The Mote in God's Eye

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The Mote In God's Eye is a science fiction book written by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle and published in 1974. It is about Earthlings in the year 3017 making first contact with an alien race. I chose to read this book after seeing it ranked among the best science fiction ever written. I finished it on 2017-08-06 and wouldn't recommend it.


I don't own this book, but have listened to an audio book recording.


— This section contains spoilers! —


  • The authors do a decent job of not falling into the Star Trek aliens (humans with minor modifications to their face). The asymmetrical body, biological caste system, and sequential hermaphroditism were good choices.
  • The brownies become a rather impressive threat, and create a rather unsettling, but exciting scene.
  • It's apt, and rather frightful, how the Earthlings are so distrusting of the Moties, but angered that the Moties aren't entirely forthright with them.


  • Overall, I found the book to be rather boring. It's hinted that something is amiss with the Moties, but it takes forever to get to it. And for a science fiction book, there is very little action and a whole lot of military and political protocol. The book could have been cut in half.
  • Despite creating aliens that are more-creative-than-usual, they're still remarkably human. Arms and legs, upright walking, brains in their heads, eyes on their faces, speech through their throats, etc.
  • Despite taking place in the 3000s, humans, even those who have grown up on different planets, all have the same sensibilities as Americans from the 1970s. The crew are very modest about being nude around each other and they feel awkward talking about sex and birth control around the Moties.
  • It is said that brownies don't have the capacity for intelligence, but are trained to repair technology. However, they also improve technology entirely alien to them, which wouldn't be possible without intelligence.
  • The Moties claim to have biological capabilities to the point of minor genetic engineering, but they can't figure out how to make a birth control pill? Seems unlikely.
  • The book's ending isn't really an ending so much as a setup for a sequel. I don't like this, even in books that I like, let alone one I don't.


  • No one thing ruins the book, but all the minor things make it pretty unattractive.


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