The Mote in God’s Eye

by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1975/Orbit 1981
ISBN 0 8600 7906 6

Re-reading this novel after so many years was a bit of an eye-opener.

Firstly, I was struck by how relevant some of the ‘technology’ used by the characters still is – thirty-odd years after the book was published. For example. many of the characters use pocket computers that are connected, via a wireless network, with main servers, either on the starship they use to travel to the ‘Mote’, or in the city on New Caledonia, the planet they use as a base. These pocket computers have a screen that the characters can write on with a stylus-like instrument to call up files or to make notes.

Secondly, I was struck by how similar the human political system, as described in “Mote”, was to the background situation as described in the roleplaying game Traveller (published 1977). Both envision a human stellar empire that is a successor to an earlier human interstellar state (the 1st Empire predates the 2nd Empire in “Mote”, while the 3rd Imperium in “Traveller” succeeds the fallen 2nd Imperium). In both cases, the current empire is ruled by an Emperor, with a feudal structure of nobles beneath him. There is also a parliament/assembly which implies some form of assembly of representatives of the “people”, but which is ultimately subservient to the power of the Emperor.

While on the subject of Traveller, the starships in "Mote" use hydrogen fuel for their manoeuvre drives which they obtain from either the atmospheres of gas giant planets, or from water on the surface of rocky worlds. Also, the Langston Field, used to protect starshps in "Mote", seems to have many of the characteristics of the Black Globe generators in Traveller.

Finally, in the “Moties”, and their discovery and contact by humanity, Niven and Pournelle have created one of Science Fiction’s best “First Contact” stories with a fascinating and truly alien culture.

Recommended reading, especially for those seeking inspiration for a Classic Traveller roleplaying game.

If you can't find a paper copy, try Baen Books on-line library for a subscription download.

There is an exhaustive review on Wikipedia, with associated articles on Jerry Pournelle’s CoDominion Future History.


Other books by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: The Moat Around Murcheson'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.