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The Mote in God's Eye

(Part of the Moties (#1) Series and CoDominium Universe Series)

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Book Overview

Writing separately, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are responsible for a number of science fiction classics, such as the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Ringworld, Debt of Honor, and The Integral... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

Not the best from either author.

I was extremely disappointed by this book. Both authors are capable of so much more. It was so bad, I threw it away to save anyone else from wasting their time. I love Niven's work. Especially Ringworld. Pournell, I'm not sure. Anyway, I can't recommend this title.

Brilliant book, still thought provoking after 32 yrs

This is a brilliant book, still thought provoking after 32 years (hardcover came out in 1974). Here are two things that struck me. - The characters are constantly whipping out their "cheap" pocket computers, connecting to the local mainframe, and interacting with the computers in pen-based handwriting. Sounds like the Origmai just coming out now. - The tragic Moti cycle is population pressure leads to resource drainage leads to war leads to barbarism leads to uplift etc. I just finished reading Jared Diamond's collapse, where he details that same cycle as being behind the collapse of past civilizations. Unfortunately, Diamond does not see the uplift part -- once his civilizations use up their resources and collapse, they stay collapsed. This is my favorite science fiction book after Enders Game.

wonderfully complete vision of an alien culture

This is another addition to the shelf of truly excellent "first contact" scifi. It has good characters, mysterious clues that add up in a later climax that is entirely unforeseeable, and aliens that are fascinating and brilliantly conceived. This is very fun because layers are continually peeled away as the story of learning to communicate progresses. The alien culture is organized in an entirely different way than human culture, with recognizable patterns that reflect their biology and history. It is so well articulated - and so utterly strange yet believable - that it makes for great scifi. What appears at first to be a highly advanced though mysterious civilization is revealed to be far more than it appears and yet far less as well. The element of chance also plays a role in the outcome, which could have been very different had not uncontrolled "contamination" not occured. "If only the first one you met had not been a brown," one of its leaders laments at the end. I do not want to play the spoiler here and explain things. The excitment of discovery as events unfold, leaving more questoins at the end than answers is truly great fun if the reader likes to have his/her mind soar with the ultimate concepts of scifi in racial/species destiny, free will, and inter-stellar diplomacy. As it ends, I felt such a sense of wonder and threat, mind-bending in the way that only great scifi can be. Warmly recommended.

Unique, and one of the best

Some science fiction books are driven more by technology and plot situations, and other are driven more by characters and dialog. The great Isaac Asimov's stories usually were the latter; for example, in his great Foundation series, there's surprisingly little gee-whiz gadgetry. Niven's stories have always been very strong on brilliant futuristic gizmos and clever alien creations, but weak in terms of fleshed-out characters interacting in a deep way that you'll find in other genres of fiction. So I can understand some of the negative reviews; it could be that those folks are just not fans of Niven-style sci fi. If you're new to Niven, I strongly suggest you read his "Known Space" series before this book. In fact, start with his short story collections before you move on to the classic Ringworld. The stories get higher- and higher-tech. He even admits it, in the preface to his short story "Safe at Any Speed." For a writer, it's basically a tough challenge to create an interesting plot when he has pretty much painted himself into a corner with so much incredible technology, not to mention a human race that has been successfully bred for luck! That's what makes this book such a kick. I love that, in contrast to his Known Space books, this book is pretty low tech. It's retro, in the way that Star Trek: Enterprise is to its TV predecessors. I also really dig the Moties. I love that the central dilemma they're facing, the thing that regularly imperils their entire civilization and makes them such a threat to us, is something that we dealt with almost trivially years ago. To me, the concept that it never even occurred to them to deal with it as we had, reinforces their alien-ness. So I give this book 5 very enthusiastic stars, but with two caveats: first, a big part of my enjoyment of this book wasn't so much because of its own merits, but due to what a marvelous and fun contrast its (relatively) low tech was in comparison to Niven's Known Space books. Second, in my opinion, the sequel to this book (The Gripping Hand) is not nearly as good an effort.

One of the best

The Mote in God's Eye is, quite simply, one of the best science fiction novels you will ever read. It is easily one of my top five books of all time. In the cannon of sci-fi, I would place it on the shelf next to Dune, Foundation and Stranger in a Strange Land. What do these books have in common? Very little. That's the point. The Mote in God's Eye, like all great books, stands on its own. If it the first sci-fi book or the millionth, you will still love it.Written by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (and quietly improved by the advice given them by Robert Heinlein) it is breathtaking in its depiction of mankind's first contact with an alien civilization. The story takes place in a human star empire that spans thousands of systems but has yet to contact alien intelligence. This changes suddenly when a spacecraft arrives at a human planet with a dead alien inside it. The craft was apparently launched from a nearby unexplored star system -- called the Mote in God's Eye (or Murcheson's Eye). The humans send out an expedition of two ships -- one Russian, one American -- to investigate. What they find is an ancient civilization of three-armed "Moties" who have a terrible secret.As noted by other reviewers, this is the best first contact book out there. There are no Vulcans or Ewoks here. The book is one of the few that presents a truly alien civilization. The alien culture is, although similar to ours in some ways, fundamentally different from our own due to differences biology and circumstances. I won't elaborate as I don't want to ruin the surprises.Although there is clearly some cannon of mythology at work in setting up the "Co-Dominion" of human society at that time, I was not confused at all. I had never read a title by these two authors before but found the human society and its history easy to follow.What's amazing about the book is how logically it proceeds. To use the word "surprise" is misleading because after at every twist and turn, you find yourself saying, "Of course, that's exactly the way it would have to be. That makes sense." As the suspense and tension build toward a climactic clash between humans and Moties, you are swept up in the inevitability of the events. There are no trick deus-ex-machina moments or Tom Clancy tricks -- in which the characters talk about some secret without the dialogue being revealed. Everything is perceived through the lens of the human characters and their difficulty in understanding the alien civilization. So their fear, tension and surprise are ours.All this comes through with a crisp narrative style, a group of vivid and identifiable characters (including Moties) and excellent pacing of the story. I highly recommend this book to any reader -- sci-fi fan or not.

A Classic Science Fiction First Contact Tale

"The Mote in God's Eye" is one of the finest collaborations I've ever read, only surpassed in literary quality and detail by Gibson's and Sterling's "The Difference Engine". Part of Pournelle's "Co-Dominion" future history series, the "Mote in God's Eye", is a fascinating, mesmerizing look at man's first contact with an alien civilization. Niven and Pournelle have created an alien civilization, "The Moties", that is among the most unique in science fiction. How the "Moties" interact with humanity's "Empire of Man" is both original and compelling to read. Although some may criticize Niven and Pournelle for creating a male-dominated, imperialist future for mankind, their female characters are a lot more credible than those I've read in recently published works such as Caleb Carr's "Killing Time". And I must commend how they've created many interesting personalities in their large cast of characters. You will find yourself rooting for them - both humans and Moties - as this gripping tale unfolds. Without a doubt, "The Mote in God's Eye" is one of the finest, most thoughtful, works of space opera, with an original twist on a time-worn premise. If you've grown tired of "Star Trek" or "Star Wars" or wish to delve further into science fiction, then this fine novel is a good place to start.
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