The Alexandrian

THE RINGWORLD ENGINEERS

Louis Wu sleeps his way across the Ringworld… and then kills everybody he slept with.

THE RINGWORLD THRONE

The Ringworld Throne - Larry NivenWithin the first few chapters of The Ringworld Throne, I was struck repeatedly by two thoughts:

1. “This is incredibly turgid.”

2. “Oh lord, here we go again.”

To explain the first, let me offer an example: Early in the novel there is a sequence in which the main characters are waiting to meet with another group of characters. They have to wait three nights.

First, it must be understood that there is no particular reason why they have to wait three nights. Niven simply made an arbitrary choice. Second, it must be understood that essentially nothing of interest happens in those three nights. There is exactly one significant conversation and nothing else of consequence.

Despite that, Niven spends over twenty-five pages describing the events of those three nights. The characters mill about pointlessly; they sleep; they eat; they have meaningless sex. And it’s all described in mind-numbing detail. The one significant conversation meanders along through three different sequences stretched across half a day and six pages and is three times too long at that.

It’s boring. Achingly, painfully boring.

To explain the second, let me simply say this: It takes Niven less than a dozen pages before he has retconned the entire plot of the second novel and rendered it into a math error.

The Ringworld Engineers - Larry NivenSince the entire second novel was, in itself, a massive retcon of the first novel, one begins to wonder if there was ever any actual substance here or if it’s just retcons all the way down.

I also think that there’s a fairly good chance that the original title of this book was Ringworld: Home of the Pointless Orgy until Niven’s editors made him change it. I have never read about so much sex while simultaneously being bored out of my mind. Niven never lets a dozen pages pass without having somebody humping somebody else, nor does he ever let an opportunity pass to make sex sound as boring as he possibly can.

Also, let’s take a moment and talk about Protectors: I know it’s always been kind of tough to take them seriously if you’re a hard science fiction buff. But when the entire conclusion of the novel consists of Protectors running around willy-nilly and a plot lifted from a Benny Hilly sketch with the words “sexy nurse” scratched out and replaced with the word “Protector”… well, it’s kinda hard to take them seriously at all.

GRADES:

RINGWORLD ENGINEERS: B-
RINGWORLD THRONE: F

Larry Niven
Published: 1980/1996
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Cover Price: $7.99
ISBN: 0345334302 / 0345412966
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