Still Awesome After All These Years…

This copy of “The Mote in God’s Eye” was in the very first lot of books I purchased when I joined the Science Fiction Book Club as a fourteen year-old.

Historical Note: Kids, in the Stone Age (pre-Amazon), if you didn’t live in a town with a good bookstore or library, mail-order book clubs were the only way a Sci Fi or Mystery geek could get the genre books we craved. You joined, they sent you a bunch of books for a penny to hook you in, then gave you the opportunity to buy subsequent books at a decent discount. The only issue was, a couple of the titles each month were “featured,” and would be sent automatically unless you told them not to send them. It would be like Amazon automatically sending you books they thought you would like every month.

Come to think of it, I’m surprised they don’t.

I miss the cover.
I miss the cover.

Anyway, going back and reading this book again was a true joy. It has moved with me, well… through two college dorms, four apartments and five houses. I miss the very cool paper cover, long since torn to bits.

A book collector might sniff at my lower-quality “book club” edition, but the cover is intact, if worn, and every word is still there, and that’s what I care about.

I do see that another of my literary heroes, Robert Heinlein, is quoted on that cover, and I agree with his assessment.

Even after forty years, this book still stands up. The science is solid Except for the obligatory Faster-Than-Light cheat, Niven and Pournelles’s space ships obey all the laws of physics. It’s also worth mentioning that each character carries a “pocket computer” that can access any stored information, and record live audio and video. Sound familiar?

That’s right, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle invented the iPad four decades before Apple.

And the story? Still the best First Contact ever written, with an intriguing minor plot point that explains why a monarchy might be the only workable structure for a planet-spanning human government.

My enjoyment of the book is magnified by having had the opportunity recently to get to know Jerry Pournelle a little bit through his occasional appearances on Leo LaPorte’s “This Week in Tech” show. Still sharp as a tack and interested in all forms of technology.

Apparently, Jerry’s daughter has released a book taking place in the “Mote” universe, making an unofficial trilogy It’s on the list, right after I re-read the first sequel (not as great but not bad,) “The Gripping Hand.” Which Amazon tells me I purchased in August 2006. 

Definitely time for a re-read.


  1. Your book ordering reminded me of how I built my music collection in the 80’s. They suckered you in with the 12 cassettes for a penny. If you didn’t send back the card they would send you music you didn’t want. Aw, the good ‘ol days…

  2. I have a 1974 paperback copy of The Mote that I got after it was highly recommended to me by my friend Vonzie a few decades ago. This got me thinking I should recommend Niven’s short story, "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" to Rob since he’s a DC kind of guy.

    By the way, very nice site.

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