Like a majority of Niven’s books, this focuses more on the concept than any type of tangible story. We get really cool technology, awesome aliens, some pretty cool thought experiments but at the end of the day, there’s really not much more than that.
And that’s okay.
Originally published in 1970 and winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel, Ringworld follows the adventures of Louis Wu and Teela Brown, humans; Speaker to Animals, a Kzin and Nessus, a Pierson’s Puppeteer as they travel across “known space” to explore a huge object (the Ringworld) encircling a sun 200 light years from Earth. The Ringworld is so unbelievably large that it would fit millions of earth size planets topography within it. Over the course of the book, we get the various histories of these travelers, their species, their interactions, and their consequences as they traverse hundreds of thousands of miles exploring a small fraction of the surface.
At the end, I enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as other works by Niven (especially those in collaboration with others). There were far more questions raised than answered but the speculation about the alien races, as well as the Ringworld inhabitants was enough to keep it consistently interesting, if not overly fulfilling. Additionally, as a classic of science fiction almost 45 years old and progenitor of several other novels and a whole fiction universe (Known Space) it’s good to have it read as part of a science fiction education. When people refer to a “Niven Ring” or if you play the video game Halo, you’ll now have a literary source and reference point.