Tuesday, December 06, 2011

"Ringworld" by Larry Niven

by Larry Niven
Read by Tom Parker
Produced by Blackstone Audio
Approx 11.5 hours

If you were to look at a list of the top 100 books in sci-fi, I'm sure you would find this book at least in the top 25, maybe the top 10.  Larry Niven's "Ringworld" has all the makings of a great sci-fi and Niven even turned this book into a series with sequels and prequels.  Niven combines a group of aliens & humans and sends them out to find a way to save the entire population of "Known Space."  The possible safe zone is a place that is called Ringworld that was constructed by unknown beings around a star, to get an idea of the scope of Ringworld, picture a solid band of Earths orbiting the sun.  One solid planet all the way around, that alone would solve the population problem, but with the chance of the center of the universe exploding the Ringworld has a few other secrets to save the population.

An interesting side note the popular video game series "Halo" is based on the ideas created by Larry Niven in "Ringworld."  With a ring like planet but at a much smaller scale.

What makes this a classic sci-fi is not one single thing but the conglomeration of ideas ranging from politics, alien races and their politics/culture and the exploration of a new world.  This book primarily deals with 4 maybe 5 different species, to start out you have the Puppeteers that are a strange two-headed alien culture that is based on the ingrained cowardice, but signs throughout the book show that the Puppeteers may not be all they seem.  The Kzinn are a race of cat like creatures who are a warring species who have lost the wars to the humans on several occasions.  Then the final two species are the Engineers of Ringworld and the barbarian race that now inhabits the Ringworld since the Engineers left.  Each race (including the humans) has something to contribute to the saving of the universe but the adventure of exploring the Ringworld is the only thing that reveals that.

The story stars out with Nessus, a Puppeteer, recruiting a team to travel to the ringworld which is a secret among the Puppeteers to see if it can save the universe from the the center of Known Space exploding out and destroying all planets in the path of the explosion.  The entire race of the Puppeteers have already left known space to avoid the catastrophe.  They didn't leave without ensuring a chance for survival, and that chance lies in Nessus' ability to explore the Ringworld.  Nessus recruits first Louis Wu, a human that thanks to the benefits of booster spice is just celebrating his 200th birthday.  Louis is an adventurer and has just become bored in his life.  Nessus promises Louis the chance to try out and return to the humans a new technology in space travel and immediately Louis is on for the adventure.  The next recruit is a Kzinn whose name is "Speaker-to-animals."  Speaker has yet established his status in his society and this adventure is his chance to make a name for himself.  The third party that is needed to be recruited is Teela Brown.  Due to the population control laws, Earth has had to establish a lottery in order to control births.  With generations of people winning the lottery in order to reproduce, the humans have bred a race of lucky people.  Teela is one of those lucky ones, with a journey like this luck is needed, but it seems her luck is sporadic. 

Once arriving at Ringworld the crew explores the outer sections of the ring and then determine they will have to land, however the Ringworld's automatic asteroid defense systems shoots down the ship and they crash onto the planet.  With only air-cycles to carry them across the ring the crew begins their exploration of this strange world which seems to have been abandoned and the life has gone back to barbarians.  They must work together through several perils (hostile locals, automated defense systems, strange storms created by punctures in the ringworld floor) in order to find a way off the Ringworld and back to civilization. 

Great adventures, lots of thrills and with narrator Tom Parker, the audiobook will keep you on the edge of your seat at times and laughing with some of the fun thrown in.  Parker is able to deliver the story and able to create the different voices for each of the characters and keep you in the story till the very end. 

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