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The Mote in God's Eye Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1991
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In the year 3016, the Second Empire of Man spans hundreds of star systems, thanks to the faster-than-light Alderson Drive. No other intelligent beings have ever been encountered, not until a light sail probe enters a human system carrying a dead alien. The probe is traced to the Mote, an isolated star in a thick dust cloud, and an expedition is dispatched.
In the Mote the humans find an ancient civilization--at least one million years old--that has always been bottled up in their cloistered solar system for lack of a star drive. The Moties are welcoming and kind, yet rather evasive about certain aspects of their society. It seems the Moties have a dark problem, one they've been unable to solve in over a million years.
This is the first collaboration between Niven and Pournelle, two masters of hard science fiction, and it combines Pournelle's interest in the military and sociology with Niven's talent for creating interesting, believable aliens. The novel meticulously examines every aspect of First Contact, from the Moties' biology, society, and art, to the effects of the meeting on humanity's economics, politics, and religions. And all the while suspense builds as we watch the humans struggle toward the truth. --Brooks Peck
Robert Heinlein Possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read.
San Francisco Chronicle As science fiction, one of the most important novels ever published.
Columbus Dispatch A superlatively fine novel...no writer has ever come up with a more appealing, intriguing, and workable concept of aliens.
Frank Herbert A spellbinder, a swashbuckler...And, best of all, it has a brilliant new approach to that fascinating problem -- first contact with aliens.
Theodore Sturgeon One of the most engrossing tales I've read in years...fascinating.
Minneapolis Tribune Intriguing and suspenseful...the scenes in which the humans and aliens examine one another are unforgettable.
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Now, for "the awesome" because this book is full of awesome! First, you have a Human Empire 2.0 that is being built and consolidated back to Human Empire 1.0 size, but is less technologically advanced as the prior Empire. Political stuff, outer systems uprisings, civil wars in systems, all of that jazz. Into this already teoubled stew an alien probe ship comes (literally) sailing in. Alien probe's point of origin is determined, and due to circumstances a less-than-ideal set of people get to go and investigate the alien world. Kind of normal SF so far.
Then the authors take us to the Mote and the aloens that launched the probe. An alien culture that is well and truly alien. the humans don't know enough about the culture to even realize what questions they should be asking. They're smart enough to cobble together some somewhat disturbing conclusions based on observations, but the truth behind those observations is not fully appreciated until they leave. None of the characters are able to put the whole picture together alone, which is a nice change from the "Mary Sue" type character you usually find in SF.
The attitudes towards the only female on the ship are very mich a reflection if the 1974 publication date, but the authors make those attitudes believable based on the situation the Human Empire is in and the culture in which it functions. I found the attitudes startingly backwards, but contextually appropriate.
I first read this book when I was 11, reread it when I was 22, and again at the age of 32. At each reading I found new facets to engage me, and remembered the bits that hooked me when I was younger. This book hots every single one of my markers for a true literary classic: accessable to most age ranges, the aliens are completely alien (with juuust enough human-relatable attributes to mess with the humans), it is eminantly re-readable, and it casts light on areas of human thought and behavior that could use some (or a lot) of correction. It makes the reader question humanity's attitudes towards wars, differing cultures, and how to treat each other.
Anyway, when browsing some group messages on Goodreads I first saw mention of "Mote" and, recognizing the authors names from "Hammer," decided to take a look. The rather legendary recommendation from Robert Heinlein kind of sealed the deal.
During the reading of the book, I read more people's thoughts on it, and found everything from best ever to cheesy and outdated. The reviews that called it outdated annoyed me more than deterred me. The book was written in the early 1970s, so allowances must be made. Do you hold it against Moby Dick that they don't have iPhones? So, yeah, the book is dated. Big deal. The message contained in it far outweighs the drawbacks. The story takes place about a thousand years from now, and it frequently mentions the characters using their "pocket computers." In 1972 or so, the authors prognosticated this as being cutting edge tech. I found this amusing, as a mere 40 or so years after its publication, I was reading it on MY "pocket computer," a Kindle Fire. Some reviewers found it sexist that there was only one female human character, and she was very outdated due to her beliefs (the "good girls don't need birth control" comment was often cited). Well, in the early 1970s, lots of women felt that way, especially daughters of senators, which she was. The only gripe from other readers that I agreed with fully was the Scottish guy, who was a carbon copy of Scotty from "Star Trek," complete with corny accent and nearly identical dialog ("I kenna DO it, Captain!") It seemed a stretch since the characters from other nationalities, the Russians for example, didn't have attempts made to imitate their accents.
So much for the negatives. In my opinion the pros of this book so far outweigh the cons there's really almost no reason to bother, but I want to be fair.
So the basic story, and I don't want to give too much away (read: MINOR SPOILER ALERT), is about the human empire's, which is intergalactic at this point, first contact with an intelligent life form. I found the storytelling of this book masterful. The authors tell a story about how amazing First Contact might be. But the authors plant very tiny seeds, which germinate slowly while you read, that all might not be as well as it seems. It just have me creepy chills as I read, that things rarely go so well without SOMETHING going wrong. It was almost a "Star Trek" meets "Jurassic Park" scenario. If that seems an out-there analogy, consider that most of Michael Crichton's books were about mankind's constant arrogant blunders into disaster by repeatedly failing to consider all possible outcomes and assuming that we can control every aspect of our environments. That's all I'll say on the matter of the storyline.
So, overall impression is that it is worth the read both for the story itself, which is fascinating, and especially for the way the tale is told. It's a well-crafted book.
Anyone who likes good science fiction will enjoy this book but it has a significant amount of thinking and analysis on interpersonal and interspecies communication.
It really is a must read, ranks up there with Ender's Game
Most recent customer reviews
Still as good a read now as it was 40 years ago.
A ripping good yarn and an interesting set of ideas on possible alien...Read more