THE RINGWORLD ENGINEERS
Louis Wu sleeps his way
Ringworld… and then kills everybody he slept with.
Within the first few chapters of The Ringworld Throne,
I was struck repeatedly by two thoughts:
1. “This is incredibly turgid.”
2. “Oh lord, here we go again.”
To explain the first, let me offer an example:
Early in the novel there is a sequence in which the main characters are
waiting to meet with another group of characters. They have to wait
First, it must be understood that there is no
particular reason why they have to wait three nights. Niven simply made
an arbitrary choice. Second, it must be understood that essentially
nothing of interest happens in those three nights. There is exactly one
significant conversation and nothing else of consequence.
Despite that, Niven spends over twenty-five pages
describing the events of those three nights. The characters mill about
pointlessly; they sleep; they eat; they have meaningless sex. And it’s
all described in mind-numbing detail. The one significant conversation
meanders along through three different sequences stretched across half
a day and six pages and is three times too long at that.
It’s boring. Achingly, painfully boring.
To explain the second, let me simply say this: It
takes Niven less than a dozen pages before he has retconned the entire
plot of the second novel and rendered it into a math error.
Since the entire second novel was, in itself, a
massive retcon of the first
novel, one begins to wonder if there was ever any actual
substance here or if its just retcons all the way down.
I also think that there's a fairly good chance
that the original title of this book was Ringworld: Home of the Orgy
until Niven's editors made him change it. I have never read about so
much sex while simultaneously being bored out of my mind. Niven never
lets a dozen pages pass without having somebody humping somebody else,
nor does he ever let an opportunity to pass to make sex sound as boring
as he possibly can.
Also, let's take a moment
and talk about Protectors: I know it's always been kind of tough to
take them seriously if you're a hard science fiction buff. But when the
entire conclusion of the novel consists of Protectors running around
willy-nilly and a plot lifted from a Benny Hilly sketch with the words
"sexy nurse" scratched out and replaced with the word "Protector"...
well, it's kinda hard to take them seriously at all.
RINGWORLD ENGINEERS: B-
RINGWORLD THRONE: F