The Mote in God’s Eye
by Larry Nivenand Jerry Pournelle
592pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.01/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.97/5

The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle was published in 1974. This novel set in the CoDominium universe contains some hard science fiction and is a story about first contact between humans and an alien race. There is a sequel entitled The Gripping Hand (or The Moat Around Murcheson’s Eye in most countries) that was released about 20 years after the first novel, and there are several other stories that take place in the same world written by Jerry Pournelle. The Mote in God’s Eye stands perfectly well on its own, though.

In the year 3017, a rebellion on the world of New Chicago has just ended, thanks to a risky move by Commander Rod Blaine. After this, Rod Blaine is promoted and given control of the ship MacArthur. He is ordered to never make such a foolish move again and charged with bringing the ship to New Scotland along with two passengers, a Senator’s niece who was a prisoner and a trader suspected of playing a large role in the uprising. On the way to New Scotland, Blaine receives a message that a suspected alien ship has been found – the first sign of alien life the humans have ever seen. Since the MacArthur is near the spacecraft, Rod Blaine is ordered to intercept it.

When Blaine pursues the spacecraft, he discovers it is heading straight for a sun and neatly captures the ship without burning his own. However, in the process the alien beings were killed. Some view Blaine as a hero who made the best choice available in a difficult situation while others view him as the villain who murdered the first aliens to come into contact with humans. However, his superiors believe he did the right thing, and Blaine is sent to God’s Eye to make contact with the aliens, along with several scientists and anthropologists excited to study these intelligent beings. He is accompanied by a ship run by an admiral, who is supposed to keep his distance from the aliens just in case they are unfriendly – and ordered to fire upon the MacArthur if they compromise the ship somehow.


The Mote in God’s Eye was a book that I was very hesitant to read. While I love space opera, hard science fiction makes me nervous since I like to read about characters, not dry descriptions about technology. My eyes start to glaze over and I find myself reading the same paragraph over and over again for twenty minutes straight because I am anal and feel like I will miss something if I just skip it and move on. For the first 100 pages of this 560 page book, I had that problem a lot. It would start to interest me and then I’d come across something like this:
NEW CALEDONIA: Star system behind the Coal Sack with F8 primary star catalogued as Murcheson A. The distant binary, Murcheson B, is not part of the New Caledonia system. Murcheson A has six planets in five orbits, with four inner planets, a relatively wide gap containing the debris of an unformed planet, and two outer planets in a Trojan relationship. The four inner planets are named Conchobar, New Ireland, New Scotland, and Fomor, in their order from the sun which is known locally as Cal, or Old Cal, or the Sun. (pages 32-33)

This, is of course, just the beginning since this description in its entirety goes on for about a page and a half (I remembered it as going on for much longer; I suppose it was because I kept reading the same paragraph over and over again as mentioned above). Many times during the first hundred pages, I considered putting this book down or taking a break to read something else. However, I stuck with it – and I was glad I did since once it got to the interaction between the humans and aliens, I found it very readable without a dull moment.

It is still not a book I would read for stellar characterization. None of the characters are very fleshed out or three dimensional. There are various scientists and engineers, a rich merchant who wants to develop trade with the aliens, the dutiful commander of the MacArthur, the strict admiral who follows orders to the letter even if it means butchery, and one female anthropologist/love interest for the commander. I liked the characters well enough but was not particularly attached to any of them since none of them were very vividly drawn. The aliens, their culture, and the mystery surrounding their intentions was by far a better reason for reading this one.

First contact stories interest me since I enjoy reading what an alien culture might be like and the struggle to find a common ground between societies with differing worldviews. Once it got going, I found The Mote in God’s Eye a fascinating portrayal of a civilization very different from humanity. It also had some great suspense since it kept me guessing about whether or not the race was malevolent and exactly what their intentions were.

The aliens, who were dubbed the Moties for their location in the area known as the Mote in God’s Eye, were very intelligent and divided into several different areas of expertise. The first Motie the humans encountered was an engineer, who had a knack for developing items that were fitted perfectly to an individual and worked exceptionally well. Most of the Moties the humans interacted with were mediators, who not only studied the humans but learned to mimic the person assigned to them so well that it was difficult to tell them apart if not looking at the Motie or the human speaking. There was some confusion as the Moties had difficulty understanding that humans did not strictly fall into one category. The society was very imaginative and reading about the study of the Motie culture was the best part of the book.

The Mote in God’s Eye started slowly with a bit too much description of planetary atmospheres for my taste, but once it introduced the alien race, it became very readable. The human characters were not particularly well-developed, but the Motie civilization and the secret of their intentions made for some entertaining reading.

7/10

Read Chapter One

I’ve been following Babel Clash, the new Borders blog for science fiction and fantasy, for a few days now and thought some of you may be interested. Last week’s guest was Kim Harrison, the author of the new book Once Dead, Twice Shy and The Hollows urban fantasy series (that reminds me I still need to read book 2 since I just got a hold of it recently). Kim discussed horror and phobias since her books are often shelved in horror even though she doesn’t write it. This week Brandon Sanderson is discussing the line between familiar and overused tropes in fantasy – he doesn’t like elves or dwarves yet there is something about dragons that he can’t help but love. It’s been interesting so far and I’m looking forward to seeing what other authors they have lined up.

On the subject of Kim Harrison, I read recently that she also writes fantasy under the name Dawn Cook. I’ve seen books by Dawn Cook several times and wondered how they are. Has anyone read any of them? If so, what did you think?

In other news, I’m still working on my review of The Mote in God’s Eye. It’s about halfway done but I haven’t had much time to finish it lately (at least when I’m not too tired to think straight).

The giveaway for The Wolverine Files has ended and the five winners have been selected using random.org. The winners are:

Pamela M., Texas
Jake L., New York
Shaun D., California
Summer P., Canada
David L., New Jersey

Congratulations! I hope you enjoy the books. Although I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I have looked through it and it is a very nice-looking book.

Orannia has presented me with the Little CJ Blog Award. Thanks, Orannia! I am honored (and frightened by Little CJ’s threat but more pleased than scared).


Little CJ has ordained that I must pass this award on to only two blogs, thus proving she is truly diabolical in nature. Only two of the many fantastic blogs I read? That’s really tough. So I decided to use the same method Orannia did – which blogs have added a lot to my TBR list. After looking through the wishlist and recent purchases, there are two blogs that stand out as major contributors:

The Book Smugglers
Fantasy Debut

Good work for keeping me from ever getting near the bottom of that to-read pile!

May
31
2009

Sometime in June, I want to read a book by an author who is new to me and has had a book sitting unread on my shelf for at least a year. I’m not sure which one to choose, though, so I made a poll for it. The poll will stay open until I finish The Silver Metal Lover and either Busted Flush or The Last Argument of Kings.

The options are:

J.V. Jones – A Cavern of Black Ice
Catherynne Valente – The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden
Laura Resnick – In Legend Born
John Varley – Titan
Tim Powers – The Anubis Gates

Which one do you want me to read and review sometime in June?

This morning I did finish my May book (hard science fiction), The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. It took a long time to get going and I almost put it down a few times, but once it got going it was good and I ended up glad I stuck with it. I need to do some laundry and make a birthday cake so I’m not sure I’ll get to review it today, but hopefully I’ll get to review it sometime over the next week.

Interested in reading all about Wolverine from the X-Men? I have five copies of The Wolverine Files by Mike W. Barr to give away (sorry, US and Canada residents only for this one).

Here is the book description from the Simon and Schuster website (where you can also purchase The Wolverine Files if you absolutely can’t wait to find out if you won a copy):

This book is a top secret compilation of all known facts about the mutant called Wolverine (a/k/a Logan, Weapon X, Patch, the Runt). This report, generated by the concerted effort of SHIELD (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law Enforcement Division) agents, is intended for the eyes of SHIELD personnel only, and is not to be copied, distributed, disseminated, or in any other way leaked to the general public due to the delicate nature of the information herein. It details Wolverine’s origins, career, friends, allies, in all manner of specifics.

Be aware that representatives from Simon & Schuster publishing have been sniffing around, endeavoring to obtain this information through the Freedom of Information Act. We cannot begin to imagine the tremendous, even incalculable damage that would be sustained by both Wolverine and by our information-gathering forces should this report wind up for purchase in local bookstores. Let us hope such an event never comes to pass.

Also, if you are interested you can sign up to receive Simon & Schuster book news, videos and more.

Giveaway Rules

If you would like to enter, just send an email to fantasycafe AT novomancy dot org with the subject “Wolverine.” Please include your name and mailing address so the book can be sent to you as quickly as possible if you are fortunate enough to win a copy. The giveaway ends on Thursday June 4.

Good luck!