I’m not a big reader of science fiction (the last books were the excellent Ender’s Game and Hugh Howey’s Wool) but I have been thinking of reading Larry Niven’s Ringworld for a while. A little research online showed people recommended reading the short story collection called “Neutron Star” before tackling the main book – it would provide some background to the main characters and alien races that appear. It is out of print but I easily found a copy on Amazon.
Overall the short stories do a very good job at building the quirky, bizarre universe. We get introduced to Niven’s principal character (at least so far) Beowulf Shaeffer, who features in four of the stories. He is an alien pilot who cannot hold on to money, gets into a lot of adventures, has a nice line in dry humour and discovers a crucial fact about the galaxy. There are also a number of distinctive alien races and worlds.
The collection is not without its faults. One thing about the aliens for me is that they are described in detail but I have trouble picturing them. Also, as the book goes on the stories get longer and the final Beowulf instalment is just an adventure that does not reveal much more about Niven’s creation called “known space”. I also skipped one story, “The Ethics of Madness” as it apparently doesn’t fit properly within the universe.
Despite these points, it looks like I’m going to be living in known space for a while yet. Although I do not intend on reading everything in the series, there are some more short stories and another book to investigate before arriving at Ringworld. I hope it is worth the journey – with Neutron Star it’s off to a good start.
If you are interested in coming along for the ride then there are a few resources I found useful:
- The Known Space Concordance
- Stack Exchange: Is there a full directed graph for suggested order of reading of all Known Space books/stories? / Recommended order of Ringworld novels
- Tor.com: Ringworld 40th Anniversary: Getting the Most out of Ringworld