Well, I polished off the first item in my aforementioned used book store haul–Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye–last

night. I enjoyed the book, though I wasn’t blown away by it.

Considering that the pull quotes on the back cover had no less of an

authority as Robert Heinlein

hailing it as one of the greatest science fiction books ever written, I

guess merely enjoying the book would qualify as a letdown. I found the

pacing of the book a little indulgent, and the characters varying

between stilted and downright unlikeable. The one guy I really did

like–sailing master Kevin Renner–was very obviously the character

everyone was supposed to disliked. I realize this book was written over

30 years ago and that it was set in a post-apocalyptic quasi-Roman

Empire, but the undercurrents of male chauvanism and alcoholism were a

little hard to get past.

Now, as to the science–it

was magnificent. Niven and Pournelle basically pegged exactly how a PDA

should look and work, and the book came out in 1974. I would also

consider this piece of fiction a textbook on how to depict hard-science

space combat, right down to the consequences of high-g acceleration and

zero-g ship design and procedures. Even the deus ex machina

Langston Field is easily the most grounded and consistent attempt I’ve

ever read for dealing with the energy and radiation hazards of space

travel and combat. And as far as the aliens are concerned, they may not

be the most terrifying or even fully realized antagonists in science

fiction history, but they are among the most intriguing and memorable.

In short, it was a fun book, but it didn’t grab me enough to seek out the sequel, Niven and Pournelle’s The Gripping Hand. But then, I constitute a pretty tough crowd.