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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 Eyes is their acknowledged masterpiece, an epic novel in mankind’s first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre.
--This text refers to the MP3 CD 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

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful pacing July 6 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The story is wonderfully well-paced, with three distinct "action"
sections, and a final court-room style showdown. Each action section
grips you to the climax, and then you take a breather and start
building up to the next. I'd love to see a film based on this! The
science fiction elements are good, but it'd still make a decent story
without it. However, the romance is rather poorly done. - Rujith.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! Aug. 31 2004
Format:Paperback
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 with ideas. It's theme of first contact with aliens is handled better than any other example I can think of in SF.
Set a thousand years in the future, the novel takes place in a fragmented space empire reeling from a series of civil wars. Against this background an ailing warship is sent to investigate an enormous unidentified vessel approaching the sun. This turns out to be powered by a "light sail", a sheet of gossamer fabric thousands of miles across which the ship must navigate against: this is one of the earliest and most dramatic uses of the "sunjammer" thesis first postulated by Robert Forward in the (1950s?) The discovery of dead aliens aboard and the subsesquent expedition to the alien homeworlds reveal a fantastically advanced culture locked into a tragic cycle of overpopulation and war, and with the meeting of technologies, threatens human survival as they begin to learn the secret of faster than light travel which would enable them to swarm through the galaxy.
There are passages of great potency and swashbuckling in the book: the encounter with the alien ship, the destruction of one of the human ships and the voyage across the foreign planet by fugitive survivors are unforgettable, as is the genuine sense of wonder evoked by the description of the alien civilisation.
Unfortunately the book does have its faults: it is immensely long and lacks real descriptive power robbing it of its visual potential unless you are empowered with a superb visual imagination.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Jerry's Secret Weapon March 13 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. Combine the two, and you have a good idea of how The Mote in God's Eye functions.
Set in Pournelle's universe, Mote shows how the Second Empire of Man would deal with a "first contact" with aliens, from the political and military levels. Niven's touch shows in the descriptions of the aliens and how they interact with "regular people," like NCO Kevin Renner or the trader Horace Bury. If you find something funny in the book, it's Niven's. Much of the military hardware and procedural stuff is Pournelle's. The two authors complement each other's work, though Niven is the stronger of the two writers (for me) when writing on his own.
The "Moties" in this story are asymmetrical aliens with a very, very ancient civilization. They, too, have had their rises and falls of civilization, and even spend a great deal of time planning for the next fall. The primary impetus of these falls is uncontrolled population growth, which presents some interesting challenges for their species. The authors do a fine job of describing the aliens and their challenges when confronted with the Empire of Man.
The characters themselves are mostly military men, and humorless; save for Sally Fowler, a Senator's niece who happens to be an anthropologist; and Horace Bury, a trader being held prisoner for purposes of sedition and treason. The most admirable character is Rod Blaine, commander of the cruiser MacArthur; the most fun character is Navigator Kevin Renner. Each of these folks has their own "take" on the Moties and their potential relation to the Empire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars They need to make a movie out of this book Sept. 26 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
After almost four decades of reading SF, I consider this the best SF novel ever written. The universe is interesting, the plot is creative and tight, the action is crisp, and the Motie aliens are perhaps the best "first contact" aliens ever imagined.
Watching the dreck that's often made into movies nowadays, it puzzles me that this book has never been used for a movie. It's a good thing it wasn't attempted before approximately 1999, because it would require modern CGI to do it justice. But I think the technology is there now. I think it could be a megahit on the scale of The Matrix.
It also holds up well. I recently read it to one of my kids, and even though it's over thirty years old, I didn't notice anything that seemed particularly incongruous. And they certainly got some things right - their description of wireless tablet computers is right on.
It's a true classic. No real fan of hard SF should bypass this one. It's right there with Stranger in a Strange Land, Ender's Game, the Foundation Trilogy, and similar works.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A good idea, not handled too well. March 4 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book is a nice mix of hard science fiction (faster than light drives, spaceships) and soft science fiction (social psychology of alien species) which makes it particularly interesting. The strength of the book in fact lies in its invention and depiction of the Moties as a differently-developed society comprising individuals specialized for various tasks or roles: somewhat like skilled professionals but on a planetary scale. Thus they have classes or castes of masters, mediators, workmen and others, each specialized in that role and unable to perform any other. An interesting idea and the glimpses of Motie society in the book are fascinating.
That said however, the characterization is pretty flat with the human characters in particular being rather one dimensional and predictable. The other weakness of this book (which cannot be helped of course) is that having been written in the 1970s, its picture of human society reflects those times, with a bias towards systems that are quasi-feudal and women restricted to very ornamental roles at best. At the time it was published, this was probably the norm; it does get quite a bit jarring now and one almost gets the feeling that in some ways, the Motie society is more enlightened than human at times!
Not a great book but certainly a decent read. I gave it 3 stars for the Motie society idea, else it would rate just 2.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars First contact story
I have developed a love/hate relationship with this book.

On the love side, the plot was fantastic. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Rose
4.0 out of 5 stars (Moderate spoilers within) Great First Contact novel
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. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jayson Vavrek
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic
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... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Alan
2.0 out of 5 stars One Full Star for the Moties
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. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard to find book
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. Read more
Published 21 months ago by peterj
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
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
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
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