Ringworld

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Ringworld is a Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-winning 1970 science fiction novel by Larry Niven, set in his Known Space universe and considered a classic of science fiction literature. It is followed by three sequels, and preceded by three prequels, and ties into numerous other books set in Known Space. Ringworld won the Hugo Award in 1970,[1] as well as both the Nebula and Locus Awards in 1971.[2]

Contents

Plot summary

The novel opens in the year 2855 with Louis Gridley Wu stepping out of a transfer booth, a teleportation kiosk, in Beirut, thus entering yet another time zone. Louis, after having escaped the festivities of his own 200th birthday, is now bar-hopping the world, jumping west and always staying behind the local midnight in order to extend his birthday as long as possible.

Despite his age, Louis turns out to be in perfect physical condition owing to a combination of advanced medical technology and boosterspice, a drug that extends human life. However, though he is healthy, rich and intelligent, Louis is growing bored. Having lived for two centuries, he has experienced life thoroughly and people in general are getting on his nerves. Between transfer booths he considers another sabbatical—a trip to and beyond the reaches of Known Space, all alone in a spaceship for a year or more, until he begins to yearn for people's company again—when all of a sudden the transfer booth materializes him in a sunlit hotel room, rather than the nocturnal Seville he had set its control for.

Facing him is an alien with three legs, no arms and two heads. The alien introduces himself as Nessus and Louis recognizes him for a Pierson's Puppeteer, a species that had the most advanced technology in Known Space but vanished from the region before Louis was born. Nessus has been ordered to hire three mercenaries to do the things he himself dares not. Louis is on top of his list of candidates.

With Nessus being secretive about the mission, Louis is reluctant to join, but when the Puppeteer eventually shows Louis a blurry picture of a distant star with a ring around it, the bored Louis immediately signs up: this ring turns out to be the Ringworld, an artificial circular strip of world with spin for surface gravity, orbiting the star. The Puppeteers, fleeing from the galaxy, have spotted this artifact in their path; since they are cowards, the sheer power of whatever has created such a structure frightens them profoundly. Hence, Nessus' mission is to assemble a team, visit the Ringworld and see whether it poses a threat to his species. Payment to the expedition's members will be the Long Shot, the extremely fast ship depicted in the story "At the Core", that Beowulf Shaeffer rode to the galactic core and back, centuries earlier.

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