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Outies (Mote Series, Book 3) Paperback – March 30, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


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

"...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

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. Firstly, they are, after all, still writing and need no help from me to do that. Secondly, 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. So, 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. From the standpoint of 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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: New Brookland Press; 1st edition (March 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615434142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615434148
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Brian D. Pendell on December 24, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

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.


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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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 17, 2011
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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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By brad_richards on 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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