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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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Top Customer Reviews
I think the book is well-written and for the most part the setting seems internally consistent. First contact with an alien race, one of the most difficult things to write plausibly, is handled competently and represents the most interesting part of the work.
The first part of the work - to put it in a way that doesn't spoil much, the part before the humans leave the Mote system - was enjoyable and wanted only for the profundity I had been promised by those hyping it. My real displeasure with it only began with the later part. The savagery (genocides and executions) of the Empire, the principal human culture, is disappointing and leaves no one to sympathize with unreservedly in the cultural conflict. Its dependency on hereditary aristocracy would be an interesting detail, but instead becomes irritating because the book treats it with glowing adoration instead of as the quaint anachronism it would realistically be. The main female character is treated in a sexist way that I found disappointing. I have little patience for excess political correctness in real life, but the way important male characters consistently dismiss her opinions - and are vindicated for doing so - really rubs me the wrong way. Certainly women are wrong sometimes and it would probably annoy me just as much if she was always proven right, but it seems unbalanced. She is also the only major female human character, but then spaceship crews are all male - I do not mean to critique the in-universe sexism of the Empire. The book also has gushing admiration for an honorable military culture, which would not bother me so much if this supposedly-honorable military had not destroyed inhabited worlds, the ultimate atrocity, in the advancement of their imperial adventures.
Characters who support a peaceful solution to the central problem of the story also get shortchanged. At least two, including one of the few really admirable characters (a priest who accompanies the expedition) seem to be outright hijacked to serve as straw men opposing the authors' favored solution of having the Empire "look out for number one." In the end, there is a glimmer of hope that a better solution will be found in the long term. Perhaps one found is in the subsequent books in this series, but after this disappointment I doubt I will read them.
The aliens are interestingly alien, not just in morphology, but in capabilities, psychology and outlook. The twists, while adequately foreshadowed, are hard to pin down ahead of time.
This is not a story about people, it's a story about events. The narrator can read characters's minds, but often doesn't bother to, being more interested in what's actually happening. It has a bit more character focus than the original Rama and Foundation books, but less than their sequels. I generally prefer this sort of SF, but if you want to read stories about people and their inner turmoils, you may be disappointed.
There are the minor matters that the 1974 book has a distant future empire that may a step backwards on gender equality; the one "bad guy" character is a Muslim merchant with the goals and ethics of Carter Burke in Aliens; there's a Russian admiral in command of a ship called Lenin, whose job is basically to threaten to kill all the protagonists every few chapters. The good guys, of course, are coded as Anglo-Saxon. It was written in 1974, so I'm willing cut it some slack, as we're here for the SF, not the sociology class.
Audible narrator N.J. Ganser has a bland, slightly creaky voice that's very adequate for classic SF putting me in mind of the War of the Worlds narrator. He's not exciting, but he leaves you to focus on the story - and I liked his accents. Although this gets better, he occasionally makes his sole female human sound like a ditz, which she definitely wasn't written as.
To be clear, "some sexual content" is essentially "she saw on the camera that the alien squirrels were having sex, and ran over to observe in person".
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Stick with it.
About midway through the book things get extremely interesting to the point...Read more
In some ways the wrap at the end was almost too convenient, but I really enjoyed it.Read more