The Mote in God's Eye

Rating: +

Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

Premise: Humans have space travel and we have begun to settle other planets and explore space. A ship enters our solar system and we discover our first alien race. Debate ensues on whether to treat this new race as hostile or not - whether the people we send out to meet this new race should be military or diplomats. The new race is called the "Moties" since their ship appeared out of an astronomical phenomenon called God's Eye and they originated from a tiny star in God's Eye.

Soooo, a ship gets sent out to meet the Moties, and the humans try to learn as much about the Moties as possible while letting the Moties know as little about our own weaknesses as possible. Various political and financial forces within the human realm threaten to guide the choices that this mission makes. The interests and concerns of scientists, politicians, industry, and the military all have to be merged into a single plan of action for dealing with this new alien race. Add to this alien-phobia and you get a pretty realistic picture of the kind of mess that might come up in the real world were we to encounter aliens. I think that the book does a nice job of looking at, given all these factors, how much one can and should trust this alien race and how open about oneself one can be.

And the plot explores the question of whether the characters are making the correct choices given all this, and what choices the Moties made when asking themselves the same thing. What are Moties really like?

I suppose that my reservations about this book mostly come from the fact that, when we finally learn all of the details about Moties, I didn't find it really plausible that such a being could exist, with that type of society. It isn't that it was too different - it just differed in ways that I had a hard time believing. Additionally, the solution that humanity came up with for the "Motie problem" felt a bit too simple to work.

Overall, though, I liked this book and it stuck with me, so I suppose I will give it a '+', since it's worth reading if you like science fiction. At the least I didn't feel like it was just another variant of the same stories I've read before.


Review written July 1999.


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