The Ringworld Throne - 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.)

[b:The Ringworld Throne|64467|The Ringworld Throne (Ringworld, #3)|Larry Niven||59500] is quite a departure from the space-spanning, technology-making energy of the first two books. Niven spends the first half of the book exploring the various hominids that have evolved on the artificial surface of the Ringworld. Not boring, just different, and maybe just a bit too much rishathra. The story is set 11 years after [b:The Ringworld Engineers|61181|The Ringworld Engineers (Ringworld #2)|Larry Niven||900675]. The final half of the book sees the action pick up as Louis Wu and his fellow travelers deal with the Ringworld engineers.

An interesting narrative problem: how to present the actions of species who are smarter than humans? The simplest way is to just be inscrutable or indecipherable on the principle that they are much smarter than us so we cannot hope to understand their actions and motivations. As a reader this is annoying since it seems to give the writer license to withhold explanations until the end. We are not dumb, just, perhaps, slower. Niven addresses the matter in his typically empirical way; offline, he develops the response of the Pak, presents the aspects of it that may be apparent to the slower mind, then dares the reader to catch up or keep up. Makes for a more entertaining, if challenging, read. This makes up for the lackluster first half of the book.

Also typical Niven is the deliberate way in which he ties up the various threads of the narrative for resolution. As with the two previous books, he does not seem to be setting up for a sequel (although he does write one 8 years later).

This is the weakest of the Ringworld books so far. However, it does provide a further development of the Ringworld story and justifies the scary nature of the Pak. Niven builds many of the aspects of the Fleet of Worlds Ringworld prequel series from elements presented here.

After examining my feelings about the book, I'm changing my rating of this book to 3 stars.