Louis Wu has seen it all. Jaded, bored with a world that has no more to offer him, he spends his two hundredth birthday reminiscing about his youth, the good old days when caprice ruled his actions and the world seemed endless in its capacity for excitement. The spark of adventure is still inside him, but Earth, shrunken and standardized by the advent of teleportation, is no longer a place of infinite variety and wonder.
Enter Nessus. A member of the “puppeteers,” an alien race famed for its cowardice, Nessus’s fellows condemn him as insane because of his bravery. Yet they find him useful as an explorer, visiting planets and stars no “sane” puppeteer would dare approach. For his current expedition, he requires companions. Louis immediately signs on to Nessus’s mission, with an excitement fueled by xenophilia and a youthful spirit. Along with two other individuals- Teela Brown, a young human woman, and Speaker-to-Animals, a fearsome alien feline- they set off to investigate the Ringworld, a massive alien artifact shrouded in mystery.
I don’t often use the phrase “thrill ride,” but there’s no other way to describe this book. The numerous plot twists and turns left me guessing every step of the way, and at several points I was left simply marveling at the author’s sheer cleverness. The characters and setting were just as richly detailed and complex as the plot, woven together into a compelling novel with a surprise ending no one could have predicted. Fantastical sci-fi concepts enrich the storyline and are made believable by the smart, polished writing. Creepy insights into what humanity’s future could look like are pure genius (and also really unsettling).
Okay, so this book isn’t exactly new, or YA, but the setting is futuristic and the book has as much action, adventure, and suspense as any novel written for teens. In short, it’s made of awesome. If this book has a downside, it’s that made-up words and new concepts are often introduced with no explanation, and the explanation comes later. A slight flaw, compared to the rest of the book. Five high-tech flashlight lasers- er, daggers.