The Ringworld Engineers - Larry Niven

(2013 was turning into a stale year for SF. That summer, I really needed the solace of good, hard SF to escape, if just fleetingly, some harsh realities, same reality having given me long days and nights to read and listen. So, without really making a decision to do so but compelled by circumstances, I started a re-read of the Ringworld series. The publication history of the series was such that one book came out every ten years, on average. And so each book read provided a reflection of a decade of life, the places and friends, the situations and milestones when each book was read. Fiction, particularly the science fiction of the Ringworld books, it turned out, was nothing more than dressed-up reality. I never left the Ringworld.)

If [b:Ringworld|61179|Ringworld (Ringworld #1)|Larry Niven||924711] were the exercise questions in the main text of a math book, then [b:The Ringworld Engineers|61181|The Ringworld Engineers (Ringworld #2)|Larry Niven||900675] are the solutions at the back of the book. No doubt, the Ringworld for all its success (Hugo and Nebula awards), left many an issue for its fans and critics to discuss. The most prominent of these was the instability of the structure, so loudly proclaimed by MIT students; it needed constant adjustment via attitude jets to stay centered on its sun. There was also the matter of sewage; i.e., disposal and re-circulation. And of course, the nature of the engineers - with the powerful technology at their disposal, why build a ring at all rather than, say, exploring neighboring stars or a less rigorous design such as orbiting platforms. Perhaps, the most contentious issue centered on the validity of breeding for luck; was Teela Brown for real? This is not by far an exhaustive list.

[a:Larry Niven|12534|Larry Niven|] provides either sound or plausible solutions to many of the issues. To the instability, he posits attitude jets fueled the ring's own sun. To the plumbing, he adds a self-powered system that redirects collected effluents to the ringwall, forming the spill mountains. For the engineers, Niven offers the protector, progenitor of the hominids, including homo sapiens, smarter, tougher versions. As for the genetics of luck, Niven realizes this is a losing debate and drops the idea.

In this re-read, after some 30 years, made more rewarding having also re-read Ringworld just a few days ago, I enjoyed the book even more than the first time. It was clear Niven worked hard to offer satisfying resolutions to numerous problem statements, and the ten year gap between writing the books certainly gave him lots of time to develop his "explanations" til these were seamless and in sync with the narrative of the book. This was fun hanging out again with Louie Wu, the Kzin, Teela, and the Ringworld inhabitants, though I did miss the very paranoid Nessus. I just might re-read the rest of the sequels as well. Hence, I increase my rating to 5 stars.