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The Mote in God's Eye

Narrated by: L J Ganser
Length: 20 hrs and 28 mins
4 out of 5 stars (430 ratings)
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Summary

Writing separately, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle are responsible for a number of science fiction classics, such as the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Ringworld, Debt of Honor, and The Integral Trees. Together they have written the critically acclaimed best-sellers Inferno, Footfall, and The Legacy of Heorot, among others.

The Mote In God's Eye is their acknowledged masterpiece, an epic novel of mankind's first encounter with alien life that transcends the genre. No lesser an authority than Robert A. Heinlein called it "possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read".

©1991 Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

  • All-Time Best Science Fiction Novels (Locus Magazine)

What members say

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Narrator killing this great book

Any additional comments?

I read this book many years ago and loved it. I was really looking forward to hearing it but the narrator is just killing it. I suffered it thinking I would get used to his strange cadence but about 30 minutes in he started on a Scottish accent which was like nails on a chalkboard. I just canny take it captain! I'm going to have to hunt down the paperback.

24 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A classic showing its age

This is a very decent book but for me it shows its age in some respects. It tackles one of the classic Sci Fi themes of humanity's first contact with intelligent alien life forms. I think the authors deserve enormous credit for how they attempted to deal with both sides of the story representing the points of view of the human and Mote races as the plot unfolds. Possibly the real strength in the story is that most of us would sympathise with both sides as they try to navigate their way through the intricacies of contact. This is no simple humans versus nasty aliens tale!

That said, I found some of the characters a bit shallow, more caricature than character. Compared to more recent fiction I felt the human characters lacked an edge and were a bit one-dimensional and predictable in their reactions to the situations they faced.

The book isn't fast moving as you'd expect given the dual approach it has to what is a very complex subject. It is though a satisfying book despite its length and I felt well narrated. There is a certain quaintness about how the English traditions of aristocracy and naval terminology survived into an Inter-stellar Empire and its armed forces. Even so, it adds to the charm of what has been a much-loved book for four decades.

41 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Classic story, appaling narration

What would have made The Mote in God's Eye better?

The reader attempts a Scottish accent which is slightly less accurate (and vastly more annoying) than Dick Van Dyck's notorious faux-cockney.

Would you be willing to try another one of L J Ganser’s performances?

Nope.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Listen before you buy!

This might be a good book.........I wouldn?t know.

My own fault, I should have listened to an excerpt.

The narrator reads it as if every fourth word comes as a complete surprise to him. The intonation of his sentences gives the distinct impression that he hasn?t prepared in any way for the job of telling this story. Reading the book quietly to himself in advance might be a good start!
His attempts at differentiating between the voices of different characters takes the form of speaking more loudly or attempting an impersonation of a Scotsman (I recommend him not to try it in Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night).

I was bitterly disappointed that I had wasted my money on this pathetic attempt and would ask Audible to consider instituting a satisfaction guarantee. I am afraid I was unprepared for such a bad attempt at reading a book after the excellent narration I have experienced in the 20 or so other books I have bought. Quite frankly I have heard better narration in the free public access books produced by amateur volunteers for organisations like LibraVox.

65 of 72 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Worst Scottish accent, ever.

apparently writing a review is optional, but the app won't let me submit my headline without 40 words, so that's what this is. Really, it's a terrible accent.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Dennis
  • Altrincham, Cheshire, United Kingdom
  • 19-01-10

Very glad I went back to this

This book is well known in SF circles as a classic. A must read for any SF fan. Well I did try to read it as a teenager and failed to get into it. I have now read it as an audiobook because I listen to Leo Laporte's TWiT podcasts and he had Jerry Pournelle on one of his shows. They mentioned the book and I felt I should revisit it.

Very glad I did. It is a masterpiece. The success of the book hinges on the nature of the aliens (Moties), their biology, history, the way they consist of a collection of specialised sub-species, their planetary circumstances, the consequences of all those taken together and the dilemma it creates for the humans.

The specialised castes are particularly frightening. Sub sentient engineers who can't talk but could get hold of your car, fiddle around with it for 5 minutes and hand back to you something that would win the next Monaco GP. Then there are the mediators who can observe humans, quickly learn their language and mimic and understand them so well they appear to read minds.

Humans are presented as clumsy jacks of all trades. Put them up against any of the specialised Moties in in their specialist area and the humans are in trouble. Fancy trying to negotiate the future relationship between humans and Moties against a Motie mediator who knows you better than you know yourself?

The book does show its age. There is a rationale for the human political system, the pre-eminence of the aristocracy, religion, military service values (the human spaceship navy runs exactly like the US Navy) but you'd still expect things to be further removed from today given the setting 1,000 years into our future.

And the narrator is utterly clueless about Scottish accents to the point of cringe-making embarrassment. That is no exaggeration. And his portrayal of the only female character is painfully stereotyped.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • S
  • Bury St Edmunds, United Kingdom
  • 13-04-13

The best 'First Contact' novel ever

I first read this book 20 years ago and was totally engrossed. It mixes a great mix of characters in a struggling future Empire of Man with the effects of the sudden discovery - at last - of a totally alien race.

It combines great entertainment with thought provoking situations. The background to it is a really logical and believable science.

I think it's the best thing that Niven has written or co-written and that's a big claim.

The reading is OK - a strong American accent but then that represents the racial background of the lead character Roderick Blaine. The pace is good and him pronunciation is right too.



This is a long, engrossing listen that will draw you into the sequels.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Terrible narration

What would have made The Mote in God's Eye better?

A better narrator

Has The Mote in God's Eye put you off other books in this genre?

No, I absolutely love sci fi.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of L J Ganser?

Peter Kenny absolutely, he would have been fantastic.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Mote in God's Eye?

A lot of it. I listened to this as it is on a lot of the 'greatest sci fi' lists but I found the story uncompelling, dated, and disappointing.

Any additional comments?

I would suggest that if anyone wants to do this book that they read it, the narrator is aweful.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • robert
  • clacton on sea, United Kingdom
  • 10-10-18

great story poor narrator

ok first off, I loved the story , it's been over 25 years since I've read it and it holds up remarkably well, my only gripe is with the narrator, who thought it was a good idea to get a narrator who clearly has never heard a Scottish accent in his life narrate a story mostly based around a planet named "new Scotland" utterly abysmal attempts that never got better ruined what would otherwise been an excellent book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Challenging Scottish accent

I persevered. Not easy as the reader's attempt at a Scottish accent was painful to listen to. Interesting premise but fur once I think I'd have preferred to read the book rather than listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • J. Rhoderick
  • 12-02-10

A great read!

The Mote in God's Eye, set far in the future, tells the tale of humanity's first contact with an alien species. Despite being first published in 1974, the science holds up fairly well. There are a few funny oddities that show the story's age, such as the mention of "microwave ovens" and "pocket computers" as if we would be shocked by their ubiquity, but these are rare. However, in this tale, the science isn't the star of the show. Rather, it's the nature of humanity and how that nature compares to the Moties who represent a unqiue threat.

The characters, while not of any great depth, are passable for sci-fi. Some reviewers may complain about this but, as an avid sci-fi reader, I have seen much worse. I never really developed any strong attachment to the characters, but I did get to know them well enough to keep the story engaging.

This is a moderately paced story with some parts moving rather quickly and others trudging along. There are a handful of dull portions, mostly involving Empire politics or background exposition, but just when I started feeling bored, the story picked up. The plot, while sometimes predictable, still leaves enough mystery to keep you reading. The story is long, perhaps a bit longer than it needs to be. For example, I think Horace Bury's character added nothing to the story and could have been cut entirely.

I don't understand why some reviewers disliked the narrator. Personally, I think LJ Ganser does a superb job. Ganser can handle a room full of similar characters while giving each one a unique voice. His narration of Admiral Kutuzov deserves a freakin' medal. His reading never once interfered with my ability to absorb the story.

Overall, I'd say this is a great read. It isn't the best first contact story, and it isn't the best sci-fi novel ever written, but it's fun, engaging, and memorable.

102 of 105 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • 21-08-09

Oldie but goldie

I read this book in paper format more than 30 years ago, but I had forgotten how good it really is. When I saw it available in audible format I jumped at the chance to listen to a previous good read.

Some of the reviews I have read are very hard on the book, but I believe that the are looking in the wrong place. What makes this book so interesting and unique, at least to me, was the idea that humans could encounter aliens so different that all of our assumptions would be wrong. How do two species interact when one is general and adaptive in nature and the other is differiented. That is at the core of this story; at least for me.

The process of meeting, all of the mistaken assumptions and the final realization as to just how different the species are is, I believe, a very interesting story with, for new readers, an unknown conclusion.

But listeners should know that this story is from 1974 and hence some of the story line is 35 years out of date. I believe that to be the cause of some of the bad reviews. Perhaps those listeners did not know the copyright date and might have been more charitable to the male-centered character of the story.

All in all I think this is a nearly great book with more than adequate reading.

89 of 94 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Aerindel
  • 28-07-09

Book gets a 4, reader gets a 2

When I first read this book seventeen years ago it was the most realistic and impressive Sci-Fi that I had read to date and Moral of the story seemed all too true. Unfortunately this book now seems a little dated and simplistic compared to Dan Simmons and Peter F. Hamiltions works for example. This is really too bad since this is one of the books that I have been wishing would come to audible for ever since I became a member.This is still an excellent story and the Motie Aliens are as well thought out as the Kzinti or Puppeteers, (two of Nivens other alien creations). The only real complaint about the writing is the pacing of the story, it seems to climax halfway through, get lost for a while and then come to a resolution.
The reader on the other hand, (The gripping hand as the Motie's would say) is a real annoyance usually I don't care that much about the narrator when I'm picking out audiobooks, its the book that's important, not the reader. But this audio book makes me wonder if I've been spoiled by audible's other narrators. The voice is understandable and the speed and emphasis is fine but this man is just no fun to listen too, particularly for twenty hours. I can't come up with any better description, but this is the first time reader has been bad enough to be distracting.

82 of 88 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • S
  • 28-12-09

ALIUMS!

A good book about alien contact and it goes into the depth to which we would likely misunderstand anything that would be alien. Well written with a fair amount of societal and structural understanding. Not as much of a War In Space book as I was concerned about, good mix of military and social sci-fi. Recommended with only slight reservations.

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mike From Mesa
  • 21-08-09

Oldie but goldie

I read this book in paper format more than 30 years ago, but I had forgotten how good it really is. When I saw it available in audible format I jumped at the chance to listen to a previous good read.

Some of the reviews I have read are very hard on the book, but I believe that the are looking in the wrong place. What makes this book so interesting and unique, at least to me, was the idea that humans could encounter aliens so different that all of our assumptions would be wrong. How do two species interact when one is general and adaptive in nature and the other is differiented. That is at the core of this story; at least for me.

The process of meeting, all of the mistaken assumptions and the final realization as to just how different the species are is, I believe, a very interesting story with, for new readers, an unknown conclusion.

But listeners should know that this story is from 1974 and hence some of the story line is 35 years out of date. I believe that to be the cause of some of the bad reviews. Perhaps those listeners did not know the copyright date and might have been more charitable to the male-centered character of the story.

All in all I think this is a nearly great book with more than adequate reading.

30 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Christopher
  • 14-09-10

Why, oh why won't someone make this into a movie?

For fans of hard science fiction, this book will not disappoint. Unfortunately, it's unlikely to ever be made into a movie because the story is quite long and complex, and to present it visually would probably be very difficult and require a lot of CG. Therefore, this audio book version is as close as we're likely to get. This is a very good production, and I much enjoyed the reader's performance. If you liked this, I recommend Niven & Pournelle's "Footfall."

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ann
  • 10-02-10

Smart, interesting read

I really enjoyed reading this novel. I thought the authors came up with a very smart and clever story of humanity's first encounter with an alien race. I was surprised to find that the alien race described was very different from all other sci-fi books, tv shows and movies that I've seen before. I was expecting the aliens to be a copy from a "star trek" idea, but they were quite different.

The book also explores human nature by describing humanity's reaction to the aliens. The story unfolds throughout the novel. So there is action and questions to be answered right up until the end.

I would recommend this book to anyone that likes to read fiction especially for those who like books that explore human nature in a "what if" scenario.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Andrew
  • 14-08-09

Top notch, classic Sci - Fi

Read this twice in my youth so when it recently appeared on Audible I took the opportunity to re-visit it. After a dubious start I found myself sinking into the story and was soon hooked. Still a fantastic story all these years later. Good old straight forward sci-fi with all the elements.
Really enjoyed it.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Kathy
  • 11-10-13

How could a first contact story be so ho-hum?

I tortured myself through 2/3 of this book before I decided life is just to short to read such a boring, dull story. Half way through, I had to read the Wiki on the book, so I could know what was going on. Reading that, I realized it was even more ho-hum than I could have imagined. The characters were not well-developed and seemed very stereotypical. No one was any more likeable than anyone else. I didn't care what happened to them. The aliens were no better. No one had any sort of personality that shone through.

Yes, the narrator added to my dislike of the story. His pacing was awful and his accents not so good, either. Still, much of this could have been overlooked with an engrossing story.

I have believed, from childhood, that nothing could be more monumental and fascinating to the human race than our first contact with an alien species. Who could have known it could be so boring! Maybe I need to rearrange my thinking.

So, why are there so many fabulous reviews? I just can't figure that out. Perhaps because the book has a very catchy, memorable name? Perhaps Niven and Pournelle have a loyal following? Perhaps this IS truly a great story and I just missed the boat?

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ed
  • 08-08-09

Narrator does matter....

I read the book many years ago and loved it. It is dated, but if you like shows like "Firefly", it won't bother you too much. The science isn't really dated...just the cultural norms. The story is interesting, as are the aliens. As others have mentioned the narrator is annoying. He would have been okay for 1 character, but having him read all the parts just didn't work. It is worth listening to.

33 of 37 people found this review helpful