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.
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.
The U.S. may not be building a Death Star, but it appears Kirkwood might be.
So, I see that Shirley Bassey’s birthday is today. She’s 76, and really only known in the U.S. for singing the theme from “Goldfinger,” arguably the tune that set the standard for big Bondian opening themes that continues today with Adele and “Skyfall.”
(Sergio Mendes’ “The Look of Love” actually preceded Goldfinger, as it was featured prominently in “Dr. No,” but not to the extent as with Goldfinger and most of the other Bond themes).
But the point of this story is not to discuss Bond movie themes.
As I said, in the States, we mostly know Bassey for one nearly fifty-year-old movie theme. In her native Britain, she apparently is still a big deal.
We were in London a few months ago, and went to see the Comedy Store Players, the improv troupe who invented “Whose Line?” They’re awesome, by the way. If you ever are in London on a Sunday night, run, don’t walk to get get tickets.
Anyway, not one, but TWO of their routines that night referenced Shirley Bassey, and everyone in the crowd immediately picked up on who they were talking about.
It must be the same when you’re in Germany and someone mentions David Hasselhoff.