The Mote in God’s Eye (1974) by Larry Piven and Jerry Pournelle

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The Mote in God’s Eye tells the tale of a group of humans who travel to a stellar system to find and meet with the first sentient alien race to be found. The Moties are both physically and mentally quite different to humans and the authors do an excellent job of creating a rich and interesting culture to explore. The Mote in God’s Eye is probably the best novel I’ve read this year.

The Moties are quite strange, bearing three arms and a lopsided physiology. The little details about the aliens and their civilisation are what make the story so interesting. As the tale progresses we see more and more of their history, allowing an unparalleled look into this imaginary culture. The only author I can think of who includes more ‘little details’ is George R. R. Martin.

Another of my favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, consulted with the authors while they were writing the novel and is quoted as saying it is the finest scifi novel he had ever read. I am compelled to agree. The Mote in God’s Eye is fine story telling with twists and turns that leave the audience guessing till the last chapter.

The Mote in God’s Eye is a prime example of how Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke could have been better. In my last review I discussed my dislike of that novel despite not knowing why exactly. The Mote in God’s Eye has focussed that feeling by showing that a lack of conflict (or the tension that the possibility of conflict creates) makes for boring reading. The Moties are an unknown quantity just like the Overlords but the difference is that the Moties could be a distinct threat to the human empire. That conflict is so well realised that till the very end you will wonder what exactly is going to happen.

An excellent novel, the Mote in God’s Eye shows an insight into humanity through the distinctly inhuman Moties that asks as many questions as it answers.

5 stars

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