The Mote in God's Eye

Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle
The Mote in God's Eye Cover

The Mote in God's Eye


The Mote in God's Eye is a good old-fashioned space opera with first contact. The writing is simple, plain, expository. I like the style but I think it's better suited for shorter works. It's characters, for the most part, are in the Imperial navy. Why do so many science fiction novels set in an interstellar future have a monarchy for government, with its aristocracy and royal traditions? Anyhow, Humans meet the alien Moties and the two species start learning about one another. Initially I enjoyed the book, but its length took a toll. Ultimately plot holes, described below, diminished my enjoyment too.

The Human military, of course, needs to guard and keep secure its top secret technology. The Moties have secrets of their own. The residents of the Mote system have developed limited space travel and they have discovered the transition points for traveling in hyperspace. The receiving point, however, lies within the corona of a red giant star, which destroys their exploration vessels. Humans, coming from that point to the Mote system, have a protective field generator which protects them and that they don't want the Moties to learn about. The Moties' engineers are highly inventive and innovative, constantly rebuilding and improving everything. The Moties' secret is that they reproduce explosively, overpopulating their planet and leading to devastating wars that destroy their civilization. They desperately want to expand to other systems. Initially wanting to establish trade relations with the friendly Moties, the Humans eventually realize that they would be overwhelmed and destroyed by the Moties' expansion into the Empire. Given the choices of exterminating the Moties or blockading them, the Humans choose to blockade. but they know it is only a matter of time before the Moties develop a protective field and break out.

We know that the Moties are hiding something. It is their extreme fecundity and their demonic warrior caste. The Moties lie to the Humans and the Humans lie to the Moties, too. But it is the discovery of the Moties lying that finally triggers the realization by the Human powers-that-be of the great threat posed by the Moties.

Plot Holes: Sally and her Motie are discussing reproduction, and the Motie seems to have a hard time understanding Human ways of birth control. The Motie is sterile, a hybrid mule, but tells Sally that she uses chemical hormones for birth control. In another case, the Humans have imprisoned the first Motie they met and will not release her because of her potential for disclosing the military secrets she's com not contact with on the Human ship. When her health begins to fail, the other Moties tell the Humans that it is probably a food deficiency. They don't reveal that if she doesn't mate, she will die. They could have let the Humans know that it was her time, without letting them know that it happens frequently. (The Moties didn't care that she was captive or that she would die.) And finally, when three Human midshipmen escape a conflagration in lifeboats that take them to Mote Prime, The Moties report that they were killed by burning up on entry to the atmosphere. Later the midshipmen, who landed safely on the planet, discover some inconvenient truths and are killed in a fire fight with Motie warriors. The Moties didn't need to have told these lies, but the discovery of the lies was crucial to the plot.