Book Review – “Ringworld Throne”

I finally reread this. Now I can start reading the
latest sequel.

General Information

Title: The Ringworld
Larry Niven
Original Publication Date: 1996

Cover Price: $6.99 US, $8.99 Can
(in the original
paperback printing)
Buy from:

Past fiction reviews, including those of
Ringworld and
Ringworld Engineers, can be found here.


Louis Wu returns to the surface of the Ringworld to
find that Teela
wasn’t the only hominid to find tree-of-life.

High Point

The Martians live.

Low Point

All the futzing around before the proper
reintroduction of Louis Wu.
I found that I didn’t have enough invested in those
characters to
really get engaged by the first 60 or so pages in a
350 page novel.

The Scores

The Ringworld itself still feels like a new and
structure, decades after its creation. On top of
that, Niven finds
something new to do with each visit. The politics
among the various
species really opened up this time, and showed some
dynamics and events on this creation. The
engineering has been
allowed to take a back seat to the story, as it
should be by this
stage. I give it 5 out of 6.

The imagery is pretty densely packed. Niven
has long
maintained that it is a sin to waste the reader’s
time, and he’s
refined concision in this work. (It’s nice to see
this, given the
opposite trends seen in some other muggles who shall
remain nameless.)
Everything you need is here, and nothing is here that
won’t be needed
at some point. In some cases, I had to go back and
reread passages
that didn’t seem that important the first time
around; some small
redundancy would have been nice. I give it 5 out of

The story is carefully constructed. There
are a lot of small
details that turn out to be large details as the
story moves along.
In fact, in retrospect, I can’t think of anything
that actually
was a small detail. There’s a lot of
interesting stuff in
here, including a large number of puzzles for the
reader to solve. (I
love puzzle solving; it’s probably a large part of
the reason I enjoy
Niven so much.) I give it 5 out of 6.

The characterization is probably the weakest
aspect. We get
introduced to a large number of new characters very
rapidly in the
first part of the novel, most of whom are defined by
their actions
through the story rather than by descriptions in
their introductions.
I found it hard to keep track of who was who the
first time I read
this, although it was much simpler on this reread.
(I’m actually
surprised it made a big difference, given how long
it’s been since I
read it the first time. I think it was the week the
paperback came
out back in May 1997.) The hominid characters are
distinct, but I
shouldn’t have to read the book twice to see that.
Acolyte still isn’t
very well defined, beyond being a young Kzin. I give
it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response was weak for the
first portion, but
picked up after Louis showed up in full swing. There
were just too
many characters that I didn’t care about yet to
really get drawn in by
it. I give it 4 out of 6.

The editing is excellent. This comes back
to that dense
style mentioned above. Every word in the book serves
a purpose, which
is as it should be. Niven’s recent writing reads
that way regardless
of the publisher it comes though, so I’d guess that
his editors get
his drafts very nearly as they’ll appear in print. I
give it 6 out of

Overall, it’s not as good as most of Niven’s
work. It takes
a long time to get to know the characters, and then
even longer to
care about them. I think it’s probably one of his
weakest works, but
it still rates an overall score of 4 out of 6.

In total, Ringworld Throne receives 32 out
of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

Now that I’ve reread this, I can get around to
reading (and reviewing)
Ringworld’s Children. Let’s hope I get
around to that before
the paperback is out.

By the way, 2005 should see publication of The
Burning Tower

(a sequel to Burning City), Draco
after the area where the short stories within take
place, written by
Niven and Jerry Pournelle), and Harlequin’s
collaboration between Niven and Brenda Cooper.) I’m
a devoted Niven
fan on a budget, so those reviews may wait until the
editions are available.