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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Ringworld

   
Author Topic: Ringworld
Dread Pendragon
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I'm thinking of reading Larry Niven's Ringworld series. It looks like he published the first one in 1970. Do I start with that one, or should I start with the prequels?

Any do you recommend the series?

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TomDavidson
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Start with that one.
Although, to be honest, I've never loved Niven.

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Destineer
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Yeah, Niven sux.
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capaxinfiniti
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I can't speak to the series but I moderately enjoyed Ringworld. It had a compelling concept and plot but I didn't like the characters. So it doesn't rank high on my all-time list but it's worth a read, if for no other reason than to broaden your sci-fi horizon. Considering how many books are out there, knowing what you don't like in a fiction genre is good.

I say read Ringworld, as it will adequately set up the foundation of the series, much like Ender's Game does, even though that book is only a shard of the rich Enderverse and the subsequent books go in a vastly different direction. Then, if you like Niven's universe, continue.

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Tuukka
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To me Niven is a bit like Clarke. Ambitious and interesting scifi concepts (for their time), but generally not very well-written characters.

Ringworld is Niven's most famous and beloved novel, but I thought it felt dated when I read it about 10 years ago. I actually think many Clarke novels have stood the test of time better. The concept of a ringworld doesn't quite impress anymore, as it's been used so much in sci-fi literature, and that's the primary attraction of the novel.

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Darth_Mauve
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Ringworld was not a great character piece, or a great plot. What it did have was a sense of the size of the universe, and of big things in the universe. This is something missing in much modern sci-fi. The universes we see, whether they are Star-Trek worlds of 1 city each, or Star Wars worlds of uniform identity (Ice World Hoth, Swamp World, Desert World, Capital City World) or even classics like Rainy Japanese Gutter World Bladerunner, the size and diversity of the UNIVERSE!!! is ignored.

Ringworld tries to correct that with vast sweeping histories, theories, and constructions.

The Death Star is the size of a small moon. Big deal. The Ringworld has a star as its core, and grew from there.

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Dread Pendragon
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This is exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for. Thanks for taking the time.
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Tuukka
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quote:
Originally posted by Darth_Mauve:
Ringworld was not a great character piece, or a great plot. What it did have was a sense of the size of the universe, and of big things in the universe. This is something missing in much modern sci-fi. The universes we see, whether they are Star-Trek worlds of 1 city each, or Star Wars worlds of uniform identity (Ice World Hoth, Swamp World, Desert World, Capital City World) or even classics like Rainy Japanese Gutter World Bladerunner, the size and diversity of the UNIVERSE!!! is ignored.

Ringworld tries to correct that with vast sweeping histories, theories, and constructions.

The Death Star is the size of a small moon. Big deal. The Ringworld has a star as its core, and grew from there.

I actually think that much of modern scifi is very vast in scope and rich in history. Stephen Baxter, Dan Simmons, Ian M. Banks, Alastair Reynold's, etc... A lot of their novels operate on scopes far bigger than Ringworld. The problem is that once you establish a concept like a Ringworld, or a Dyson's Sphere, etc, it's done and the sense of wonder can't be repeated again.

So a lot of later scifi novels simply take those concepts, and treat them like a natural part of universe. A ringworld structure, which makes an appearance in many scifi novels by many writers, isn't anymore even that big of a deal, because there are so many of them in the universe, and the characters in the story are used to them.

Novels primarily based on one innovative scifi concept become easily dated, once that concept is out there and others start using it. I read most of the big scifi classics as a kid, and I loved them, but now they mostly feel pretty dated for me. A lack of proper plot and characters is a problem once you are familiar with the innovative scifi concept.

[ September 01, 2012, 05:57 AM: Message edited by: Tuukka ]

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Destineer
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quote:
I actually think that much of modern scifi is very vast in scope and rich in history. Stephen Baxter, Dan Simmons, Ian M. Banks, Alastair Reynold's, etc... A lot of their novels operate on scopes far bigger than Ringworld.
Yeah, and all those authors write much better stories than Niven. (With Reynolds, I don't like his novels, but his short stories are very good.)
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Tuukka
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
quote:
I actually think that much of modern scifi is very vast in scope and rich in history. Stephen Baxter, Dan Simmons, Ian M. Banks, Alastair Reynold's, etc... A lot of their novels operate on scopes far bigger than Ringworld.
Yeah, and all those authors write much better stories than Niven. (With Reynolds, I don't like his novels, but his short stories are very good.)
Yeah, Reynolds shines in his short fiction, where as his novels to me lack that special something. They are solid, and have some really good stuff, but fall short of being truly memorable.

I think it's all up to his characterizations - He tries to make them 3-dimensional and interesting, but doesn't quite have the grasp for truly living and breathing characters. Long novels need strong characters to carry them, where as short fiction works well without. I always think of Reynols as Banks-lite, or Simmons-lite. Despite his ambition, he doesn't quite have the inherit greatness of writing talent, that the other two have.

Baxter is also a bit flawed to me, because he *can* write great characters, but often has a tendency to neglect them. It feels a bit brutal when he builds up a strong relationship witb a character, and then sacrifices him to some terrible or pathetic fate on a whim. His ambitions in story and scope are pretty limitless, thought.

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Orincoro
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Niven's writing is stilted and unimaginative. The universe itself is interesting, sort of. I found it all an exercise in tedious explanations, with no compelling action, but that's just me. The cross-species relations, in comparison with a much more articulated and fully realized relationships, like OSC's, for example, seem immature.
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Darth_Mauve
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Tuukka--my mistake. Due to busy lifestyle and an overabundance of books in other genre's, I haven't read much current sci-fi in ages. I was going from movies and TV. Badddddddd comparison.
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scifibum
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I have a fair bit of fondness for Niven, but his writing certainly hasn't aged very well.

I bought "Dream Park" from Amazon thinking it might be new (I hadn't seen it among the Niven titles at bookstores), and was seriously dismayed by the sexism. I doubt that made much of a splash when the book was new, though. Even Asimov seems less dated in comparison.

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Hobbes
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quote:
Ringworld was not a great character piece, or a great plot. What it did have was a sense of the size of the universe, and of big things in the universe. This is something missing in much modern sci-fi. The universes we see, whether they are Star-Trek worlds of 1 city each, or Star Wars worlds of uniform identity (Ice World Hoth, Swamp World, Desert World, Capital City World) or even classics like Rainy Japanese Gutter World Bladerunner, the size and diversity of the UNIVERSE!!! is ignored.

I liked Ringworld for this reason as well. It's a sense of wonder that is often missing from modern sci-fi. "Look at what's possible, your wildest imagination is far more limiting than the actual constrains of the unverise!" Niven seems to be screaming. And it's fun to go with him on his romp through an expanisve vision of what could be. I read the rest of the trilogy and was highly dissapointed. It collapsed inward instead of spiraling outward, and did so in a very unsatisfying way. The third novel in particular I found to be almost offensively small minded.

I actually never really cared for Clarke's writing, I guess I find Niven's idea's more interesting than Clarkes, but I agree that neither are exactly masters of story telling (or character development).

Hobbes [Smile]

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Jeff C.
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If you enjoyed the Halo games, it may please you to know that they completely ripped off this novel, along with several other books for their lore.

Ender's Game is essentially the first half of the first Halo book as well.

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Noemon
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
Niven's writing is stilted and unimaginative. The universe itself is interesting, sort of. I found it all an exercise in tedious explanations, with no compelling action, but that's just me. The cross-species relations, in comparison with a much more articulated and fully realized relationships, like OSC's, for example, seem immature.

TANJ it, Orincoro, you took the words right out of my mouth. You forgot the bit about embarrassingly bad dialogue, though.

Actually, though, I have enjoyed some of Niven's short stuff, and I loved the concept at the root of Protector.

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scifibum
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"Inconstant Moon" is a great story, though.
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Destineer
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Only thing I ever liked that had Niven in the byline was The Mote In God's Eye.
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