18 April 2011

The Mote in God's Eye

At some point in the (perhaps distant) past, I made a note to myself to read The Mote in God's Eye.  I'm not sure where the note came from or what spurred it, but now, an indeterminate amount of time since, I've finally read it.

Mote is perhaps some of the "hardest" sci-fi I've ever read; not hard in the sense of difficult, but hard as opposed to soft: hard sci-fi representing science that is more "real" and more in line with what we can achieve today and might achieve in the future, adhering to laws of physics as we know them, etc; while soft sci-fi takes more liberties with sciences, imagines new discoveries far beyond what we are capable of today, and imagines that there is perhaps more to physics than we realize right now.

Mote tells the story of the first contact between the human race (under a government called the Second Empire of Man, which spans countles solar systems) and an alien race that becomes known as the "Moties," for they come from the "Mote" - a yellow star that occludes a red giant star (from the humans' point of view) in the Coalsack nebula, which is sometimes called the face of god with the red star as his eye - thus the title.  The Motie race is extremely different from the human race, genetically, culturally, and psychologically, and the novel details both the human and Motie perspectives on the meeting.

With only two notable exceptions, the science of the book is all real - ships use either acceleration or rotation to generate gravity for their inhabitants, with much of interstellar travel under either free-fall or extreme-g conditions, ships are designed in a logical, naval manner, etc.  The two exceptions are the Alderson Drive - a form of FTL drive that finds "Alderson Points" that connect distant systems, more or less using wormholes to instantaneously traverse long distances - and the Langston field, an energy field that absorbs all energy that impacts (though it does have limits).

The novel was a little slow starting, but it had compelling enough characters that I was kept interested, and the pace did eventually pick up quite enjoyably.  The cast was varied - Navy officers of all social classes, civilian scientists, a merchant suspected of treason, and of course the Moties, who were brought to life with their own personalities, wants, and fears, alien though they seemed at times.

Apparently Mote is only one novel in a series of future-history books by Jerry Pournelle, and one of several co-written by Larry Niven (of Ringworld fame).  There is apparently another novel dealing with human-Motie relations, The Gripping Hand, and I think I would like to read it some day, but it will be a while.


Books: Started on seven science fiction novels of HG Wells; up first is The Time Machine.

Bottles: Had a glass of Domaine Brocard “Sur Kimmeridgien” white Burgundy with lunch; it was enjoyable, more fruity and less buttery than I was expecting, and a bit sweet.  Unfortunately I had no way to make tasting notes with me, so these fleeting impressions will have to do for now.

Writing: No...

Guitar: Still "Best of You" and "Everlong."