I first read this book when I was a teenager. Jerry Pournelle himself wasn’t new to me but most of the other contributors were and I was impressed by the various approaches to the subject of Black Holes. Having re-read it again thirty years later I found myself still as impressed by the mix of stories and essays. You don’t often get fact and fiction sitting side-by-side and I find the concept both interesting and informative. Good science fiction (as this collection is) contains as much fact as fiction, but the addition of real ideas and discussions of concepts really opened my eyes as a teenager.
Most of the pieces in the book were written in the mid to late 70s, with just one dating from 1968. Like all sci-fi of the time, it can seem a little dated with talk of tapes and such like, but the core concepts behind each story are as relevant today as they were then. Stephen Hawkins gets a mention in one of the articles, crediting him with being approaches to responsible for our notions of Black Holes and singularities.
Revisiting a book from your past can often be disappointing, our memories often coated in that ever present rose coloured tint, but in this case I was far from disappointed. Black Holes is a great collection and a very enjoyable read.
Authors included in this collection are Larry Niven, Poul Anderson, Charles Sheffield, Robert Forward, R Bretnor, Gail Kimberly, Grant Carrington, George Zebrowski, Mildred Downey Broxon, Dian Girard, Michael Bishop, Peter Dillinger and Greg Bear.
The central theme of the book is one that always intrigues me, mankind’s first contact with another intelligence. And like all Niven and Pournelle’s novels, the mix of great storytelling from Larry Niven and the scientific input of Jerry Pournelle bring realism and fantasy together in a great book.
In the Mote we find mankind spread across the galaxy and recovering from a series of wars that have torn the First Empire apart. Fresh from brining rebel planets back into the Empire, the battle cruiser MacArthur and her crew find themselves sent on a mission to follow up a first contact with an alien race. This is Rod Blain’s first command as a ship’s captain and stretches his diplomatic and military skills to the full.
The “Moties” (as they are soon called) prove to be welcoming and, on the face of it, peaceful. But all is not as it seems. As both races try to find a balance between openness with their new “friends” whilst keeping some of their darker secrets hidden, relationships become strained.
This is one of the better Sci-Fi novels you will find on your local book shop shelves. But it is also a story about relationships, about how we perceive ourselves and how we interact with others who are different from ourselves.
The Mote in the title is a reference to the biblical saying about motes and logs in an eye. It makes senceo nce you have read the book – Larry Niven explains it much better than I could.
A totally engrossing tale, and one of the best first contact novels around. The sequel, “The Mote Around Murcheson’s Eye” is on my shelf, but I will come back to this saga later.
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