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Previous BotM--DISCUSSIONS > 2010-12 THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE: finished reading *SPOILERS*

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message 1: by Stefan, Group Founder + Moderator (Retired) (new)

Stefan (sraets) | 1667 comments Mod
This thread is for people who have finished reading The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven.


message 2: by Philip (new)

Philip Athans (philathans) | 67 comments Random notes from first 6 chapters. Read this only if you've made it that far.

Jut as a personal note, I would have put the dramatis personae and timeline at the end of the book as appendices, but there's no firm rule on that. I think that putting it up front says you're supposed to read that first, which is a pretty dry way of starting a book, whereas if they're at the end, they become the handy references I think they were meant to be.

I've shouted from the rooftops that you should begin any story in media res (in the middle of things), and the first two paragraphs of chapter one is a great example of that. Right away there's a sense of something happening. For more on what I mean by that, check me out at:

In the second line after the section break on page 4 of the current Pocket Books mass market edition we learn that people carry "pocket computers." I happened to be reading this the same day I bought my first smart phone and was all nerdied up that I also had a pocket computer! The future is now.

I thought this bit from the end of chapter 3 was interesting: "Species evolve to meet the environment. An intelligent species changes the environment to suit itself. As soon as a species becomes intelligent, it should stop evolving."
I guess Greg Bear didn't get that memo (read his book DARWIN'S RADIO). I'm finding it difficult at best to agree with Niven & Pournelle's assumption, which sounds rather arrogant.

This is fun, from chapter 6: "A coded message wound off its tape reel, while aft MacArthur's engines fused hydrogen to helium." Which tells us in this version of our future, people invented reliable fusion engines, FTL travel, and pocket computers BEFORE digital recordings. Kinda begs the question: How do their pocket computers work? It's amazing to me how much early SF focusses on space travel while utterly missing anything like what actually happened in the last quarter of the 20th century: the telecommunications explosion.

Great stuff!

message 3: by Philip (last edited Dec 07, 2010 11:53AM) (new)

Philip Athans (philathans) | 67 comments SPOILERS THROUGH END OF PART ONE:

Click over to my blog, FANTASY AUTHOR'S HANDBOOK, for my rant re: the "fade out" between chapters 7 and 8:

WHAT were they thinking?

A few more notes up to the end of part one:

On the first page of chapter 7 (page 61 in my edition) I had to note the captain's habit of saying "Rape 'em!" Yuck. Who says that in real life? Thankfully, no one I've ever known.

And a general complaint: I'm not a fan of the brogue, which is hard to read. I'm deciding to take the Scottish engineer as an homage to Star Trek. But still...

Despite complaints as significant as the discovery of the first sentient alien ever encountered being dryly described after the fact, I still like this book and look forward to my 2-3 chapters a day!

The tech is interesting, for the most part the characters are interesting and robustly realized, and I find the first glimpses of the "Moties" intriguing.

message 4: by Jon (new)

Jon (jonmoss) | 626 comments What I found most amusing among the character foibles centered on Sally, whom I loved for her independence and intelligence. But wearing a bandanna and a bathrobe just made me think late 60s early 70s.

I actually like 'reading' or actually subvocalizing brogue and other accents. I caught myself giving the Admiral a heavy Russian accent in my head. Loved it!

Having pocket computers were 'handy' but tape recordings? If I've got any cassettes or even eight tracks, they've decomposed in my basement storage room. I don't even buy many CDs anymore. On demand video and audio via the Internet (and/or smartphone) or nothing.

And in one scene, there was a reference to a panel on the bridge full of green indicator lights. Nearly everything now would be via a flatscreen graphic display.

Even with all these quaint foibles, the story exceed whatever dated technology barnacled it.

message 5: by Philip (new)

Philip Athans (philathans) | 67 comments Notes on Part 2.

The book definitely finds its legs at this point, as though the authors were only marginally interested in the discovery of the Moties and much more interested in the interactions between human and Motie. I can see that, but I'm still disappointed in Part 1's subdued sense of discovery.

One of the notes I made in the margins was that I liked the characters' approach to space travel in general. They see it as boring, they're critical of their accommodations, frustrated by long travel times, and so on.

Around the same time I read this I caught a bit of an American history documentary on TV that recounted the months-long journey across the American frontier via covered wagon, which made me feel guilty for bitching about how long it takes to fly from Seattle to New York and back. The idea that our future characters are equally impatient with what I would consider this extraordinary adventure, and is indeed insanely fast in the context of interstellar space . . . well done.

And they did it (the dreaded action hole) again in chapter 18: Tons of detail of the preparation and plans for the mission to the asteroid followed by a two-page summary of the report of the mission's findings. ARGH! Not as bad as the black hole in part one, but come on! They were exploring an ancient space station full of alien mummies. Were the mummies scary? What was that experience like? How did the people involved FEEL ABOUT IT at the time?

Honestly. . . .

This was interesting, from chapter 22:

"And you say the furniture is at all angles. We all saw that the Moties didn't care how they were oriented when they spoke to you."

"Humans always orient themselves. Even the old Marines who've been in space all their lives!"

Is this true? Made me wonder what was the longest anyone had lived in freefall in 1974. Is this true of ISS astronauts?

Still reading . . .

message 6: by Philip (new)

Philip Athans (philathans) | 67 comments Notes on part 3

The only note I made in the margins in Part 3 was on page 261, Chapter 27 after this fun little jewel of a paragraph:

"Sally Fowler took up the task. She tried carefully to explain just how useless pregnant human females were. 'It's one reason we tend to develop male-oriented societies. And--' She was still lecturing on childbirth problems when they reached the museum."

Holy--! No wonder women didn't read SF in the 70s! I understand that Niven & Pournelle are presenting a provincial, conservative future society, but still...this is astonishingly retrograde. Sally is the only woman on either human starship, and begins to fade away entirely as a character in Part 3.

Also in this section we get more background on the Moties and learn that their history is a series of wars stemming from overpopulation. The fact that the majority of Moties we meet are female tends to reinforce the point that societies that allow too much female energy are doomed to chaos and failure.

I know a lot of progress has been made, socially, in the last 36 years, but wow...this was sexist even for 1974.

It's working at my enjoyment of the book, frankly.

That aside, the action ramps up big-time in Part 3, and though the population explosion theme was certainly more resonant in 1974 than it may be now, we definitely haven't learned as much, as a species, about long-term resource management as we should have since then. That political statement, at least, is still valid.

message 7: by Philip (new)

Philip Athans (philathans) | 67 comments Really having trouble staying motivated to finish the last ~100 pages of this book. Grinds to a squealing halt in the end and becomes some kind of political procedural. And the heroes are making one dumb decision after another. What happened here?

message 8: by Philip (new)

Philip Athans (philathans) | 67 comments Okay, finally just sat down and finished this this afternoon, pausing between chapters to stir my chili.

What can I say?

"Ends" with a painfully protracted sigh.

message 9: by Kathi, Moderator & Book Lover (new)

Kathi | 3329 comments Mod
I finished this evening. The anachronisms didn't bother me too much, but the sexist themes (and Sally's acceptance and approval of them) bothered me a lot. The pacing did not slow for me later in the book, although I agree the story lost some of its space-opera feel. I will read the sequel, The Gripping Hand, after Warhost of Vastmark, the Banks book that the group is now reading (the name escapes me at the moment), and possibly Under Heaven. 3.5 stars

message 10: by Phil (new)

Phil J | 57 comments Philip wrote: ""Humans always orient themselves. Even the old Marines who've been in space all their lives!"

Is this true? Made me wonder what was the longest anyone had lived in freefall in 1974. Is this true of ISS astronauts?"

Good question. My observation of space vehicles today is that they are designed for 360 degree movement, so I think humans don't feel the need to orient themselves in space.

W/r/t the other complaints against this book- yeah, it's cheesy and sexist. I thought Niven & Pournelle seemed a little too proud of creating a glorified Star Trek episode.

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