I am not big into fiction reading and so I haven’t read any of the popular Science Fiction books. Recently while listening to famous Technology Podcast (which I love and listen every week while driving) “This week in Tech” by Leo Laporte in few episodes had Jerry Pournelle participate. I learned that Pournelle has written many Science Fiction novels and “The Mote in God’s Eye” which he co-authored with Larry Niven is a classic. So I got curious and picked up this book to read.
For initial few pages, I was not sure whether I will like the book and continue until the end to complete the 592 pages. It turned the book was so interesting, it captivated my interest & imagination that I finished it over few days last week and two long nights (well into 2 AM) this week.
The story is set in the distant future of Pournelle’s CoDominium universe and charts the first contact between humankind and an alien species. Though the main scientific inventions in the book – Alderson Drive (which helps to jump instantly between two star systems) and Langston Field (protecting against attacks and heat from a star) are literary inventions the authors have taken care to use established scientific knowledge in other places. Reading in 2011, for a story that’s happening in 3017 you will expect phenomenal technology advancements with regards to Computers but the book has only references to things like Pocket Computers (which were no doubt futuristic). Here it is worth noting the book was written 37 years back in 1974 and that is quite surprising!
With regards to the story, the aliens (Moties) are shown to be very different from Humans in their bodies, minds and their society; but they are shown to have exactly similar things to human societies – cities, museums, ships, farmlands, zoos, subway, trucks, castles, roads, pavements and so on. This I found to be a little odd – a completely different species evolved in a very different environment over millions of years is likely to be behaving very differently to 20th-century Humankind. Even this I guess was made to make the story easily explainable and palatable to readers. Otherwise, a classic science fiction not to be missed.