View Full Version : Ringworld

04-04-2003, 11:16:49

I dunno why I didn't pick this book up years ago, back then I thought 'Wha-? a ring-shaped surface the diameter of the solar-system? And it's sun in the middle! What Nonesense! A ridiculous idea! I refuse to go near it!

But I have mellowed in my old-age (nearly three decades now:) ) and find my more liberal attitude opening my eyes to pleasures like this book, brilliant- I thought I'd have an ongoing emptiness in my novel reading time/space after I finished On, but now there is Ringworld... and after that Ringworld Engineers, and then Adam Roberts Stone.

I used to assume Larry Nivens stuff was abit weak, now I know I was wrong, although I hear the last in the Ringworld trilogy lets the other two books down, so I wont be reading that. I refuse to go near it.

04-04-2003, 11:30:07
The hardest part of reading this book is begining to be able to grasp the scale of such a world, the picture here wouldn't really do it justice. I'm imagining the same general shape of the world as an infinate horizon with the far edge as a delicate strand of aquamarine arching above, but the foreground would be a more uniform aqua-marine, only on much closer inspection would it become mottled green, white and blue.

If you imagine the mottled patches of colour like pixels, and then realize that each mottled green patch would be a landmass the size of Gondwana (the mother of all continents), you start to see how much real-estate must be involved, that's what I call impressively immense.

Truly inspiring stuff- this is the kinda sci-fi I love.

04-04-2003, 14:07:12
The Ringworld is unstable! The Ringworld is unstable!

... sorry. I always wanted to see Larry's face when the fans told him that at the con.

04-04-2003, 14:41:23
Because the solar winds alone would cause it to buck and billow like a rubber band caught in the breeze kind of thing? I figured the Ringworld base-matter was just... strong and inflexable enough or something....

04-04-2003, 14:52:19
and keeping the weather even and nicely circulating and not exceeding various margins of 'Earth-like' weather (like moisture levels, temperature and constitution, especially oxygen) would probably also be very tricky. And you'd need a factory the size of Saturn at least to begin the long process of building the thing (probably by unwinding the Ringworld as it orbits the sun)-

I'm going on and on aren't I....

04-04-2003, 17:22:13
Actually, it's critically unstable in it's rotation around its sun. It's not in orbit. The slightest shift for any reason whatsoever would tend to increase the deviation until the ringworld came crashing into the sun. Or the sun into the ringworld. Hard to tell with artifacts that size. Anyway, Larry got wise and fixed that in the sequel, althoug the fix is kind of a cludge.

Scabrous Birdseed
04-04-2003, 17:25:56
This exact dilemma was featured (in an entirely different context) on swedish radio show "Så Funkar Det" last week.

04-04-2003, 17:59:46
Ok, I really didn't want to do this but....Ringworm!

04-04-2003, 19:46:15
I thought this thread was going to be about a gay theme park

05-04-2003, 08:02:36
I don't think I finished the first book when I read it years ago. Niven didn't really do it for me. Sounds like you're a fan, though. I'm reading Red Mars for the first time right now...didn't like it at first but it gets good fast.
Maybe RW is next.

05-04-2003, 13:07:33
BGH, look at some of Niven's earlier work (why is that seemingly always the recommendation?), namely the short story collections Neutron Star, Flatlander, Crashlander and the novella Protector.

The Bursar
05-04-2003, 14:54:19
Niven's novels were always far too linear for my liking. He took some characters, and then followed them through the whole book. You need some deviation/flashback, whatever to keep it interesting.
Having said that, its been a long time since I read the Ringworld trilogy, and the other tales from "Known Space": that universe, are pretty good. His style lends itself better to short(er) stories IMO.

05-04-2003, 23:13:01
Ringworld wasn't too bad. Especially if you have read physicist Freeman Dyson's ideas on solar system recontruction which inspired it. The tail-off in the subsequent Ringworld novels was bearable. So if you enjoyed the first novel, the others might be worth a read for you.

The Bursar's 'too linear' critique of Niven is more true for me now then as a teenager when I read more of his stuff. I think he did a bit better when he worked with Pournelle. For Niven and in some cases Pournelle fans, I liked The Mote in God's Eye and its sequel the best. Integral Trees and its sequel were also interesting to me partly because of the bizarre world the novel is set in. The Gripping Hand was pretty good too.

06-04-2003, 11:07:25
The concept of a Pournelle 'fan' is an interesting one to speculate on. Could such a creature exist? I admit he did help to structure some of Niven's work, but as a separate author I never rated him.

(And no, Nav, I haven't found 'Footfall' yet. Or was it 'Hammer of the Gods'?)

06-04-2003, 13:33:17

Sheez Ringworld devolves from the Man Kzin wars, tales from Known Space. the story of Ptath, et al.... Each of them adding to the mixture, Piersons puppeteers, (Hindmost).... Kzin, (Chmee, Speaker to Animals).... Lucky humans, (Teela Brown)
Unlucky humans, ( Jack Brennan)
....Wonderlander, (Louis Wu)..
And of course Pok Protecters, (Phssthpok)

But I do agree, the collaboration produces much better stories.

06-04-2003, 23:02:32
Since we are all agreeing, I'll agree with Noisy.

My sentence "For Niven and in some cases Pournelle fans..." was not well structured. I was trying to name some books I liked that Niven wrote, with in some cases, Pournelle's help.

06-04-2003, 23:05:31
Inferno is quite good. A bit different from the SF stuff.

07-04-2003, 10:26:52
Originally posted by BigGameHunter
... Sounds like you're a fan...

No actually, this is the first Niven book I've ever actually sat down an read cover to cover, I tried once before but got bored and wondered off. I think I was very unimpressed with the idea of a humanoid cat as an alien, in Ringworld I tolerated it but... really, when will sci-fi writers realize that the universe probably has much more imagination then to havto repeat the same phyla again and again... like sci-fi writers do. If sci-fi writers were in charge we'd all be lizard-men probably.

The Puppeteers were alright though.

And then Niven didn't explore the Ringworld as much as it deserved, why bother having a landmass that vast when your only gonna knock around an area the size of Europe for a bit (mostly in flight). Then it turned out the Ringworld was just built by a bunch of blokeians... (like us, blokes... and blokettes) somehow this was dissapointing.

I really like the giant wheel-shaped world concept though, seen it before in the Titan/Gaia Trilogy, (that Ringworld was small enough to orbit Saturn as a moon, and had spokes) and generaly I think Niven did a good job, but not as good as could have been done.

07-04-2003, 17:54:02
That right there is what has always prevented me from actually picking Ringworld up to read. It's a fantastic concept that I find quite interesting, but all the plot descriptions I've ever read of the book sound as though Niven never bothers to look at the truly cool aspects of such a concept. I forget what movie reviewer it was that once complained of sci-fi in general that there was little point to putting characters into a fantastic setting if all they were going to do is run around ignoring it and just trying to kill/screw/one-up each other. If I'm going to read a concept novel like this, then I damn well want it to be ABOUT the CONCEPT. Maybe that's just me, though...

08-04-2003, 10:08:04
That's rich coming from someone who lives on a huge ball of mostly molten rock (which some say could contain some kind of singularity) covered in multiple forms of organic life that orbits a vast and perpetualy exploding G-type body of mass and energy travelling at several kilometers per second through an apparently infinate vacuum that remembers the locations, relativities and quantities of each n' every subatomic particle in existance at all times, (a system believed to be billions of years old) and which plays host to the carefree flinging around of more energy and light than a reasonable person could write strings of naughts at- and yet who spends alot of his time reading trash-fiction novels writen by the likes of a bearded Scotsman who can't spell 'Ian' properly, and a bloke called Alistair~.

:D ;)

08-04-2003, 12:14:20
Bah, planets are so passe. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

And I'll have you know I do plenty more than just read trash-fiction, thank you very much! There's, er, trying to write it, for instance...:nervous:

08-04-2003, 13:07:05

08-04-2003, 13:09:07
Yup, really what I'm saying about the real-world in the last post is along the lines of

'If you read it in a book- ya wouldn't believe it'

Certainly I think that's true of the 'real' world, we do a good job of ignoring it all and concentrating on just trying to kill/screw/one-up eachother... so I guess that makes most people a bunch of really boring and unimaginative characters who don't properly explore their fantastic (and kind of improbable) world enough... so who am I to complain if a bunch of cat people don't take enough notice of their triangle-shaped artificial planet or whatever!

08-04-2003, 14:44:20
Understood, my point though was that if I wanted to read about ordinary people activities, I'd have picked up Wuthering Hieghts or some such. I read science fiction because I want to see and explore big, wierd whatsis things way 'out there' and when I read about a group of people that find a big, wierd whatsis and then proceed to ignore it whilst they have fisticuffs over who should drive the buggy, well it just makes me a little annoyed. A better story, in my opinion, would be how stumbling across the proverbial big, wierd whatsis makes the group of ordinary people stop and take notice and how their attempts to kill/screw/one-up each other are changed by this new thing.

08-04-2003, 15:11:29
Ah! you mean like Smallsville:)

08-04-2003, 15:17:57
Originally posted by Guy
A better story, in my opinion, would be how stumbling across the proverbial big, wierd whatsis makes the group of ordinary people stop and take notice and how their attempts to kill/screw/one-up each other are changed by this new thing.

That is exactly what a lot of 'normal' fiction is about. i.e. 'oh my god i'm pregnant, nothing will ever be the same!' but SF just replaces the baby with an imminent comet crash or an alien or something.

Ultimately, the hook of these type of stories is the human characters and how they respond to life's challenges, be they pan-galatic or domestic, but effectively they're just the same thing.

08-04-2003, 15:46:30
No argument there, I'm just saying that if you're going to bother putting in a comet crash or alien, then you ought to focus a fair bit of your plot on taking a good look at it, otherwise why use it as a device? The more fantastic/amazing/wierd the device, the more plot focus it should recieve.

I've never read it, so I'm arguing out of my ass here (nothing new), but the plot summaries I've always seen for Ringworld make it sound like the fact that they're on an artificial construct built on a solar system scale is secondary to all the little groups of people running about and doing nothing actually unique to such a setting. To me, the plot focus sounds as though it was misdirected.

08-04-2003, 18:02:04
Originally posted by Noisy
(And no, Nav, I haven't found 'Footfall' yet. Or was it 'Hammer of the Gods'?) No, actually it was Lucifer's Hammer. :)

08-04-2003, 18:13:05
Originally posted by Guy
No argument there, I'm just saying that if you're going to bother putting in a comet crash or alien, then you ought to focus a fair bit of your plot on taking a good look at it, otherwise why use it as a device? The more fantastic/amazing/wierd the device, the more plot focus it should recieve.

That's a very fair point. It's funny that someone should go to the trouble of inventing such an amazing world and then not enjoy writing about it.

I haven't read it either though, so neither of us is doing ourselves any favours on this one :D

08-04-2003, 18:35:42

The Bursar
09-04-2003, 11:32:13
He uses the Ringworld as an environment - the various aspects of it are explored, given its existance. But you are right in that there isn't enough focus perhaps on how and why it came to be, how it was constructed to remain stable and so forth. Though there was a fairly interesting discourse into how they maintained a regular day/night cycle using flying lumps of black.

09-04-2003, 11:49:18
Originally posted by King_Ghidra
That is exactly what a lot of 'normal' fiction is about. i.e. 'oh my god i'm pregnant, nothing will ever be the same!' ...

I agree with this point too, to be fair alot of people do get fully stuck into this wonderful and absurd 'real world' of ours, and when authors right about 'real stuff' they are looking around and saying 'Wow! Look at where we are! look at what we're doing!" in books from War & Peace to Trainspotting to Mr Nice or something. Personally I wish I had the ability to write a book based on real-world (though fictional) situations.... but I just don't seem to get those kind of ideas, contemplating Science Fiction is easy... contemplating just Fiction is... as easy as being charming, insightful and charismatic. Perhaps it's because in sci-fi, the concepts can take centre stage more, the sci-fi improves even more when the humanity is done well, IN ADDITION to the well-developed out-there sci-fi concepts.

10-04-2003, 05:12:50
I like Pournelle. Certainly more then Niven. Niven sucks. He's boring. And his science is always strikes me in the space opera level trying to be something more, once I've had a bit of time to consider.

Humans generally don't give a crap about the fabulous of what's around them. They are generally just concerned with improving their own lot, one - upping their rivals, and screwing more often then they are. That's basic humanity. That's what seperates a 'dark/gritty/realistic' fiction from 'high/pure' fiction. High fiction, it's good versus evil, concepts and ideologies. Noone has to go take a crap. Only the evil get seriously jealous of each other, or get to lusty, or whatever.

If you like Niven, then fine. We all have what we like. I've always heard Larry Niven rated at 'God of Science Fiction', but I don't know why. I've seen 10 year olds write better SF, and waste less tress doing it.

As far as better aliens go, try out Piers Anthony's Chained Lady series. Its been years since I read it, but the aliens and their biologies were certainly different from the standard 'Human in a rubber suit' deal.