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Outies (Mote Series Book 3) [Kindle Edition]

J.R. Pournelle
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Outies is an authorized sequel to The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand by best-selling SF duo Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. With a fresh point of view, deep continuity, and page-turning plot twists, J.R. (Jennifer) Pournelle brings a mature generation of Moties to life for a mature generation of readers. Outies introduces new characters, adds depth to beloved old ones, creates a rich, imaginable world, and gives clear voices to aliens and outsiders.

In a return to the CoDominium universe of the Second Empire of Man, Outies pauses at the fringes of human space, on an outworld that never knew fossil fuels. New Utah instead pushed crude solar technologies to the limits of everyday utility. But a planet is a big place - and it's time for the New Utahns to meet the neighbors. Blending hard science and social science, Outies explores complexities of biology, geology, and ecology at the heart of alien Motie society and evolution. While military science fiction in a sense, that sense is very much of the wars of our time. Outies plunges through the confusion, chaos, factionalism, and unpredictability of low intensity conflict with realism, but largely through civilian eyes. In a twist on traditional space opera, it introduces Asach Quinn - a wily, thoughtful, genderless, and diplomatic foil to reckless pilot Kevin Renner. Leaving the aristocratic manors of Sparta, Quinn burrows deep inside the heads of members of the Church of Him - who believe that the red dwarf visible twinkling through the Coal Sack Nebula is literally the Eye of God. Pournelle - an ex-Army intelligence officer turned anthropologist - provides New Utah and its characters with a rich sense of place and deep motivations; hints at what may become, over the next millenium, of Mormons, moties, and Earth islanders displaced by sea level rise - and even masters some Tok Pisin along the way.

At nearly 110,000 words (about 400 print pages), the book is packed with additional material designed to allow the reader to explore New Utah in as much depth as desired. For those new to (or needing a refresher on) the Mote series, a detailed chronology lists key events over the five centuries preceding Outies. The cast of characters is organized by role and location, providing hints of relationships that unwind over the course of the novel. A map lays out the continental-scale environs in which the story is set. An appendix provides a guide to acronyms, details of religious history and organization, an explanation of alien accounting systems, and evolutionary biology. There is even an original musical score, composed by music theorist J. Daniel Jenkins. 

First Kindle edition published December, 2010. First print edition published April, 2011.


Editorial Reviews

Review

"an interesting and enjoyable...experiment in...the union of technology and character..." --K. Kris Hirst, About.com - Archaeology

"a very satisfying picture of a spacefaring civilization by the best hard-science fiction writing team (and now daughter) in the business...very much recommended." --The Old Grey Cat, Wordpress.com

"...articulate and intelligent...everything a sequel to an acclaimed novel should be..." --SF Book Reviews

"What does it mean to have a war so destructive that society is blasted back to the invention of the brick? ... how does one rebuild? ... Jennifer Pournelle has thought about exactly that. There isn't much science fiction written by broadminded, well-traveled polymaths." -- More Words, Deeper Hole: A Guest Review by Carlos

From the Author

Kindle Readers: Please check out "A Note for Kindle Readers" near the bottom of this note.

I thought about the post-war (or was it still war?) period of 2003-2004 for a good long time after returning home from Iraq. Of the many things I pondered, one was war fiction, and especially military science fiction. War books have compelling plots, generally along the lines of: there are good guys; there are bad guys. Sometimes bad guys, that is, guys who were individually bad, redeem themselves and become heroic good guys. Anyway, the good guys win, or die valiantly trying. War's over. The End.

But nothing I saw in Iraq was ever that cut-and-dried. On any given day, it was hard to tell if, when and where we were having a war. It was generally impossible to tell good guys from bad guys. There were many shades of both, on both sides. Technology sometimes won the day, but seldom won the outcome. None of us outsiders, ever, knew what the locals were thinking - even if they pretended to tell us. And everything, absolutely everything, including matters of life and death, was weighed and measured by social standards and rules of conduct that we simply could not read.

That's what "first contact" stories are really about - and that's what Niven & Pournelle did with The Mote in God's Eye some 35 years ago. So, as I thought about it, I decided: wouldn't it be interesting to try to flip that around: to get inside the heads of locals and others who had the same dilemna in reverse. I drew a lot on my Iraq experience trying to do that.

To make this a credible sequel, I took careful, detailed notes on timelines, political precedents, character traits, and technologies from Mote and The Gripping Hand, and tried to be excedingly careful to stick to the "realities" of that universe. But, given that the first Mote was written 35 years ago, I also wanted to update the science and gender issues that were at the core of the original novel.

First, because Sally Fowler (a central character in the original book) was ostensibly an anthropologist, in my sequel, I brought in another anthropologist to serve as a new protagonist and do real anthropological things.

Second, I spent a lot of studying reproductive biology, in order to write in backstory that made sense of the Motie's bizarre physiology. It's written up in the report in the Appendix. You don't have to read that, but if you are interested, you can - and if you demand more answers than are in the story itself, you should.

What I did NOT try to do was copy Niven & Pournelle's style. They are, after all, still writing and need no help from me to do that. Also, I wanted to get at that sense of disordered confusion - that sense of nobody being quite sure where they are, literally and figuratively, as a place teeters on the brink of (or of pulling back from) war.

Each chapter deals with four threads. Mentally, I think of them as: Imperials (and what they are up to); Church and State (that is, events in New Utah's capitol city, St. George); The Pale (that is, Bonneville and the Barrens); and Beyond the Pale (that is, the Barrens and Outback). These threads each move forward independently for awhile, but of course come together as the book goes on. In Iraq, that would be something like trying to keep track of what's going on in Washington D.C., Baghdad, Nasiriya, and the desert wastes of Dhi Qar province. Standing next to a single well at a roadside shrine, it's hard to grasp that those other places even exist - let alone have much relevance. But of course they do.

Finally, the ending was intended as a bit of fun, consistent with the other "remote fringe" of Second Empire space (King David's Spaceship) that launched my father's career in science fiction writing. I hope that diehard Pournelle fans who spot the premise will recognise it for what it is: an intentional homage to him. And by the way, I expect most fans of his know this already, but he's J.E. I'm J.R.                              

A Note for Kindle Readers: I didn't originally write (or lay out) this book with a Kindle in mind. I'd intended it to be the sort of book that you flip around in, referring back-and-forth to the various references. Then, in doing the e-book conversion, I had no idea how difficult a physical Kindle is to navigate. I'm more familiar with other e-readers (and .html), where you have way more options for pre-defining bookmarks, internal jumps, etc.  

That means that all of the reader clues & cheat-sheets I provided - the chronology, the cast of characters, the map, the various reports in the appendix, the table of contents with chapter titles, and the quotes beginning each chapter (yes, those are hints too) -- are not easy to refer to on a Kindle. I've been thinking about how best to fix this. I haven't decided. Meanwhile, here are some tips from W. Fisher Burns and other readers, for making reading the Kindle version more like what I'd intended:
  • Before you begin reading, go BACKWARDS from where the Kindle drops you. Bookmark the Table of Contents and the List of Characters. - they are grouped by location.
  • Now jump to (and Bookmark) the Map  - notice where those locations are. The multiple story lines  (which DO come together  through the course of the novel) are easier to follow when you "get" the relationship between those locations.
  • Review the Chronology - it lists critical events preceding this story, and shows where prior books fit in this series. This book stands alone, but it helps to have that background. Skim the Appendix,  just so you know what's there. Read the True Church of Mormon Organization
  • Decide as you go how much or how little of the Appendix you want to read. For example, when Colchis Barthes skims the report on Swenson's Apes, it's up to you whether you want to flip to the appendix and read the whole thing, or just go with his brief summaries.
  • Become familiar with the search function. It is a great tool for when you come across a name, location, or acronym introduced earlier that you can't quite remember.
  • Use the built-in dictionary. Some unfamiliar words may not be there, but many are.
  • If tables are "cut off" on the sides, pan left or right to see the rest.
  •  Bookmark-as-you-go to keep track of your place -- once you've skimmed the Appendix, the "Jump to Furthest Point" function is pretty useless.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1147 KB
  • Print Length: 400 pages
  • Publisher: New Brookland Press; 1.4 edition (April 10, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004FGMURG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,420 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Creditable Hard SF December 24, 2010
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Pros:

1) An excellent first contact story. I suppose it's not a spoiler to acknowledge that the Moties appear in this, the third of the 'Mote in God's Eye' novels. The aliens are well-realized, and their portrayal is the high point of the novel, on par or better than the earlier novels. The insight into their psychology is unique to the series, and the actions both of humans and Moties in the course of the novel is both logical and well-realized.

2) Related to the above note is that this is most obviously hard SF, of a sort that is all too rare. There are no universal translators. Such technology as is used is plausible. The author deserves commendation for Doing Her Research.

3) The story successfully gives a feeling of adventure, of dusty duty stations and the challenges of running an NGO or academic endeavour on the SF equivalent of the third world.

Cons:

1) The single largest complaint I have is weak characterization. The characters are atomic, and have little interaction or relationship to each other beyond those strictly necessary to carry out action in the story. The Bury-Renner relationship of the second book, the Whitbread-Potter-Staley triangle of the first, the enmity between Dr. Horvath and Admiral Kutuzov, are all missing. Nor is there much to distinguish them or to make them memorable beyond their story role.

2) A possible concern is that the novel is somewhat academic in tone. There is lengthy exposition, to the extent of inserting entire fictional documents verbatim into the text. There are numerous walls of text to trudge through. This coupled with some rather unusual five-syllable word choices limit the mass-market appeal of the book.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If I had to pick a single work as my favorite- Mote in Gods Eye is probably my choice. I read it when I was much younger, and when the sequel came out I was overjoyed. I bought it immediately, and was not disappointed. They had "done it again", and it was everything you could have hoped for. When I saw ANOTHER sequel was available, I bought it INSTANTLY. I was a bit hesitant as I did not see Larry Niven's name on the cover (and I enjoy his work immensely), but it was more MOTE and I HAD TO HAVE IT!

Then I read it. It turns out the "J Pournelle" on the cover is the daughter of Jerry. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the Dune novels by Frank Herbert's son are in some ways even better than the original. But... then I read it.

The characters are flat, almost skewed from the personalities we loved so much in the original Niven/Pournelle novels. The story is fragmented, and seems to stutter- almost wandering aimlessly at times. I am not saying that Jennifer Pournelle is a bad writer- just not THE writer for a "Mote" sequel. Just as Gregory Benford is a great author, but he completely ruined the story when he attempted the sequel to Arthur C. Clarke's "City and the Stars".. his style and concepts were too different from the original work for continuity. We see the same thing here. There are characters with the same names- Kevin Renner, Lord Roderick Blaine, etc. but they are not the same people. We have many of the same places- but they don't "feel" the way they did whey you were there in the first two books.

MOTE fans will have to own this- I am one of them - just because it exists, but it's sort of the "ugly" marble in your toy box. You need it to complete the collection, but you get no joy from it. Or- to put it another way, it is an "Odd-Numbered Star Trek Movie".
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy debut January 8, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
Writing a sequel to the masterworks of The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand is not easy, but Jennifer Pournelle has succeeded.

She follows the Pournelle tradition of interspersing sections of social and political commentary throughout the story telling. While one may not always agree with her commentary, it is always thought-provoking. Her background is different from the elder Dr. Pournelle, as are her viewpoints - one imagines that there were many interesting debates between father and daughter!

The story is difficult to follow at first, as the viewpoint shifts between different characters whose relationship only becomes clear much later. This is a minor critique for a first novel. The economic, political and religious conflicts are well presented, and provide a way for the reader to gain a fresh perspective on many of the issues and conflicts that our society faces today.

All in all an enjoyable read, and a worthy debut for a new author.

A minor note: this book has been self-published - a trend we may expect to see more of, as eBooks make the established publishing houses increasingly irrelevant. One disadvantage of self-publishing is that authors tend to skimp on professional editing and proof-reading. While the overall quality of this book is good, it nonetheless contains perhaps a dozen errors that should not have made it into print. One can wish that the author had asked a professional proof-reader to make one last check before publication.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice
Nice book
Published 15 days ago by Michael Mccormack
1.0 out of 5 stars pretentious and overblown
Spent more weeks reading the first quarter of this book than it took me to read both Mote and Gripping hand combined- finally gave up. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Tony
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Its a good story, but doesn't hang together as well as the previous books in the series.
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars NO, No - go away!
I thought Jerry was writing a sequel without Larry, which could have been very okay. Nope, it was Jerry's daughter and reads like a first attempt). Read more
Published 1 month ago by GeoffK
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Didn't grip me
Published 2 months ago by Rick Sellens
1.0 out of 5 stars So disappointing - one of the few books I've not ...
So disappointing - one of the few books I've not finished. The characters are flat and the story confusing. Read more
Published 2 months ago by J. WELTZIN
3.0 out of 5 stars worth a read.
Not a bad follow up to the mote books. Good character building but the ending was a little bit more rushed than I would have liked. Will still recommend as a book to be read
Published 3 months ago by G. Baldwin
4.0 out of 5 stars A decent continuation of the Motie story.
The book was a little incoherent at the start. The last book I read in the series was years ago. I found the answers I needed in the appendices. Read them first. Read more
Published 3 months ago by BigBandFan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I like the author and this was very well done
Published 3 months ago by Philip A. Stein
2.0 out of 5 stars Hey, I really expected to like this book
This book was really a disappointment. I made it almost halfway through the book, but I'm giving it up. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Wrinked Old Guy
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More About the Author

J.R. (Jennifer) Pournelle is an archaeologist and anthropologist who reconstructs landscapes surrounding ancient cities. A Research Fellow in the University of South Carolina's Environment and Sustainability program, and past Mesopotamian Fellow of the American School of Oriental Research, her research in Turkey, Iraq, and the Caucasus has been featured in Science Magazine, The New York Times, on The Discovery Channel, and in the National Geographic Television Network's "Diving Into Noah's Flood." In a former life, she received numerous decorations for service as a United States Army intelligence officer and arms control negotiator. Her book, Excavations, A City Cycle, drew from that experience. It won the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Book Prize.

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