Ringworld is lighthearted and extravagant adventure through space with the most eccentric group of characters you will ever meet. The book does an outstanding job of giving you that spark of adventure through beautifully detailed worlds, and character dialogue that can be funny at times. While reading the story I could not help but feel as if I were reading a re-telling of a space themed Dungeons and Dragon’s campaign. A 200 year old man, a giant cat warrior, a two-headed ostrich snake, and a 20 year old woman set off to explore an enormous ring shaped planet. Ridiculous, but I love it. The party itself is intriguing enough, but the mystery of the Ringworld is what will really captivate you.
What I enjoyed most about this book is that the creativity is poured on heavy in creating unique characters and future tech, that serves to create a very immersive experience. That being said, Niven’s best attempts to meticulously detail this universe still leaves me with only a vague idea of certain aspects, such as the fly cycles that are used to navigate Ringworld, the Lying Bastard space craft, and the appearance of the character Nessus himself. If that sounds daunting don’t worry, the real story revolves around the exploration and the trials the party experience as they fumble their way around Ringworld.
The book features a small cast of well defined characters. The characters being Louie Wu, who is a two hundred year old man who has extended his life with a chemical called booster spice and has the skill set of a politician. Speaker-to-Animals who is a Kzin, which is an eight foot tall alien who is tiger-like in appearance and has extensive combat experience. Teela Brown, is a young woman who was bred for the specific purpose of being lucky, due to the manipulation of Earth’s birthright lottery. Lastly there is Nessus, who coordinated the entire expedition. Nessus is a “Pierson’s Puppeteer” which is an alien race that is described as a three-legged ostrich shaped creature, with two snake-like heads that protrude from the mane on it’s body. Like I said before, I had difficulty getting my own imagination to settle on the appearance of Nessus. I’m sure everyone who reads Ringworld has a different idea of how Nessus looks in their mind’s eye. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the book is interpreted in a nonidentical way from reader to reader, due to the volume of gadgets and scientific jargon that Niven crams into Ringworld. Maybe that can be said of most sci-fi.
When story reaches the point of arriving to Ringworld it becomes clear to the reader just how enormous the construct is. Giant mountain ranges make up the outer portion of the inner-ring, and keep the atmosphere trapped onto the surface on such a massive scale that the horizon hides one end from the other. When the party encounters natives to Ringworld, it is revealed that civilization has fallen and the barbarian ancestors of the original Ringworld inhabitants live in the wreckage of floating cities that have since fallen. Knowledge of the Ringworld has been lost to most of the people they encounter on the planet, and to help give you a sense of the scale of Ringworld, the natives refer to the half of the ring above them as “the arch,” not realizing that it is circular and that trying to reach the base of the arch would be impossible.
There were so many great concepts in Ringworld, and since worldbuilding is my weakness I can confidently say that I will be re-reading it again in the future as well as the sequels (and prequels?), just so that I can experience more of this universe. Please read this book when you have the opportunity to do so, I can’t help but recommend Ringworld which is now firmly in my list of favorite sci-fi books!
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