Exactly what was Ringworld about? (Larry Niven)

Discussion in 'Larry Niven' started by Tabitha, Jul 26, 2002.

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    Tabitha

    Tabitha Save Angel!

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    Exactly what was Ringworld about?

    I recently re-read this book, and although I enjoyed it the last time, I don't think I really digested it properly.

    It has occurred to me that I am not really sure what the point of the book was? What was the main story?

    From Amazon:
    Is it about the Ringworld? I don't think so - we don't really learn that much detail about the inhabitants or builders of the structure, most of the information is conjecture or supposition on the part of the four aliens that travel there.

    Is it about the Puppeteer experimentation with the evolution of species, both human and Kzin?

    Is it about searching for a way to survive the radiation that is slowly working its way towards known space from the galatic core?

    What do you think?
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    Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    It's about all those things.

    It isn't about the Ringworld itself very much, except as a concept, which you have to remember was an unusual one when it was written. Dyson spheres had been conjectured, but a ringworld would be more stable and more likely to be built. I think it is the concept itself that won the Hugo and Nebula awards, rather than the storytelling, which has continued to improve with later novels.

    You need to read all the 'Known Space' stories for a complete background on the species, characters and history of the galaxy, then it may be clearer. It brings together all of his short story and novella ideas into his first novel.

    Only a small fraction of the ringworld is explored, the ringworld engineers are not discovered, the motives of the Puppeteers remain unknown, lots of questions remain, but they are answered in the two sequels.
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    Tabitha

    Tabitha Save Angel!

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    Thanks for the reply Dave. I think perhaps the title is a little bit misleading, all along you (I?) expect the the Ringworld to be explained in a lot of detail, who built it, why they built it, when it was built, and what happened in the meantime. But really, the story follows the group of four's journey to the Ringworld and then their experiences there.
    Once I had finished the book, I was worried that I had missed some underlying idea that drove it. The ending is so abrupt - we don't know if they return to known space, or what happens with the core explosion or whether there are any repercussions from the discovery of the puppeteers' meddling with human and kzin evolution. It just ends.
    I know there are sequels, but it won awards without the sequels existing, and there can never really be any guarantees that sequels will come, so this ending must have been satisfying on some level and this is a level that I missed altogether!

    Thinking it over a bit more, I think the main theme of the book is that of evolution. Evolution of species, forced by the puppeteers, evolution of societies is evident in Niven's description of human advances, and also in the idea of the Ringworld engineers being advanced enough to be able to construct something so amazing as the Ringworld, only to have it descend into savagery.
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    Ice fyre

    Ice fyre Dark Lord

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    Allo there

    no body's likley to read this I think. But well anyway all your questions should be answered by "Protector" by Larry Niven.

    takes a slight leap of intution but i reckon you'll get it. Also it ties a lot of loose ends and opens more.

    Ta ra If you want me I'll be up at the tea rooms, feel free to chat kiddo's

    :)
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, now that the thread has been revived....

    Yes, I think it's important to read Protector as well, and the other stories in the series that had been written up to that point, to get some of the things the original poster was interested in. But I think the title itself is perfectly fitting... At that time, especially, sf was still very interested in the alien experience ... not just life forms, but such a bizarre concept as the Ringworld, and how it would be for people to be there, experience it. The focus wasn't on how it came to be, or why... but just the sheer wonder of such an alien thing, so stupendous, in its mere existence and the implications of it. You've got to admit that, if we actually encountered something like this, it would be extremely awe-inspiring, and would mean we'd have to do some heavy-duty readjustments in our entire view of how the universe works, and what sort of life may be just around the corner ... not as a speculation, but as a reality!

    So, with its looming importance on all those levels, I think the title is eminently fitting....
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    The Wanderer

    The Wanderer Zelazny's Worlds

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    I suppose it's already been noted, but quite alot of Halo (Video Game) came out of Niven's Creation and some of the humour too
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    The Wanderer

    The Wanderer Zelazny's Worlds

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    We Don't really know what happens about Nessus at the end of Ringworld, I mean, are we to presume that with the spares in the 'Liar', he will be repaired a and made better?

    I hope so, call me a sentimental fool, but I became rather attached to the character:(
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    The Wanderer

    The Wanderer Zelazny's Worlds

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    Do we no longer find out about Nessus in the later works? :(
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    chrispenycate

    chrispenycate resident pedantissimo Staff Member

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    Only that he went back to the fleet of worlds, totally cured of his courage,
    It was the hindmost who represented puppeteers in the later books (if I remember correctly)
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    Liz Pf

    Liz Pf Professional Polymath

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    Ringworld makes the most sense if viewed as one episode in a Future History ... with the story continued in Ringworld Engineers and (ooh, what *was* the third book's title?).

    The title makes sense to me, as this book introduces the Ringworld.

    And the main theme of the book? Well, what if we called it "Lucky"?
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    The Ringworld Throne. There is now a fourth, as well: Ringworld's Children (which I have, but have not yet read....). And I tend to agree with you... it's a piece of a much larger tapestry, and is much richer when seen as a part of the whole....
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    Dave

    Dave Wherever I Am, I'm There Staff Member

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    There are still unanswered questions too. It still is not clear who built the Ringworld; Outsiders, the Pak, Puppeteers, or someone else.

    Larry Niven has announced two forthcoming Known Space books, written in collaboration with Edward M. Lerner: Fleet of Worlds, which should be released this year, and its sequel Juggler of Worlds at a later date. Fleet concerns the Puppeteer Fleet of Worlds, and is set shortly after At the Core, about 200 years before Ringworld. Therefore it may cover the events surrounding the start of the Puppeteer migration out of the galaxy. After the discovery that the core of the galaxy is exploding, the Puppeteers turned their five planets, arranged in a pentagonal Klemperer rosette, towards the Magellanic Clouds, reaching a speed of 80% light speed.

    There may be more answers in those.
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    Rothgar

    Rothgar New Member

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    I've read Protector and Ringworld. I enjoyed Protector more, mostly because of how the story ended.

    Could someone post the order of the books, including any earlier stories?
    Thanks.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Rothgar

    Rothgar New Member

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    Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Active Member

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    I've just finished reading this book for the first time and I must say that I'm a little disappointed. The emphasis of this book was definitely on the technology and the characters weren't portrayed particularly well. This is definitely what I would call hard science fiction.

    I thought the other main concept of the book was Teela's luck and a contemplation on the effects on people that being bred to be lucky might have.

    I noticed that many people here have said that the book can be appreciated more as part of a larger tapestry but sorry, that doesn't cut the mustard for me. A book should be able to stand in it's own right.
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    j d worthington

    j d worthington Moderator Staff Member

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    Oh, I think the book works well enough on its own for what it was attempting to do; but as part of the larger picture it takes on more levels, and that's true with just about any series of works worth its salt, I think. Also, the book was meant to give a glimpse of something definitely alien, and that I think it did rather well... the colder approach, I'd say, enhanced that effect by making the characters rather small in comparison....
    Ray McCarthy likes this.
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    Lensman

    Lensman Space Opera Lover

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    Glad you like my Chronology! Sorry for not listing the Man-Kzin War stories. I link to Marc Carleson's Chronology on mine, if you want more dates his has many, many more. I was mainly just trying to figure out a consistant dating for Niven's stories, as a prelude to working on a Concordance. (I can't use the label "Encyclopedia"-- someone's already used that.)

    What is Ringworld about? Well yes, it's-- I think-- the first book about what David Gerrold calls "an Enormous Big Thing" :)

    But more than that, it's the reaction of four very different characters to that EBT, and how they interact with each other while exploring the Ringworld, that makes the story.

    It really does make the story more interesting if you read the stories in the Neutron Star collection. Sadly, that is out of print. But don't despair-- you can order used copies thru Amazon.com, or at my favorite place to look for used books on the Internet-- AddALL Used and Out of Print book search
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    Lensman

    Lensman Space Opera Lover

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    As far as the book "standing on its own", all I can say is that was the first thing I read by Niven and it's still one of my very favorite novels of all time. I think it stands perfectly well on its own, altho the Neutron Star collection stories do add background, so for anyone new to Known Space I'd recommend starting with that and then reading Ringworld.

    Yes, Ringworld does leave very many questions unanswered. And Niven fans are still debating points after all these decades. Larry has said Pak protectors (see Niven's novel Protector) built the Ringworld, in fact there's a brief account of events leading up to its construction on pp. 196-200 of Ringworld's Children. Unfortunately we never get to "see" the actual construction, nor do we ever find out how scrith was made. Larry apparently wants to leave some things "open" to give fans some things to speculate about on their own.

    The first sequel, Ringworld Engineers, is quite good also, and like Ringworld it won a Hugo for best novel. A lot of questions are answered there, altho far from all!
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    Fried Egg

    Fried Egg Active Member

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    The story was incomplete, for me, not just because all was not explained, but also because the story of the characters themselves seemed incomplete. I felt like I've just read a chapter of some larger story, not a complete story in itself.

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