The Moat Around Murcheson's Eye

by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
HarperCollins 1993
ISBN 0 00 224165 X

"The Long-awaited sequel to The Mote in God's Eye" says the blurb on the front cover.

I read “Moat” straight off the back of “Mote in God’s Eye”, which was an interesting experience as they are two very different books. “God’s Eye” was full of the wonder and terror of encountering an alien species. In “Moat”, set some thirty years after the first book, there is a larger political story being told.

Niven and Pournelle have nicely revisited the technology of the earlier book (pocket computers and house computers now have voice recognition software, for example) and remained true to the limitations they imposed upon themselves.

I found the section set on New Sparta, the Imperial capital, the most frustrating part of the book. The world seemed strangely half-sketched and the anticipated political and trade conflicts that the main characters had been steeling themselves for were suddenly resolved, or shunted off-stage. Even the conflict between Blaine and Bury stemmed from events that had largely happened off-stage during the first book and so it was hard to feel any real passion in their respective arguments.

And then we seemed to have an explosion in the numbers of minor characters who never really developed. Of the two Blaine children, at least Kevin, as a naval officer, seemed to serve some useful purpose (though he seemed to be quickly over shadowed by Freddy Townsend). Glenda Ruth Blaine started off with a useful task, carrying the Crazy Eddy worm and generally being a Motie expert, then went into some sort of unexplained funk through the middle part of the book. Then, at the end, she seems to turn into some Motie-like manipulator, but all the sinister implications are left hanging.

The last third of the book is a series of battles and diplomatic struggles that left one feeling a little breathless and slightly jumbled at the end, but which was still a cracking read.

Originally published in the United States as “The Gripping Hand”, “The Moat around Murcheson’s Eye” is the UK publication title. There is an exhaustive review on Wikipedia


Other books by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: The Mote in God's Eye

Other books by Larry Niven: Protector     A Gift from Earth

Thanks to Berka at The Zhodani Base for the background nebula on this page.