Ringworld  - Larry Niven Ringworld
Attack of the Killer Sunflowers!
Two hundred year old Louis Wu is bored. So when Nessus, an alien called a puppeteer, offers to include him on a journey to a strange Ring World, Louis accept. The duo is joined by Speaker-To-Animals, a kzin (think Klingon warrior cats), and Teela Brown, a ditzy, lucky woman.

I Liked:
By far the absolute best aspect of the book was the world building. From the moment the Ringworld was described, I was intrigued. A ring, with the circumference of an Earth orbit? That rocks! When does construction begin? Niven puts a lot of effort into the crown piece of the Ringworld. We get the logistics of how it would be built, what it would be made of, what has happened to it and more.
I think the interplay amongst the travelers was well-done too. I liked the friction between the kzin and the others, how Teela actually gets to be intelligent occasionally (more on this later), and how they all have to pull together to make it work. Plus, one of the coolest things was how Nessus was from a far more technologically advanced culture and yet was way more afraid than any of the others. I liked how he was slightly mad, shifting from paranoia to depression. Of course, Teela also gets a bit of development. At the beginning, she’s a reckless “child”, running around and not worrying about getting into trouble or pain. By the end, she’s matured a lot, is a lot more cautious, and is more wary.
While nothing on the caliber of Hitchhiker's Guide or The Princess Bride, there is quite a bit of humor in the novel. Louis is quite the snarker, as is Nessus. Even a few serious situations are made lighter with the humor.


I Didn’t Like:
I struggled to listen to all of this book, and, at first, I didn’t know why. Yes, Louis Wu was your typical, aggravating, superior human male protagonist that can do no wrong, looks amazing at 200, can have great sex, and is wealthier than Bill Gates, but that wasn’t it. Yes, the story did smart a little too much of The Hobbit (Nessus “knocks” at Louis’ door, only Louis agrees instead of being forced into the adventure like Bilbo), but I actually like adventure stories in that vein, so that wasn’t it either. Yes, Teela is yet another 70’s scifi woman shown to be stupid, vacuous, vapid, inane, childlike, and unimportant, but that wasn’t it either.
And that was when I figured it out. The book was boring. Hard to believe, with such an interesting concept as the Ringworld (which I totally loved), but the pace is incredibly slow. The plot is nearly nonexistent. The whole plot is “travelers go to investigate Ringworld, get shot down on the surface, and try to return”. Actually, the plot doesn’t sound that bad and has a lot of potential, but when you actually read it (or hear it), it just becomes snooze-worthy. When the travelers get stuck on the Ringworld, instead of being awed by being on the Ringworld and seeing it firsthand, I wanted to bash my head into a wall as they bickered, argued, postulated, and sped along in fly-cycles. “Please,” I was begging the audiobook. “Make it stop!” The writing, while certainly not the worst I’ve ever seen, just doesn’t transmit the awe and intrigue you would expect. Not to mention, there were some strange word choices, particularly in the love-making scenes.
The characters minus Nessus, as I mentioned above, are hideously stereotyped. We have our trademark warrior race, our trademark super-hero, and our trademark stupid woman. I understand this book was written in the sixties/seventies (there may not have been as many warrior races back then, women were often personified as stupid and incapable to make our hero look so amazing and wonderful and gag-worthy), but I still like a little depth, a little pizzazz, a reason to be invested in the characters. Probably my least favorite character was Louis Wu, who soars headfirst into Marty Stu territory, with his 200 year old wisdom in a 20 year old body, able to make amazing love to any woman and can talk physics with far superior beings. Teela comes in close second for her horrible “character” in the form of “stupid woman drug along to boink the hero”. And the prostitute spacer lady…wrong, wrong, wrong.
As for the Teela and Louis “relationship”…laughable. They jump each other like bunnies, Louis treats her like an idiot most of the time, and Teela laps it up like the lap dog she is. And yet, I get the creepy sense that he is her grandfather, caring for her in a father-figure, slightly demeaning teacher-to-student way. Really doesn’t make me feel good. There are sparse few scenes where they behave towards each other anything like normal human reactions (and yes, I know this is years in the future, but no where was it stated that love has been banned or manipulated, like in THX-1138). The end of their “relationship” is so flat—after Teela’s accident, Louis just up and decides that he doesn’t love her anymore. Pathetic. And I was prepared not to insult the lovemaking scenes (most of them were of the “cut to black” variety), but then I read this one: “Teela impaled herself as she straddled his hips”. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Not. Most of the love-making scenes are written so thoughtlessly and totally ruin any emotion you build up into them.
Minor Quibble: People call this book “hard scifi”, and as I was listening, I had to scratch my head in confusion. Faster than light drives? Teleporting booths? Aliens? Sounds pretty soft to me. But this complaint is more about marketing; I don’t care if a book is “hard” or “soft”, as long as it A) has good characters, B) has a good story, and C) is well-written.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
The ship is called the Lying Ba****d.
Louis has Teela around to “keep him company”. They hop out of their flyers to make the most awkward love.
Louis gets punched.

Overall:
I am very disappointed. I was so looking forward to reading this Hugo (and Nebula and Locus) award winning novel. I have wanted to read more varied scifi authors and went into this novel excited. And in the beginning, I was entertained and hopeful. But then, as the novel wore on, and the execution didn’t live up to my expectations, my hopes began to die. The characters were dull and lifeless and just couldn’t carry the story. The plot forgot the Ringworld. And Niven’s writing couldn’t save the story at all.
Oh, and as for the review title: there is a pseudo-action scene involving Louis and Speaker trying to evade sunflowers. Strange…