Friday, January 06, 2012
"The Ringworld Engineers" by Larry Niven
by Larry Niven
Read by Paul Michael Garcia
Produced by Blackstone Audio
Approx 13 hours.
Okay, I've decided to go ahead with the listening of the Ringworld Series of sci-fi books by Larry Niven. I had listened to one of the prequels, "The Juggler of Worlds," and found the story to be very interesting and a nice piece of creative science-fiction. I then read the original, "Ringworld," and was just blown away by the great science-fiction created by Niven. After the review of "Ringworld" I was warned that the sequels aren't very good. I decided I would listen to them anyway, the books, not the warnings, and so far, with the first sequel out of the way, I'm still in awe. Not only are my favorite characters, Speaker-to-Animals and Louis Wu back but the science behind the science fiction continues to be superb. So, no problem with this sequel.
Maybe it's all in the presentation. I've read books and then gone back and listened to the audiobook version and found that the audio version shows off areas I may have missed. I had never read the "Ringworld" books so maybe the outstanding production in this audiobook is the difference. The reader, Paul Michael Garcia, delivers the story perfectly. His ability to provide voices for the different races; Pearson's Puppetteers, Kzin, various races of the ringworld and of course the human Louis Wu hits the mark. He is also able to convey the emotions and attitudes of each character within the given context. So maybe this is what makes it so good.
I do have to say that the world created by Niven is a feat in and of itself, and the different races, ideals and circumstances on the Ringworld are enough to make this a fascinating science fiction story. It's kind of funny, though, Niven never planned on writing a sequel, but thanks to the fans, he did. Mainly because of the popularity, but as is stated in the introduction to this book, there were numerous engineering problems and with a group of MIT students chanting "The Ringworld is unstable" at the 1971 World Science Fiction Convention, was reason enough to write this book and fix those problems. It took nine years from that convention, and 10 years from the publication date of the first book to get this one out, but I for one am glad he did. The fun continues as well as the concepts that really make you ponder the possibilites.
This book starts out some 20 years after the events in "Ringworld," with the characters having gone through life changing events. Louis Wu is a junkie, a wire junkie. Wire junkies are addicted to a drowd, a box that connects to the pleasure centers of the brain via a wire, and keeps the junkie in a state of bliss, much like the tasp used by Nessus in the first book. He has become this way because of loneliness mainly, through the book we discover that the Ringworld native, Pril, who came back to Earth with Louis, Nessus and Speaker-to-Animals was taken by the U.N. Security Council once arriving on Earth and never seen again. Louis was in love with her and never discovered her fate until this novel.
Speaker-to-animals, earned a name and a status, which included several wives, by bringing back the technology promised by Nessus to the Kzinti. His new name is, Chmee. And in this novel he seems to really fit the status by being more of a leader.
Since the fans found the Ringworld to be unstable that's the general idea of this novel, fixing the instability. But first, we have to get our party together and that's where it all starts, Hindmost, the mate to Nessus gathers Louis and Chmee to return to the Ringworld. The reason for Hindmost to return is because, Hindmost has lost his position as a leader of the Puppeteers, and he seeks to bring back some Ringworld Technology to regain his position. With Louis an addict the Hindmost has control over him, but soon learns that Kzinti and Humans do not make good slaves.
Upon arrival at the Ringworld, the horrifying discovery of the Ringworld being of kilter in it's orbit around the sun is made. Calculations put the destruction of the Ringworld, by falling into the sun, within mere months. Louis and Cmee search the Ringworld for a repair center that should have been established by the Ringworld Engineers to fix the problem and stabilize the orbit, saving the millions upon millions of lifeforms now living on the Ringworld.
While on the Ringworld they meet several different hominid species that have evolved on the Ringworld. This is where some of the creativity comes through for Niven. To picture the wide variety of life on the ring world picture the expanse involved. The Ringworld is a structure in the shape of a ring set in orbit around a sun set at around the same distance Earth is from the sun. With that size hundreds, if not thousands, of Earths could fit in, leaving a large amount of habitable space. The lifeforms Niven created include, small red (demonoid) carnivores, vampires who put out pheremones to seduce other hominids, tree hangers, otter like people, and many more. Louis decides to rebel against Hindmost and makes it his mission to save the various life forms who have very little technology due to a virus that attacked all the Ringworld's super-conductors.
In the Great Ocean of Ringworld there are small islands that are "maps' of various planets in known space. For instance, a "map" of Kzin seems to be a smaller scale representation of the planet and even seeded with Kzinti, although from a past when the Ringworld was created, so they are not docile by any means. Chmee discovers that Hindmost will not be returning to Known Space, and sets off to make a life on "The Map of Kzin."
Meanwhile Louis has found the floating city where there is a library and earns his admission into the library by repairing water condensers for the various buildings in the city. In the library Louis learns that the "maps" in the great ocean may be the key to the repair center. Taking command away from Hindmost via mutiny Louis brings them all to "The Map of Mars" where many startling discoveries are made, including the fate of Teela Brown who was left on the Ringworld in the previous novel. Niven borrows from his book "Protector" to weave the tale of Teela.
Great science-fiction mixed with the struggle of a race against time and the struggle of sacrifice this sequel to "Ringworld" continues the great story of wonder..