Solid science fiction about first contact, set in a universe where humanity reached the stars, fractured, and has slowly knit itself back together under imperial/aristocratic power. This doesn't actually come through for much of the book, other than mentioning that one of the main characters will have a title one day. And then at the end, we're thrust into imperial politics with little preparation - it's interesting, but a bit jarring.
Niven and Pournelle do an
excellent job of creating a nuanced and alien alien race, one that is
neither benevolent nor malevolent. And, for one of the first times ever
(that I've seen), it's a race of aliens that has internal dissension and
cultures within itself - that's a level of complexity that is normally
reserved for humans alone.
And the Moties are fascinating - their
outlook is alien to a North American outlook (what would Russians make
of it, I wonder?) And as I said, their motivations are complex and
inspire compassion if not agreement.
On the issue of gender
relations in science fiction, this book does have one female character,
and she has her own profession, and rebels against imperial strictures
of behaviour (to a small degree.) And yet, she falls in love with the
main character, the future Marquis of something-or-other at almost first
sight, with little reasoning given or, apparently, expected. Two
handsome young aristocrats in close quarters emit pheromones?
that relationship is dealt with sparsely and is an extreme
afterthought. As for gender amongst the aliens, the Moties have two
genders, but rotate between the two, with no difference in their roles.
I enjoyed The Mote In God's Eye. Perhaps if I'd read more
Pournelle, I might have gotten more out of his imperial politics, but
still,, this is a solid piece of science fiction.
I read this book as part of an attempt to read all the Hugo Nominees