Synopsis: The united 'Second Empire of Man' spans vast distances, due to the Alderson Drive which has enabled humans to travel easily between the stars. After an alien probe is discovered, the Navy dispatches two ships to determine whether the aliens pose a threat… Called by Robert A. Heinlein: "Possibly the greatest science fiction novel ever written," this magnificent exploration of first contact and a truly alien society is a "must read" for science fiction fans. (from the online description)
Review: First contact stories tend to fall into two tropes: either the benevolent aliens come to help to poor humans or Independence Day. Niven and Pournelle deftly side step these tropes and give us a first contact story both riveting and real. Moties, as they are named, are both benevolent and dangerous. And it falls to a diverse, flawed sortie of humans to determine the fate of both the Moties – and the human race.
A fast-paced plot, combined with complex characters and an intricate world of limiting technologies, create a story both mind-expanding and heart-wrenching. There are no good guys and bad guys, simple creatures, Motie and Human alike, working towards the survival of their species.
My only complaint is, once again, is the portrayal women. Only one female with speaking lines, but she is an integral part of the story, mostly. She could be replaced with a male and the story wouldn’t change much, despite her being presented as an educated woman with intelligence. She is often the “heart” of the discussion, favoring emotion-driven benevolence over logic. There are remarks to a male-centric society and she seems accepting, even supporting, of that institution. One of the few shallows characters, sadly, but better than most women in pre-1980s sci-fi/fantasy novels.
It will up to the individual to determine if this book lives up to the hype, but for my part, I think it does. Worth the time to read.
Bookmarks: 5 of 5
Awards: Nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel, Hugo Award for Best Novel, and Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1975)
Year Published: 1974
Date Finished: 1-25-2017