Ringworld by Larry Niven

Larry Niven

Louis Wu is old, 200 years old in fact, but this is the future so it doesn't really matter. What matters is that Louis Wu is also bored as hell and itching for an adventure.

In comes Nessus, a Pierson's Puppeteer. In the Known Space universe of Larry Niven, the Puppeteers have the most advanced technology there is. And Nessus is looking for travel companions for a mission he is not quite ready to reveal but sure leaves Louis Wu and the rest of the recruits interested.

The other recruits? A Kzin species named Speaker to the Animals. Described as ferocious, he joined the mission because he was intrigued. And the payment to them all - technology for a spacecraft that is far too advanced than what is known to humans and the other alien inhabitants of planet Earth - is enough bait for him in hopes of helping the Kzins in somehow defeating the human race sometime.

Then there's Teela Brown, another human. With no flight training to speak of and with hardly any experience at all in space travel save that she has been to Mars or probably partied on the moon (I'm trying to remember her background, I don't want to flip through the book because it's packed somewhere in this house with other books I'm planning to send home as I'm lacking space on my shelves already).

All four set off towards Ringworld, a ring-shaped structure that encircles a star. A structure that is highly advanced and built to hold inhabitants in its vast inner surface. I don't think I'm explaining it well, I need to review my science knowledge. Hahaha!

Imagine a large ring then and set it on a dark, dark surface and call that space. Place a little sun at the center. Imagine the ring's inner flat surface to contain the air that we breath, the seas that we swim in, lands that are both fertile and deserted. And that the ring's system holds all things in place. Then imagine it orbiting, revolving around that little sun. It's a self-surviving system, a created universe. It's an ideal structure for a universe where Earth and other planets faces the possibility of overpopulation.

I was so into the book that it didn't really matter if I wasn't able to recall my early science formula of mass, gravity, inertia and so forth. Hahaha!

It's not just a book of descriptions though. The story of the four in itself is enthralling. Of course I see Ringworld through their eyes but that's not just what the book is about. The four main characters have their own stories to tell and that's part of the book's strength. As the tale unfolds we learn of the wars between the Kzins and the humans, of why Teela Brown was actually recruited, and what does Nessus get from this mission at all?

Interspersed with this is one of my favorite parts in reading a science fiction book - the technology, obviously! This was written in 1970 and yet Larry Niven already imagined a world where teleportation, among other things, is quite normal with transfer booths! And I could actually see and feel the Earth of the future in Louis Wu's eyes.

And yet despite that the book never lacked in feeling. Niven understands the worn-out traveler Louis, of a world that is getting smaller everyday and a planet that somehow is losing its identity and all in a matter of a couple of paragraphs into the book even prior to Wu's recruitment. Niven shows the same care for the other characters, making me glimpse at their lives, their thoughts all throughout the book and making me root for them all the more!

The last paragraph teases us into a sequel or something to that effect. The mission to Ringworld could end there in the first book. But as in all missions where a major discovery is found, there are and will be questions and further probe. And I finished the book August of last year wanting to know more about Ringworld and its engineers. Maybe sometime in the future.