As many of you know, I am something of a Larry Niven fan (other reports: N Space, Rainbow Mars). I read Ringworld in high school, and I was awed. I like the stories that start out with a sense of wonder (see also Alan Dean Foster’s The Dig).
But this book is ultimately not that satisfying. Perhaps it’s been too long since I’ve read The Ringworld Throne, but that’s only fair, since it came out 16 years after the first sequel (The Ringworld Engineers, 1980). But this book isn’t the best of the lot. The first parts of the story are paced okay as more exploration and learning goes on, but the pacing of the end is too rapid and jump cut to really hold my interest. It’s a collage, nay, a kaleidoscope of scenes that end in a rapid denouement whose meaning is clear only when Louis Wu explains it and the magic of hastily conceived and underexplained science fix everything.
I can see why. The first part, Niven’s introduction, explains how classes and scientists have been working the Ringworld over for almost 40 years and have prompted him to write the sequels to explain the inaccuracies plausibly. But that drive to explain everything is what eventually diminishes the impact of the original and why he rushes through this book and takes care of the Ringworld in such a fashion as he’ll never have to write about it in Known Space again.
The book didn’t end as badly as the Rama series did, though, so it’s not dead to me.