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Mote in Gods Eye Paperback – Sep 1987

4.2 out of 5 stars 125 customer reviews

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Paperback, Sep 1987
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (September 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671660543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671660543
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars 125 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,384,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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.


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 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

Top Customer Reviews

By ronbc TOP 100 REVIEWER on Nov. 26 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
When I first read this book years ago, I thought it was the best "first contact" novel, and one of the best sci-fi novels period, that I had read. Nothing has changed my mind in the meantime.

The hidden tragedy of the Moties is as compelling today as it was back then, and the desperation with which both sides of the encounter pursue their goals is both extreme and convincing.

This book is one of those "sci-fi classics" that deserves the title.
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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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By Rose TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 30 2014
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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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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