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Mote in Gods Eye [Paperback]

Larry Niven
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1987
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 Trees. Together they have written the critically acclaimed bestsellers Inferno, Footfall, and The Legacy of Heorot, among others.
The Mote In God's Eye is their acknowledged masterpiece, an epic novel of mankind's first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre.
--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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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 --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

Review

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. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars First contact story May 30 2014
By Rose TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have developed a love/hate relationship with this book.

On the love side, the plot was fantastic. It is set a millennia in the future and humans have colonized many planets in many solar systems. Just by sheer chance, they go into an unexplored system and find sentient life. The story explores what their civilization is like and the outcome of this discovery.

On the hate side, the way it was written. It felt choppy and I struggled to get through it. There was no sense of time passing. For example, when the humans met the aliens and they began trying to communicate, I thought the aliens picked up our language almost immediately. It felt like we were only in their system for a week or so which made the whole thing seem too implausible but by the end of the story I learned that it had been months. Another thing I didn't care for was that it didn't feel like the future. If I hadn't taken the time to check the publish date to know this came out in the 70's, I would have sworn it was written decades earlier. Women don't have sex until they are married - not the nice girls anyhow. This was learned during an exchange of information with the aliens on reproduction. How very scientific. The aristocracy runs the human empire. There are lords, viceroys, marquis and people get knighted. The telegraph is still a highly used means of communication and people continue to snail mail letters to people on other planets.

I can tell already that this is going to be one of those books that when thought of a year or more after reading, most of the bad will be forgotten and the fantastic plot will be all that's left. I'll look at my rating for it and wonder why I gave only three stars to such a good story. I'm guessing that's why this has such a good overall rating.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's the year 3017, and humanity has spread to new worlds with the help of three main technologies: fusion power, the Alderson Drive, and the Langston Field. The Drive allows for FTL travel by Jumping from point to point along lines of constant thermonuclear flux (though what precisely this means is not stated). Interstellar travel often involves Jumping to a point inside the destination star (depending on the initial star); this is made possible by the Langston Field, which acts as a huge energy sink and protects the ship that generates the Field.

Lord Blaine has recently been made the new Captain of the MacArthur battlecruiser, when the ship detects what turns out to be an alien probe propelled by light sail through normal space (as opposed to using the Drive). After capturing the probe, MacArthur's crew finds the alien pilot dead inside.

MacArthur's crew determines the origin of the probe's trajectory to be from a star known colloquially as the Mote due to its proximity to a brighter star set against a nebula, a feature sometimes called God's Eye (hence the title, "The Mote in God's Eye"). The Imperial Navy dispatches the MacArthur and another ship, Lenin, to investigate.

The bulk of the novel begins after the two ships enter the system, and establish contact with the roughly-humanoid species they find on Mote Prime. With some initial difficulties, the humans are able to trade knowledge of language, biology, physics, etc. with the Moties, and the novel spends much time exploring the inevitable issues raised by First Contact, including religion, differing societal structures, and intra- and interspecies contact, the latter of which is exacerbated when the Moties inadvertently destroy the MacArthur.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Dec 31 2013
By Alan
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a classic story by two great authours. I've read it many times over the years and I keep coming back to its' timeless blend of imaginative story lines with a setting that it off-the-wall but credible and engaging.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to find book Jan. 13 2013
By peterj
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was elusive to me for a couple of decades but thanks to Amazon I finally found it. A friend told me about it back in the 80's and praised it as a great read. His taste was a bit different from mine. I expected something down the line of "Starship Troopers" or the "Forever War" but found it a bit slow and bogged down with tech stuff that made the story drag. My opinion would be "about a hundred pages too long." Not a waste of time though and some good moments.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One Full Star for the Moties March 20 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback
For students of the history of science fiction only.

I read several of the five-star reviews to try to discern what others saw in this bloated tome. There is nothing "fun" about reading this book. One five-star review said that only the fabulous Battlefield Earth could compare to The Mote in God's Eye.

The main problem I had with The Mote in God's Eye was that it wasn't about humans as we know them meeting aliens. It was about Pournelle's Second Empire of Man(TM) meeting aliens. Pournelle's universe is terribly boring and counterintuitive. Not only have humans devolved from the First Empire of Man, but they have devolved from the 1970's. The social attitudes are reminiscint of the Victorians. Politics are based on aristocracy. Space travel is based on seafaring. Almost every moment spent with the humans (most of the book) is irritating, boring and disappointing.

The best part of the book is the moties, but even they are disappointing. Socially and biologically, they are quite interesting. However, their planet is not very alien. I don't want to spoil anything; but, for example, if you imagine all the transport options that a 1970's city had available, that is exactly what the moties have as well.

Some of the action set pieces are exciting. But be prepared for confusion. This is not a well-written book in terms of action, characterization, story arc, or anything else.

I'll give The Mote in God's Eye a half star for the action sequences, another half for the ideas, and one full star for the moties. Overall, it wasn't worth reading, for me.

If you decide to read this book, I have one word of advice: SKIM. Skim as though your life depended on it - several hours of your life do.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars The Mote in God's Eye
I bought this book many years ago, but just read it recently. Perhaps I should have read it when I bought it because I am very disapointed in a book that so many people have raved... Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2010 by Randall Scott Moore
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
I first read this one at 15 and have been dying to review it ever since! This is an epic space opera played out on a grand scale, with an engaging cast of characters and bursting... Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2004 by mark chapman
5.0 out of 5 stars Larry Niven ... another way to spell unique
Unexpectedly one of the best books I have read, Larry Niven creates a world with a mystery. A world where common humanoid biology has been turned on it's ear. Read more
Published on July 10 2004 by Michael
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful pacing
The story is wonderfully well-paced, with three distinct "action"
sections, and a final court-room style showdown. Read more
Published on July 6 2004 by Rujith de Silva
1.0 out of 5 stars What's all the fuss about?
I recently noticed a couple of people online saying how great this book was so I thought I'd try it.
What a waste. Read more
Published on June 15 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars the middle was awesome!
I didn't think that the beginning was all that great. Though, oddly enough, once I finished the book I actually liked the beginning. Read more
Published on May 6 2004 by Cully Larson
4.0 out of 5 stars Meet the Moties
In this classic first-contact novel, we meet the Moties. Inhabitants of a isolated star system, they are like nothing man has ever encountered before. Read more
Published on March 18 2004 by J. Vilches
5.0 out of 5 stars Jerry's Secret Weapon
Jerry Pournelle's "universe" consists primarily of military fiction in support of a monarchy. Larry Niven's stories tend to be puzzle-solving stories involving aliens. Read more
Published on March 13 2004 by Bart Leahy
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