Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: Ringworld: The Graphic Novel by Larry Niven

Ringworld - Larry Niven

Review by John for Ringworld: The Graphic Novel, Part One. Based on the novel by Larry Niven – adapted by Robert Mandell; illustrated by Sean Lam.

John’s quick take:   Niven’s classic award-winning 1970 science fiction story turned into a graphic novel.

John’s description: It is 2850 and space adventurer Louis Wu is celebrating his 200th birthday. Thanks to boosterspice he still has the physique and mental agility of a twenty year old, and he has wealth that allows him to do almost anything that he wants. But he feels like he has done it all already and he is bored.

Enter Nessus, a two-headed alien Pierson’s Puppeteer. He offers Louis the chance to join him on a mysterious and dangerous mission well beyond the boundaries of Known Space, using a secret new ship that can travel thousands of times faster than anything humans have experienced. Louis cannot refuse. They are joined by two additional carefully selected crew members, a fearsome catlike warrior Kzin and a human that has been genetically bred for good luck.

Initially they travel to Nessus’ home world where they are told that the mission’s destination is a strange ring-shaped world that circles a star. They are to explore the artificially created ringworld that is some 600 million miles in circumference and a million miles wide. The flat inner surface of the world is equivalent to some three million Earth-sized planets and it may potentially be habitable.

When their space ship crash-lands on the ringworld and they are apparently stranded, their adventures have only just begun.

John’s thoughts:   Where to start with this one? I’d have to say that this graphic novel version of a classic science fiction story has probably not been created with me in mind. I’ve read the original book and loved it – and the graphic novel can’t really add anything. Indeed, one of the great things about the original was the depth and the detail of the story. In this format there is no chance of replicating that depth and many parts of the story leap ahead far too quickly for my liking.

I’d also have to say that the graphic representation of Nessus is quite disappointing – though goodness knows he is near impossible to satisfactorily translate into graphic form. I think he is one of those creations that just works better in your imagination than it possibly can in pen and ink. Louis Wu too doesn’t jive at all with how I pictured him.

That being said it is a great story and I’m sure that many newcomers to Niven’s novel will enjoy it. I’d rate the book 3 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction in graphic novel format; I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who has read the original. Any potential readers should be warned that this is only “part one” and covers just the first half of Ringworld. It isn’t a standalone story so don’t expect any logical conclusions to the plot at the end of this book.

A closing thought – I do love some graphic novels (Watchmen and Britten and Brulightly are two of the most highly-rated books that I have ever reviewed), but reading a graphic novel version of something you’ve already read in full and loved is probably not a great idea. It seems to me that you’re always going to be left wanting more.

Tor/Forge | July 2014 | Trade Paperback |  272 pages

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