During a trip to Sicily1 last week, I read the first two books set in Larry Nivens Ringworld space epos.
Louis Wu is a 200 year old explorer, enjoying unnaturally long life by boosterspice. For his experience, he is recruited along with a colourful set of teammates to journey far outside Known Space to explore a mysterious artifact spotted on long range telescopes. The artifact turns out to be a massive ring circling a sun, providing outwards gravity to the soil and water on the inside. The habitable area of the Ringworld is three million times that of Earth.
Classic BDO sci-fi at its best, Ringworld is a must read for any true SF connoisseur. Extra points for the book being a delightfully quick read, as opposed to most modern brick-sized verse-building desert-walks.
The Ringworld Engineers (1980)
It’s been 23 years since Louis Wu visited the Ringworld. As Louis is once again drafted for an expedition, he learns that this mission is no longer one of exploration, but one of repair. The Ringworld is slowly drifting out of its circular orbit around the sun. Unless something is done, the artifact will be destroyed, brushing against the G3 star in only a few years.
In the introduction to The Ringworld Engineers, Niven points out that he initially had no plans for a sequel. So when he finally decided to write one, it was as a dedication to the fans that—fascinated by the artifact—had actually done the math and found flaws in the theoretical construction of a ringworld. One very clever gentleman had pointed out that a spinning ringworld must be rigid due to its outward spin-induced gravity—rigid and hence vulnerable to being pushed out of it’s orbit. “Fixing” this and other such … issues … seems to have been the main focus of Engineers. While Niven succeeds to do so without the use of retcons, Engineers can’t top its predecessor in imaginative storytelling. Even so, it is entertaining and—like its predecessor—a very quick read; for that, it’s well worth a four heart review.
Ringworld and Ringworld Engineers are followed by The Ringworld Throne (1996) and Ringworld’s Children (2004), both of which are in my reading queue.
Summary to follow. ↩