- Meredith, Martin — The State of Africa: A History of Fifty Years of Independence (736 pages)
- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o — Wizard of the Crow (766 pages)
- Coetzee, J.M. — Life & Times of Michael K (182 pages)
- Saint-Exupery, Antoine de — The Little Prince (101 pages)
- Brunner, John — Stand on Zanzibar (661 pages)
- Dahl, Roald — Fantastic Mr Fox (79 pages)
- Walker, Barbara — TEENY-TINY and the Witch-Woman (29 pages)
- Shakespeare, William — A Midsummer Night's Dream (23 pages)
- Powers, Richard — The Time of Our Singing (631 pages)
- McEwan, Ian — In Between the Sheets (134 pages)
- Ishiguro, Kazuo — A Pale View of Hills (182 pages)
- Niven, Larry — Ringworld (284 pages)
Page count: 3808.
After some of the literary heavy lifting I've been doing lately (Powers, Shakespeare, Chekhov), I wanted a little divertimento. I was in the mood for a classic sci-fi romp of short to moderate length, nothing that would make me think too much, nothing that would raise too many thought-provoking issues of any sort. Just a good old fashioned romp through space.
Ask and ye shall receive!
I had to check to make sure Ringworld wasn't written in the 1950s, with its 200-year-old ever-virile male protagonist, women whose only skills seem to be sex or getting into predicaments from which only studly men can save them, two-headed ET-like aliens, and a race of giant orange catlike beings, thrown together on a trans-galactic voyage into unknown worlds. I swear, there's even a Conan the Barbarian-like character thrown into the mix near the end! It's like a preteen boy's literary wet dream; i.e., (despite the publication date) typical 1950's sci-fi.
There isn't really much plot and even less character development — surprise, surprise. Ringworld follows the tried and true hard sc-fi formula of creating exotic situations and interesting challenges, often scientific in nature, for the characters to puzzle out, deal with, and solve.
I make Ringworld sound like a real clunker, don't I? But this clichéd formula leaves a lot of room for inventiveness and humor, which is no doubt why authors so often return to it, and Niven does well within this framework. His world is unique and in places quite interesting, even if the science seems a bit dated in places. (Or in other places, too conveniently skirted. Something we do shouldn't theoretically be possible? Well, perhaps we have different theories!) I detected in quite a few places a quirky humor that reminded me of Klingore Trout (one of Vonnegut's pen names). It made for a brisk and enjoyable read.
In short, Ringworld was exactly what I was looking for.