Alan's Reviews > The Mote in God's Eye

The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven
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Aug 06, 14

bookshelves: science-fiction
Read from July 21 to September 06, 2011

The Mote in God’s Eye made me think of recent posts by authors and media critics that I have seen in the past few months. There have been discussions about why fantasy outsells science fiction. There has been a slight trend in those discussions. And, Mote is an example of that trend.

Reading science fiction can be work. Enjoyable work, but work nonetheless. The hard science aspects (FTL, etc) are glossed over by Niven and Pournelle. What isn’t glossed over is the many forms of conflict that can take place in a society without it having to involve guns/bombs/swords/sticks. In addition, they create arguably one of the few well realized alien cultures in science fiction with the Moties. There is some discussion of anthropology, evolution and the evolution of societies. What there isn’t here is what is present in much poorly executed (and some well executed) fantasy and poorly executed science fiction.

No one waves a magic wand and solves any problem, especially the difficult ones. No curses, spells, potions, and to keep fantasy readers from jumping down my throat technobabble. There are talking heads scenes reminiscent of Asimov’s original Foundation, not as well executed, but these scenes definitely move the plot forward.

There is a lot of back-story here from Pournelle and Niven’s prior work (much of it being Pournelle’s solo stories). It is easy enough to figure what has happened before, such as Earth’s near self-destruction, a fall of an empire, etc. Characterization is not this book’s strength. Its strength lies in trying to get the reader into the minds and culture of the Moties, and putting the human characters in positions where there are no easy decisions, or solutions.

Niven and Pournelle, and this is likely more Pournelle, also put forth the concepts of an individual’s, especially a leader’s, responsibilities to others and society. There are minor discussions about self-reliance which exemplify why H. Beam Piper’s estate picked Pournelle as the editor when Piper’s short stories where collected for publication a few years ago.
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