringworld is most certainly not a perfect book, but it was an enjoyable ride in a captivating setting. While the plot ultimately faltered and the human characters were never interesting (and at times repulsive), I still found that I could not put the book down.

The greatest strength of Niven's novel is certainly his alien characters, who achieve the greatest semblance of true "alienness" I have yet to encounter in science fiction. The Puppeteer Nessus and the Kzin Speaker-to-Animals are enjoyable and exotic. How unfortunate it is, then, that the humans who travel with them ultimately seem bland and obnoxious. I found nothing to like about the main human, Louis Wu. Even less enjoyable was his female companion Teela Brown.

Throughout the course of the narrative, Louis never struck me as anything but a bored, spoiled brat and Teela never rose above being his shallow sex partner, despite some interesting facts the story reveals about her. Louis Wu goes on the adventure because he's bored, falls in love because he's bored, is convinced to bring Teela along so he can sleep with her because he's bored and does just about everything else because he's bored. The interesting implications of how the paradise of Earth in the far future creates boredom for the human characters is the only thing that redeems them in my eyes.

Another issue with Ringworld is, as with The Gods Themselves I was bothered by the portrayal of sex in Ringworld because of its emptiness and pointlessness. Indeed, Asimov at least tried to make a point with the sex in The Gods Themselves, where it seems like Niven simply assumes that a 200-year-old man simply couldn't go a chapter without having sex with his twenty-year-old companion (or another female if Teela wasn't available). Like any other event, sex should be used in a story only as it furthers the plot or characters, not as method to titillate the reader.

However, despite the fact that I found the human characters boring, the aliens pulled me through the exploration of the titular Ringworld, and the setting was revealed well. One got a sense of a much bigger world outside of the adventures of Louis Wu's motley crew without being overwhelmed with needless trivia. Unfortunately, the story, while captivating, does not quite achieve what it's aiming for. It creates a few interesting mysteries that beg answering, but are never even addressed, and pulls off a twist that struck me as rather lame.

In the end, I enjoyed Ringworld quite a bit, despite its glaring flaws and I would recommend that fans of science fiction read it and form their own opinions about it.