Reviews of Ringworld (1970)
I agree with the comments about the flat, cartoonish characters in the book. The alien protagonists were much more convincing than the human ones, since you could only expect an alien to behave as singlemindedly as those characters did.
One thing I couldn't reconcile in the book was the detail in physics and in natural explanations on the one hand, and all the discussion about luck on the other. I wanted to punch the book in the (pre)face everytime Luis went on about Tyla's luck and how it made a puppet out of all of them.
Review by ropie (2005-07-11)
I read this book with great anticipation, though also with suspicion, it being a fine example of a novel that polarizes opinion. Actually, upon completion I found I was a little confused as to why it is universally loved/hated; maybe it's just me but I thought it was just OK..
The story is fairly straightforward - a group of characters go on an exploratory journey to a strange 'planet', a disaster ensues and they have to escape from the planet. Perhaps the first indication of the split opinions on the book is the characters. People often site weak characterization as a failing of a novel, or strong characterization as being a good thing. Here the characters are desperately cartoonish in everything from their simple reactions to situations to the colourful and amusing descriptions of their appearances. Whilst finding it just a bit irritating at times I felt this style was a generally successful.
However, there is a rather obvious disparity between the 'technicolour' and almost jovial treatment of the main characters and the author's awe-inspiringly scientific approach to the 'Ringworld' itself. Perhaps this is what makes the book difficult for some to really agree with. Personally I enjoyed this seemingly incongrous mix and even thought there was some justification for it: the rather two-dimensional characteriztion alongside the flat, ribbon-like (atleast, from a distance) surface of the Ringworld.
Though the plot weakens and ideas seem to become stretched as the novel nears the end, large chunks of 'Ringworld' are exciting and well-worth discovering. In the end though, I had to admit to remembering far better simple characters in other books, far better attempts at humour (definitely not one of 'Ringworld's' strong-points) and better descriptions of vast alien worlds (see 'Rendezvous with Rama' or 'Eon'), though this aspect is perhaps where the book is most successful.
Review by mrdude (2005-02-11)
Ringworld, the first book in the Ringworld Series by Larry Niven is the tale of four individuals who travel to a planet called, you guessed it, ringworld. Despite first impressions that this book might be some cheesy scifi thriller it is one of my all time favorites.
The writing style of this work is pretty direct and to the point. The author tends to leave a lot to the imagination and so the book rests more on the plot line and premises presented rather than the actually writing. Not to say the writing is bad, far from it, Niven truly is a good author, he is just well versed in storytelling and therefore needs less description than most in the genre. The book is told entirely from the third person, through an omniscient narrator.
All and all this is really a good read and truly presents a lot of ideas that todays science fiction uses extensively.
(Review also posted at the IBDoF)
Review by clong (2004-12-16)
Ringworld is one of my favorite books. Larry Niven is always dazzlingly inventive. Some of his books are great, some are not so hot, but they all start with an imaginitive concept (usually about some really cool planet or alien race, which Niven then proceeds to make surprisingly plausible).
Ringworld is one of his most effective realizations, and when you add in interesting characters, an engaging plot, and an economy of narrative you end up with a really great read. Each chapter is important to the story and surprising. I found the later Ringworld books moderately interesting, but not nearly as good as the original, which I recommend very highly.
Review by Non (2004-01-02)
Cool story, well writen, could have used more description.
In my memory of this book the land of the Ringworld is a sprawling green carpet devoid of detail. I read this book very quickly while listening to a Fiona Apple CD on repeat and now everytime I hear that CD I have vivid flashbacks to the story.
Review by LordApophis (2003-07-26)
This book is a MUST READ for any Science Fiction fan! The concepts it introduces will have you thinking about it till the following week. (10/10)
Review by Ranic (2003-07-15)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but at a few points in the book some of his writing wasn't as clear as I would have liked it to be. I found myself confused as to what he was saying and felt that I could not accurately picture what Niven's image of the Ringworld surface would be like. Aside from this, his characters have well developed personalities and interact well with each other, which contributed to much of my enjoyment of the story.
Larry Niven must have done a lot of research for this book because he seems to have scientific justifications for all his assumptions, for example, he justifies why a storm would rotate on its side, perpendicular to the Ringworld surface. It is a pleasure to finally see some sort of scientific possibility, however outlandish, explained in terms of actual physics.
Review by nthier (2003-04-02)
My favourite SF book. Niven creates a vast universe and story-line that leaves you begging for the history of it all as much as the future.
Review by Sergio (2003-03-12)
One of the best SF books I've read. And ringworld - is a very interesting world, which can be exploited much more...