which is very heavy on the "science" part of it.
Niven is a master of ideas: this novel alone touches on solutions to overpopulation, the possibility that luck is an inherited trait and a solid ring the size of Earth's orbit around another star. All his works tend to feature grand or unusual concepts: he also writes about the use of organ banks as capital punishment, a habitable ring of gas around a neutron star, and the effects of other worlds' environments on the human form itself. These ideas are always wonderful and fascinating, and they are always the focus of his stories.
This, unfortunately, results in a decided lack of depth in most of his characters. This can especially be seen in "Ringworld": while his characters are evolved further in the sequels (which I emphatically recommend reading!), none of them are particularly interesting in this work. Granted, Teela (the genetically-lucky woman) is <em>supposed</em> to be shallow, but the other characters aren't much better, despite the fact that Louis is two hundred years old and the alien Nessus is older and more intelligent than any living human.
Niven's treatment of his characters is not a fatal flaw: this work is fun and the concepts will stagger you, and many of his other stories are much better. He does extremely well with short stories (check out Crashlander and Flatlander, among many others), and his collaborations with Jerry Pournelle are outstanding. Pournelle's work, generally uninspiring (at least to me) benefit from Niven's grand ideas; and Niven does very well leaving many of the character interactions to his colleagues.
I do recommend this book to any science-fiction fan, or anyone who finds the title concept fascinating; but it is most definitely not literary in any sense of the word.