Book: The Ringworld Engineers

John, this is for you.  I finally finished the book!  The book you recommended to be back in 1989 and I got for Christmas that year.  My parents ordered them through the mail before there was an Amazon.  Thanks to audio books, I FINALLY finished it and it was worth it.  I wished I had read it when you were alive because right now, I am brimming with questions and thoughts.  Thanks to you for recommending it to me all those years ago, and thanks to my parents for figuring out a way to get it for me.

I wrote this post in a Larry Niven fan group…

I reread Ringworld recently and now finally reading Ringworld Engineers (just one of those things I never got around to doing). As we all know, Niven never really intended on doing a sequel until he heard the cries of the Ringworld instability. While I totally get that, I look at The Ringworld novel and feel short of short-changed in terms of exploration of the Ringworld. I mean, there is the potential of 3 million Earth’s on this thing, and we barely touch on a couple of cultures. Ringworld Engineers on the other hand is so much more satisfying in that way. It just feels like that not only did Niven want to answer the engineering questions about the Ringworld but also give us more socially. I am glad he did. I just wonder if any of you felt the same way? Would you have been satisfied with just Ringworld is he had solved the engineering questions in the first book?

The Ringworld Engineers (TRE) is the Ringworld novel I was hoping for.  I feel like the two could have been one big novel.  If I had just been given Ringworld, I would have felt short-changed because I would want more.  You have the potential for 30 million Earth’s worth of culture and we barely grazed a couple in Ringworld.  Meanwhile in TRE, we hit on quite a few.  While I did feel like some of the “species” choices were a bit odd (vampires, really?), I suppose that is part of Niven’s charm.  In particular, I have to remember this was done at a time when vampires were not such a big deal, while today, many of us suffer from vampire fatigue.

There was so much to like about this book, I can not even begin to describe it.  The epicness, the breadth and the story.  It felt a natural sequel, 23 years later, showing many of the consequences of the previous book, to each character – good and bad.  Once we get to the Ringworld, we encounter so much more than we did before – giants, ghouls, vampires and of course, more of the humans from previous book.  We delve into the strange cultures, interactions, social traditions and structures of all in some very interesting ways.  My favorite aspect of it was the fact that the two main characters – Louie and the Kzin – went off in two direction, exploring even more.

The book is well named as we deal directly with the originators as well as learn more about the Ringworld’s history, its downfall and it’s future.  From the perspective of an RPG player, after reading the first book, I did not feel very inspired.  But after reading TRE, I have to say that I am very inspired.  With 30 million possible Earths, you can just about have anything – at least humanoid – on this world.

I think I most struggle with the way Niven writes conversations.  I feel like something is left unsaid every time, like we are supposed to know something going into the conversation when it starts.  Perhaps it is just Niven’s way to simulate “alien” conversations, I am not sure.  I may not be smart enough, who knows.

The epic ending was phenomenal and now I need to read more about Protectors. And the adventure continues with Rngworld Throne.  Thanks John, again.

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