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The Mote in God's Eye

(Moties #1)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  65,326 ratings  ·  1,785 reviews
In 3016, the 2nd Empire of Man spans hundreds of star systems, thanks to faster-than-light Alderson Drive. Intelligent beings are finally found from the Mote, an isolated star in a thick dust cloud. The bottled-up ancient civilization, at least one million years old, are welcoming, kind, yet evasive, with a dark problem they have not solved in over a million years.
ebook, 596 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Spectrum Literary Agency (first published October 1974)
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Vance Frickey There are only a few characters an unbiased reader might consider notably "self-centered" (Niven and Cooper's Building Harlequin's Moon acquainted me …moreThere are only a few characters an unbiased reader might consider notably "self-centered" (Niven and Cooper's Building Harlequin's Moon acquainted me with many more) in The Mote in God's Eye.

Dr. Buckman's the most obvious candidate, although this is tempered by the more insightful viewpoint characters such as Horace Bury noticing that Buckman's center is actually his devotion to knowledge. Horace Bury is both undoubtedly self-centered, and disarmingly self-honest about it. Rod Blaine and Sally Fowler are both self-centered to an extent, so much so that Sailing Master Kevin Renner has to intervene between them to ease the course of their unsteady romance aboard INSS Lenin on the way back from the Mote.

I don't view the self-centered narration of some of Niven's characters as a bad thing, necessarily. We're all necessarily self-centered - even if we don't advertise the fact. Displays of selflessness such as skipping meals often simply shifts burdens onto others, and can be a way of manipulating others.

In that regard, Larry Niven and Brenda Cooper's Building Harlequin's Moon is very good - it gets the exposition of the main characters' motivations, many of which are indeed selfish, and many driven by love of others, out of the way early and lets us watch the characters evolve. The out-right altruistic characters aren't two-dimensional saints and are by no means perfect - but are the characters I'd like as friends.

The Motie Mediators, the Moties we can best identify with, are almost entirely other-centered. They are programmed to learn as much as they can about their "fyunch-clicks", the decision-makers to whom they are assigned - Motie government depending on Mediators settling disagreements between decision-makers, so that each Mediator must be a decision-maker's alter ego.

But Mediators assigned to humans don't adjust well to centering their lives around them. Most go insane (at least by Motie standards), and the ones we see in tense situations with humans abandon any pretense of objectivity, losing patience at times with their assigned humans, but also sacrificing their lives for and with them.

If the original question is "are the characters in The Mote in God's Eye poorly drawn?" - no. This novel has some of the best characterization I've seen in a science-fiction novel.(less)

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Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very entertaining, interesting, intriguing, thought provoking, etc.

Good science fiction.

Robert A. Heinlein himself is quoted as saying something to the effect that this was the best science fiction novel he had ever read. I don’t know that I’d go that far, but this was very good.

David Allen Coe claimed to have sang the perfect country and western song, and in that same regard, Niven and Pournellle may have collaborated to create the perfect science fiction novel, it contains all of the import
May 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book gave me a really bad vibe from the outset. Maybe it was the captain's use of the word "rape" as an epithet. Maybe it's the token female aristocrat whose sole job is so predictable from the very outset: (view spoiler). Maybe it's the incessant stupidity and naivety of the big players in the story throughout the course of its run. We'll get into all of that during the course of this revie ...more
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For some reason I always find Larry Niven much better with Jerry Pournelle than without; Inferno, Lucifer's Hammer and Footfall are all winners (they have collaborated on quite a few other titles, but I have not read them yet). The Mote in God's Eyeis generally considered to be their partnership’s best book (have a look at Larry Niven’s Goodreads page).

I believe the blurb by Robert A. Heinlein that appears on many editions of the book’s cover* has been around since its first publication in 1974;
J.L.   Sutton
Aug 06, 2020 rated it liked it
“We play your part in order to understand you, but you each seem to play a thousand parts. It makes things difficult for an honest, hard-working bug-eyed monster.”

The Master of Hard Sci-Fi: A Larry Niven Primer | LitReactor

In a way, Larry Niven's The Mote in God's Eye is two books. On the one hand, we have a serious story of first contact with an alien race very different than us (with their own misconceptions and motivations). I enjoyed all that went into the mutual attempts at understanding. On the other hand, we have two-dimensional and often annoyin
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Algernon (Darth Anyan)

Because of the Alderson Drive we need never consider the space between the stars. Because we can shunt between stellar systems in zero time, our ships and ships' drives need cover only interplanetary distances.

Any self-respecting space opera must start by postulating first a method for overcoming the vast emptiness of the space between stars. You can call it 'unobtainium' or 'equipotential thermonuclear flux' , but you need to overhaul known physics principles in order to move instantly
Peter Tillman
A classic SF novel, but another one that hasn't aged well. I'm kinda sorry I reread it (2021), as much of the rosy glow that I recalled from past reads was gone this time. Sigh. Happens.

It's a book of its time (1974), and new readers (who may not have even been born then) will have to cut the book some slack for the dated, clumsy backstory. And female readers will note the vanishingly small representation for their half of the human species. Females are better-represented among the alien moties,
Nov 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Well, this was a fascinating book. I can't imagine the thoroughness of invention in creating the Moties, and making sure the science of this book was as believable as could be with known science, especially at the time. It's truly astonishing.

I WILL say that I wasn't caught up in the book in a way that I couldn't stop turning pages: I found it a bit hard to get through, the characters were not particularly engrossing PERSONALLY, but the plot and particularly world-building were so deep and fasci
Dec 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
What could have been a decent fist-contact story is completely undercut by poor character writing, lazy sexism, lack of actual critical thinking about human society, and a science fiction plot twist that itself undercuts the book's lazy sexism.

The book has the pieces for what should be a decent science fiction story. First contact with a reasonably interesting alien civilization. Misunderstandings and realizations of the aliens along the way at a satisfying pace. Some decent humor. Some decent
Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of hard sci-fi; this is NOT for thrill-seekers
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a fantastic first contact novel! I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Moties were fascinating and much like their fellow human cast, I found my opinion of each of them changing as the story progressed. There were many whom I loved at first and came to dislike, and vice versa. All in all a wonderful set of characters to journey through the difficulties of first contact with.

There are a lot of considerations when two intelligent species meet in space for the first time. How much do you keep back?
Jun 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Written in 1972, The Mote in God’s Eye is the premier work by award winning authors Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, who also collaborated on the science fiction classics Footfall and Lucifer’s Hammer. Grand Master Robert A. Heinlein called it "possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read." It easily makes my Top 10 Sci/Fi Book List.

The story is set in the year 3017 A.D. The Second Interstellar Empire of man is in the process of forcefully reuniting many colonies long lost since th
Kevin Ansbro
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
"Nitwit ideas are for emergencies. You use them when you've got nothing else to try. If they work, they go in the Book. Otherwise, you follow the Book, which is largely a collection of nitwit ideas that worked."
—Larry Niven
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Fairly interesting contact novel. A yellow star in front of a red giant star in the Coal Sack Nebula resembles a hooded man with one eye, the giant red star being the eye and a yellow star in front of it is what gives the suggestion of the mote in the eye of said hooded head suggests a "mote in god's eye" , thus the name.

The race of beings from this system, the "Moties" represent a kind of threat humans haven't faced before.

I read this some time (read some years) ago and still remember the idea
Apr 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Moties, Imperial noblewomen who would never, ever use birth control
Larry and Paul... doesn't that sound like a sitcom couple? I've read a lot of Niven and Pournelle's collaborations over the years, and at the height of my Very White Space Opera phase (i.e., when I was a teenager with no taste and liked anything with spaceships and aliens in it) Niven was one of my favorite authors.

The Mote in God's Eye was their first collaboration, and never having read it before, I was expecting something like Footfall. It kind of is, but of course it was written over twenty
Megan Baxter
Dec 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Solid science fiction about first contact, set in a universe where humanity reached the stars, fractured, and has slowly knit itself back together under imperial/aristocratic power. This doesn't actually come through that much for much of the book, other than mentioning that one of the main characters will have a title one day. And then at the end, we're thrust into imperial politics with little preparation - it's interesting, but a bit jarring.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn du
David Sarkies
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who love classic science-fiction
Recommended to David by: I've been wanting to read this for a while
Shelves: sci-fi
A political novel about first contact with extra-terrestrials
27 November 2014

To me there seems to be something about these pre-1980's science fiction novels that I am drawn towards reading. Maybe it has something to do with being influenced by my Dad to read the Isaac Asimov novels, or more likely it has something to do with my life long passion for science-fiction. However, the books written in my father's generation seem to have a lot more character, and a lot more insight, than much of the r
Like so many books I’ve read, The Mote in G-d’s Eye was recommended to me by father, many years ago. And, like many books I’ve read, it’s actually taken me years to read it. I don’t really know why; I know I tried to read it once when I was younger, and it somehow didn’t grab me. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it, or maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood. In any case, I’ve been on more of a sci-fi kick lately, and Starladustess had equally good things to say about this one, so I finally knuckled under ...more
4.0 to 4.5 stars. One of the best first contact SF novels ever and certainly among the best from the duo of Niven and Pournelle. Epic in scope and including one of the best descriptions of an alien society ever put to paper. A true classic. Highly recommended!!

Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1975)
Nominee: Nebula Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1975)
Nominee: Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1975)
Dec 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2fiction, scifi, 1paper
An excellent read & raises a lot of interesting thoughts for me. It's about contact with an alien civilization in a more interesting setting than most. Makes me think a lot about some of our civilizations. Well worth reading & a classic of science fiction. ...more
Aug 13, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sci-fi geeks
I caught my friend Ryan reading some cheesy looking sci-fi and thought maybe I should give the genre a try. Outside of HG Wells, I haven't had much exposure since I was a teenager. This story is well written, but ungodly slow. Hell, I have the patience to read, but this one is mostly discussion and very little action. The story hits a climax two-thirds of the way through and then runs out of steam. I give it three stars for being thought provoking. ...more
May 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
This story tells the world created by the duet of writers Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle known as the condominium, where humanity has followed an evolution that today has not been completed. Neither Pournelle nor Niven were unable to imagine the collapse of the Soviet Union (although communism has not yet disappeared, but has taken on more dramatic overtones, as we are seeing in the case of China, where you can see the worst of both worlds, and where we see how every day the Chinese Communist ...more
Sep 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: Beyond Reality SF Selection Dec 2010
I should read more space opera, especially when written by Niven and Pournelle. The human Empire (Russian in origin, which seemed odd considering in 1974 when first published, the USSR was Communist not Imperialist) has first contact with aliens from a system referred to as "The Mote." Communication is key, but as expected, truth is the first casualty in diplomacy and war. By the time I reached the end, having had bits of both sides of the story, I kept wishing and hoping ... 'if only' the alien ...more
Amanda Kratz
Book club read

Rating 2.5 - rounding down

Published in 1974 the Mote in God's eye was considered one of the best science fiction works of the time by Robert Heinlein (StarShip Troopers). The book was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and Locust awards for best sci-fi book.

I really struggled getting into the first part of this book. I kept falling asleep when trying to read it. It reads like a text book at points. When we finally get more of the aliens (Moties) it starts to pick up and was much more
Harv Griffin
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite Science Fiction novel. Number One. It starts with a bang. The level of writing is excellent. When I re-read it, I read almost everything. If God's Eye doesn't hook you in the first few pages, you may be unhookable. It has it all. Space battles. A central love story. A surprising depth to the characters. The prose is unusually nuanced for hard Science Fiction, and a joy to read.

Larry and Jerry raised the bar for the "First Contact" SciFi novel, and as far as I can tell, no oth
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of SF, military fiction, and the differences between cultures
A brilliant and gripping book. One of the best jobs of creating a truly alien life form, culture and civilization, rather than the usual "aliens" who act just like human beings who happen to look different - and then going on to let the human reader see events through those alien eyes, from their perspective. The human characters are also well developed and the plot serves as a gripping mystery as well as an adventure story, and left me with a strong sense of empathy for the individuals of both ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
review to come later
Kat  Hooper
Oct 25, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
The Mote in God’s Eye, co-written by frequent collaborators Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, is a classic First Contact science fiction story which Robert A. Heinlein called “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read.” The story takes place in 3017 AD in the future of Jerry Pournelle’s CODOMINION universe (though it’s not necessary to have read any of those books to enjoy The Mote in God’s Eye). Humans have developed the Alderson Drive which allows them to immediately jump to ce ...more
Manuel Antão
Aug 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Toilet Testing: "The Mote in God's Eye" by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle

“When the room was empty he poured a large glass of wine. It was poor quality stuff brought in after the blockade, but he hardly noticed. Wine was officially forbidden on Levant, which meant that the hordes of wine sellers foisted off anything alcoholic on their customers, even wealthy ones like the Bury family.”

“There was the usual hatred of the Navy for Imperial T
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this to talk about it on the SFF Audio podcast, link forthcoming when it is posted.

Here's the thing. I'm a bad science fiction fan. I don't like aliens and spaceships. I don't like space wars. I don't like ships and military strategy. Except I've had little tastes of books that people have recommended, and ended up enjoying Ender's Game, The Sparrow, and Anathem despite the aliens and space.

I think what it really is - my knee-jerk reaction hasn't yet caught up to my head, where I think s
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Laurence van Cott Niven's best known work is Ringworld (Ringworld, #1) (1970), which received the Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards. His work is primarily hard science fiction, using big science concepts and theoretical physics. The creation of thoroughly worked-out alien species, which are very different from humans both physically and mentally, is recognized as one of Niven's main strengths ...more

Other books in the series

Moties (4 books)
  • Future History (Moties, #0.5)
  • The Gripping Hand (Moties, #2)
  • Outies (Moties, #3)

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“Nitwit ideas are for emergencies. You use them when you've got nothing else to try. If they work, they go in the Book. Otherwise you follow the Book, which is largely a collection of nitwit ideas that worked.” 18 likes
“We juggle priceless eggs in variable gravity. I am afraid. I will taste fear until I die.” 7 likes
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