The Ringworld Throne: Did Not Finish

The Ringworld Throne by Larry Niven science fiction book reviewsThe Ringworld Throne by Larry Niven

Larry Niven has great ideas but, in my opinion, he’s weak with characters and plot. The Ringworld, a huge artificial ring that surrounds a star, is Niven’s greatest creation and accounts for the success of his most famous novel, Ringworld, which won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1970. As I explained in my review, it’s the Ringworld itself that’s exciting, not the actual events that happen upon it.

The sequel, The Ringworld Engineers, was written ten years later to address several Ringworld stability issues that scientists, including some rowdy MIT students, leveled at Niven’s creation (pun intended). This sequel did deal with those issues and probably satisfied the friendly detractors, but it was boring.

In 1996 Niven released a third RINGWORLD novel: The Ringworld Throne. Niven couldn’t finish the novel he was contracted for, so he wrote and submitted The Ringworld Throne instead… which just might tell you something…

I gave The Ringworld Throne a chance, but couldn’t finish it. It’s even more boring than The Ringworld Engineers. In this story, vampires (not like Twilight) are terrorizing the Ringworld, the ghouls are up to something, and some other boring stuff is going on, too. Louis Wu travels around some more and everyone has sex with people from other species because that’s how they negotiate. This custom, which they call Rishathra, has always perplexed me because all of these different species have totally different cultures and customs (not to mention anatomies and physiologies), so why is it this one custom that every species adopts? Clearly the answer is: so there can be lots of inter-species sex, and talking about inter-species sex, in the RINGWORLD books. I’m certain of it. And, wow, is it boring. Excruciatingly boring. Just not sexy at all. And boring.

I think I’m finished with RINGWORLD. It’s so disappointing that Niven has created such an awesome setting but hasn’t been able to set an engaging story in it.

I listened to Blackstone Audio’s 14 hour long audio edition which is nicely narrated by Paul Michael Garcia.

Published in 1996. Come back to the Ringworld – the most astonishing feat of engineering ever encountered. A place of untold technological wonders, home to myriad humanoid races, and world of some of the most beloved science fiction stories ever written. The human Louis Wu; the puppeteer known as the Hindmost; Acolyte, son of the Kzin called Chmeee: legendary beings brought together once again in the defense of the Ringworld. Something is going on with the protectors. Incoming spacecraft are being destroyed before they can reach the Ringworld. Vampires are massing. And the Ghouls have their own agenda – if anyone dares approach them to learn. Each race on the Ringworld has always had its own protector. Now it looks as if the Ringworld itself needs a protector. But who will sit on the Ringworld throne? Larry Niven is the multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winning author of the Ringworld series, along with many other science fiction masterpieces. His Beowulf’s Children, coauthored with Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Chatsworth, California.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. I completely agree with you — Niven has great ideas, but his execution never impresses me.

  2. Splicer /

    I read it when it was first published and did finish it. It started somewhere and went somewhere and then ended. That’s about it. It ended on a note that said, “Oh, a fourth book will explain why I read this.” He wrote Ringworld’s Children which I didn’t bother reading primarily because I had no faith it would tell me anything or even have a story with a coherent beginning, middle and end.

  3. Hey I can get behind your DNF for reasons, but don’t you think “don’t buy it” is a bit over the top?

    I’ve read, and re-read, Ring World and it’s sequels/prequels. I’ve enjoyed some more than others.

    Niven is a lot deeper than you give him credit for, I think. Rishathra, for example: all of the humanoid species on the ring are human; the individual species spread out from a common center and therefore all have roots in a common culture, of which rishathra is one example.

    • Hi Steve, you’re right that it’s a bit over the top. It was about the audiobook specifically, which is nicely done. (It felt weird to say “the audiobook is awesome” after I had just said I couldn’t finish the book, so I said, “but don’t buy it.”) I meant it to be cute, but it was probably just obnoxious, so I took it out. Thanks for the feedback on that.

      I don’t think Niven isn’t “deep.” I love some of his ideas in this book and others I’ve read. I think he is full of interesting ideas that don’t necessarily get turned into interesting stories. Rishathra is an interesting (if not entirely believable) custom that shouldn’t be boring, but it is.

  4. Larry Niven’s work is such a mixed bag for me. When I like something by him, I REALLY like it, but other works I find forgettable and sometimes even annoying. I liked the original Ringworld very much, found the second book, Ringworld Engineers, completely non-memorable (other than messing up the fates of a couple of characters from the first book that I liked), and can’t even remember any more if I read this third book!

    • That was one of the parts of Engineers that I liked the best. I did not like Teela’s attitude much of the time and was gratified to see she did not much profit from her parting with Louis.

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