Review: The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in 1975, The Mote in God’s Eye has not aged particularly well. There are some clever twists and exciting sequences in this far-future first-contact tale, and the alien Motes are, in some ways, truly alien.

However, many characters are similar to each other and hard to differentiate, except for the single female character, who is treated more as a girl than a woman. The story doesn’t really kick into gear until about halfway through, after over 200 pages.

Recommendation: Skip it, unless you’re a big fan of authors Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. There’s better first-contact stuff out there for a modern reader.

9 thoughts on “Review: The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

  1. In my opinion, the Mote in God’s Eye is probably the best first contact story ever written but we are all different. At the moment I am reading the Rama books by Arthur C Clarke which is another first contact story, Rendezvous wasn’t too bad but Rama 2 and Gardens of Rama [where I’m up to] are awful, far too much padding with religious and historical nonsense.

    1. This has to be one of the worst written novels that has such a positive review.
      It is written as if a 15-year-old is writing it.
      I remember reading this when I was a teen myself and thought it was good but reading it as an Adult I was not a fan.

  2. We see the typical sequel problems with both of the above examples. I agree that the first “Motie” story was outstanding, as I would expect from Jerry and Larry.

  3. Clarke’s “Rendezvues with Rama” was a classic. The sequels not worth the trouble of reading.

  4. Loved ‘The Mote in God’s Eye’. BUT…I have a 45-year-old argument regarding the last word at the end of chapter 50. I once wrote the publisher begging the editor to fix it. If you know the book, you will remember thr Motie ambassador, Ivan, lamenting that the ship that met the MacArthur had had 4 young Moties on it. The ambassador considered it a terrible mistake. Now, for 46 years the sentence at the end of that chapter has read “The children should have been spared,” Now, that is wrong, wrong, WRONG! The sentence SHOULD read “The children should have been spaced.” It’s the only way the ambassador’s ruminations make sense! I once read an edition that had it right. But I just read the Kindle edition, and once again THE PUBLISHERS GOT IT WRONG!
    Sorry…rant over.

    1. It was a copy editor at the publisher. Jerry was incensed when he found out. Jerry would hand edit the page and before he autographed those versions.

    2. Thank you! I was slowly reading this book, going over every word, and the ambassador’s comment about sparing the children made me think what the heck did I miss?

    3. Let’s not forget the other typo that crept into several editions at the end of Chapter 19: “It shows that young Moties become nearly independent at fantastically low wages. . .” Should have been “ages”.

      Curiously, both print editions I read with that typo did get “spaced” right for Chapter 50.

  5. Fascinating! I just googled that “spared” sentence because on my latest read through I finally noticed it should be “spaced”. I rather think I’ve always read it that way anyway in my head because of the context. RIP Jerry!

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