Ringworld by Larry Niven

Not bad for my first book of 2017. Funny thing was, I was meant to read this in a science fiction grad class and it seems I never quite got around to it. I loved it. It’s very classic science fiction– a great exploration story reminiscent of my experience reading Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke.

The focus is on the features of the discovery itself, Ringworld. There are some speculations of its origins but the pieces are slowly gathered as the exploration continues. It has the perfect balance of suspense and satisfaction in this way.

Niven does a great job of drawing the reader into the story that at some points, I forgot the delicately crafted backstory that led the motley crew onto Ringworld to begin with, the collapse of the Core. When it is mentioned in the last moments of the book, there is a perceptible “oh yeah!” that runs through my mind.

The one thing I don’t like is the development of the Teela Brown plot line. I think it’s fine that she is explained with the genetic breeding the puppeteers engage in for humanity, but really dislike the use of Teela Brown as some sort of Murphy’s law. The explanation that the entire exploration serves the purpose of her individual benefit seemed… anticlimactic. But now that I think about it, makes sense from a human condition standpoint. Humans do take actions in their own best interest the majority of the time. It is human nature. For Teela and her bred genetic “power,” she does so unconsciously. Imagine that! One could go down a rabbit hole with this particular idea.

I will inevitably want to read the entire series. I’ve already begun the search for book 2, Ringworld’s Engineers. I am sad that the county library does not carry it. Great way to start off my new reading year!

Stay tuned for my next review. I’ll be picking up A Canticle for Leibowitz 

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The 100 by Kass Morgan

The 100 by Kass Morgan

I stumbled upon this Young Adult Science Fiction novel through Netflix. After binge-watching 2 seasons of the show, I decided to act on the line displayed during the introduction for each episode, “based on the novel by Kass Morgan.”

First I looked it up on the usual sites: Amazon then Barnes and Noble. The book is a trilogy and averages $8 each. Not so sure about the quality of writing, I hesitated to pull the trigger. I don’t even remember how the idea came to mind, but I ended up checking the library to see if they had it. Lo and behold, the first book was available. This series led me to rediscover the beauty that is the public library! After 10 years of being inactive, I finally got a new library card. How exciting is that??

I quickly re-learned the whole book check out process. If it’s not available in your local branch, you can request it and it will be transferred to your location for pickup at a later date. So convenient! You can also sign up for a waiting list for books or dvds that are currently checked out by other people. Through this process, I signed up for the rest of the trilogy.

I made my way home after the library trip on my lunch break the day before Thanksgiving. I finished work early and started reading. I didn’t stop until I finished. One book, one sitting, approximately 4 hours and some change.

I can’t really comment on this book without comparing it with the tv series because so much of the world this series belongs to is informed by what I initially saw.

For the most part, the characters are the same. The style is written kind of like Lost, where each person has their history and background story that the reader is exposed to through flashbacks and memories. The timeline constantly jumps from the present, on Earth, back to the space station.

The most notable thing about this and the series (I won’t make separate posts for each book) is that the characters stories are sometimes blended together for the tv show. I am increasingly fascinated with these editorial decisions (see post on Walking Dead where I also talk about this a bit) and am starting to appreciate some of these changes.

In The 100 there is a character named Glass who is in a relationship with Luke. This relationship addresses a social class issue as Glass is from the privileged social heirarchy and Luke is not. In the series, this storyline is merged with Clarke, and introduced with a new characters, Raven and Finn. The dynamic between Clarke, Raven, and Finn is some sort of amalgamation of multiple storylines. Oh yeah, and nowhere in the tv series is Bellamy a love interest of Clarke. They definitely show the struggle of trust between the two, but it is never romantic. I think this is as far as I’ll go comparing the books and the series. It becomes two difficult to show exactly how the plot and character dynamics have converged.

Let’s just say the show’s use of each characters’ storyline is much more intentional with a stronger narrative arc. The introduction of grounders and mountain men to create 3 distinct factions in the tv series is a bold and welcome move. This allows the treatment of politics in a new world to become a major driving force, as well as allow the examination of values in different cultures. This reminds me much of the effects of colonialism as well as Game Theory.

While the tv series is successful in portraying a transformation from mere teen adolescence into adulthood and true responsibility, the book series falls a little flat. Part of the reason I think this is the case is because it focuses too much on romantic relationships for my taste. Similar to Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, I kept thinking “why does snogging seem to be on everyone’s mind when the Dark Lord is about to attack!” In this way, it is very much young adult fiction and I completely understand why the story is written this way – the audience.

All in all, it was an entertaining read. I am glad I borrowed the books from the library because I wouldn’t go back to read them again. Interesting plot, but I am more eager to see how WB treats the fertile ground of characters and foundational storyline that Morgan created.