Getting to read this book has been a bit of a journey. I’ve wanted to read it for a while but I had heard that it was better to get an introduction to Larry Niven’s sci-fi universe called “known space” before starting it, so I did just that. I read two books of short stories that established some of the principles that underpin the universe: Neutron Star and Tales of Known Space.
If you are sufficiently inspired to read Ringworld then I suggest you do the same. With that background I was able to go into the story with a knowledge of one of the main characters, the other alien species and why the task they set out to achieve was worthwhile and challenging.
In Niven’s writing I do struggle to picture some scenes and I was tempted to stop reading at points as I could not piece together everything that was being portrayed. What stopped me was an appreciation of the work that has been put into the creation of the universe and the detail into which the author has gone to figure out all the aspects that make the Ringworld viable and real.
Part of my problem is the smutty way in which he deals with sex in the book – I feel that it cheapens the overall story but at the same time the principals of human sexual and emotional relations are somewhat integral to the storyline. My guess is that this reflects the time when the book was written – at the beginning of the 1970s. It’s a shame as it makes the book feel dated to a degree, whereas the science in the sci-fi still rings true.
The narration of the audiobook is uninspiring and I thought I would get more out of the story if I just read the book. However, if I waited until I had the time to sit down and read the book it would never have been read in the first place, so it was a compromise.
Despite these reservations, overall I was impressed by the book.
There is one more of Niven’s books set in known space that I intend to read – Protector – that looks at the race that built the Ringworld. I hear it’s good. After that, my journey through Niven’s vast universe and imagination will have come to an end.
• The Guardian: Back to the Hugos: Ringworld by Larry Niven