As mentioned, I’ve been trying to catch up on old, classic science fiction, and after Rendezvous with Rama, I set my sites on Ringworld by Larry Niven, a book I have also been hearing about since I was a kid. Like Rama, Ringworld involves an alien artifact and a crew that visits it. But unlike Rama, I kind of hated it.

Ringworld centers on Louis Wu, a roughly 200 year old human who seizes upon the opportunity to visit the mysterious Ringworld along with a crew consisting of two aliens and a human woman. The journey uncovers secrets about the Ringworld and about each other, culminating in a massive revelation about one of the crew members in particular.

To be fair, the Ringworld concept is cool, a variation on a Dyson sphere, and I wish the novel had spent even more time there, but it takes far too long to get there. The novel felt bloated and meandering and far too obsessed with unimportant personal interactions.

But far more egregious, I thought, was the way the novel treats women. There are two of note — one is an actual space whore (once they find out that she was on a space ship, it seems like the only profession she could be) and the other one is a literal plot device. In fact much of what Louis Wu does is mansplain to his companion, Teela. Of course Louis also has lots of sex with both women. Both women felt underdeveloped to me, whereas Louis, and the similarly male Speaker-to-Animals, have perhaps the most fully realized relationship in the whole novel.

I had other problems with the book — it feels overly sentimental without earning it, its sexism almost seems to border on misogyny in parts, and don’t get me started on the idea of evolved luck. I questioned Niven’s understanding of biology and evolution after reading Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex, and there seems to be more of that suspect thinking here.

Ringworld won the Hugo, the Nebula and the Locus Awards, which puts it in a very small group. To be honest, I don’t see its appeal. Disappointing, but at least I can move on to the next book.

If you read Ringworld, though, and liked it, please let me know why in the comments. I’d love to hear from people with different viewpoints than mine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rising Tide -Out now!

Rising Tide, the sequel to Falling Sky, was released on October 6, 2015. Publisher's Weekly said, "Khanna crafts a terrifyingly dismal picture of the future, raising the stakes by gradually stripping Ben of friends and support while throwing him into increasingly dire situations. His worldbuilding remains solid and unsettling, and he never loses sight of the human element. The cliffhanger ending is sure to leave readers on the edges of their seats, panting for resolution."

Falling Sky – Out now!

Falling Sky, my first novel, came out October 7, 2014 from Pyr. It's an adventure story set in a post-apocalyptic future with airships. Publisher's Weekly called it a "solid and memorable debut" while Library Journal gave it a starred review and named it Debut of the Month. For more information, please click here.

Upcoming Events

October 27-30: World Fantasy Convention, Columbus OH

Recent Posts

  • My World Fantasy Schedule
    10/25/2016 — In just a matter of days, I will be attending the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, OH. I know there was some problems with the programming this year, but thanks to Ellen Datlow I’m happy to be part of some…Read more »
  • Beginnings and Ends
    09/14/2016 — I’m a little late in announcing this here, but I’m happy to say that there will be a third book in the series that started with Falling Sky and Rising Tide. The third book, currently titled Raining Fire, will be…Read more »
  • Ringworld
    08/16/2016 — As mentioned, I’ve been trying to catch up on old, classic science fiction, and after Rendezvous with Rama, I set my sites on Ringworld by Larry Niven, a book I have also been hearing about since I was a kid.…Read more »
  • Rendezvous with Rama
    08/10/2016 — Elisabeth’s been delving into science fiction lately and that got me keen to start picking up some old science fiction classics that I had somehow never gotten around to reading. The first of these was Rendezvous with Rama, a book…Read more »
  • The Weirdest Year
    08/08/2016 — 2016 may just go on record as the weirdest year I’ve seen. It started with the devastating losses of David Bowie and Prince, saw the serious candidacy of Donald Trump, and continues to have people of all ages and lifestyles…Read more »