Larry Niven
The Ringworld Engineers (1980)
Reviewed: 1996-09-02

Ringworld, the bugfix release. After the publication of the famous novel, Niven received many, many letters commenting in detail on the concept of a ringworld and the problems involved in constructing and maintaining such a structure. In this sequel Niven returns to the Ringworld to fix all the major and minor blunders. Occasionally, this requires some embarrassed hand waving to circumvent threatening inconsistencies. Let's see... So the first expedition was too much preoccupied with leaving that only after their return did Louis Wu really start to think about certain aspects of the ringworld? Well, well, it didn't appear that way when I was reading Ringworld a few weeks ago and there were months of lull in the timeline of the book. Note that I found these little contradictions rather more amusing than disturbing.

More then 20 years have passed since the events in Ringworld. Louis Wu has become a wirehead, an addict living only for the ecstasy of direct stimulation of the brain's pleasure center. The Kzin warrior formerly known as Speaker-To-Animals has been given an honorable name, Chmeee, and enjoys the comfortable existence befitting a hero on his home world. Both Wu and Chmeee find their content lifes unexpectedly reversed when the former Puppeteer Hindmost, mate of the mad Nessus who led the first expedition, coerces them into taking part in another journey to the Ringworld. On their arrival there, they find that the artifact has become destabilized and will soon collide with its sun. What ensues is a combination of plotting among the three members of the expedition, who each have conflicting aims, further exploration of the Ringworld, its inhabitants and history, and finally a quest to save this most impressive artifact of Known Space from certain destruction.

Less tightly written than either one, The Ringworld Engineers is a sequel to both Ringworld and Protector. That Niven decided to rather awkwardly join two until then completely unconnected story lines of Known Space is an indication that he had run out of further ideas for this popular universe of his. The book is interesting enough, and it may even capture the sheer size of the Ringworld better than the original novel, but it cannot match the books it builds on in the scope of introduced ideas.

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