The Mote in God's Eye
|The Mote in God's Eye|
First edition (hardcover)
|Author||Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle|
|Publisher||Simon and Schuster|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ4.N734 Mo PS3564.I9|
|Preceded by||King David's Spaceship|
|Followed by||The Gripping Hand, 1993|
The Mote in God's Eye is a science fiction novel by American writers Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, first published in 1974. The story is set in the distant future of Pournelle's CoDominium universe, and charts the first contact between humanity and an alien species. The title of the novel is a wordplay on Luke 6:41–42 and Matthew 7:3–5, which names a star as seen from a newly settled planet. The Mote in God's Eye was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards in 1975. Robert A. Heinlein, who gave the authors extensive advice on the novel, described the story as "possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read".
- 1 Overview
- 2 Plot summary
- 3 Characters
- 4 Reception
- 5 Notes
- 6 Moties
- 7 Awards and nominations
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The book describes a complex alien civilization, the Moties. The Moties are radically different (both physically and psychologically) from humanity in ways that become more clear over the course of the book. The human characters range from the typical hero-type in Captain Roderick Blaine to the much more ambiguous merchant prince and suspected traitor Horace Bury.
The novel is an example of hard science fiction in that close attention is paid to scientific detail. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle often write in this genre. It is especially evident in this work with regard to the theoretical mechanics and physics of interplanetary travel. The book's Alderson Drive and Langston Field are literary inventions, but they are presented against a background of established scientific knowledge.
A sequel to The Mote in God's Eye, titled The Gripping Hand (UK: The Moat around Murcheson's Eye), was published by the same authors almost twenty years later, in 1993. In December, 2010, with Niven and Pournelle's authorization, Pournelle's daughter, J. R. Pournelle, released a second sequel, entitled Outies, written in part to address issues raised by critics of the earlier works.
The book is split up into four parts.
The Crazy Eddie Probe
In the year AD 3017, humanity is recovering slowly from an interstellar civil war that tore apart the first Empire of Man. A new Empire has risen and is occupied in establishing control over the remnants of its predecessor, by force if needed.
Commander Lord Roderick Blaine, having participated in the suppression of a rebellion on the planet of New Chicago, is given command of an Imperial battlecruiser, INSS MacArthur, when the captain has to stay behind to restore order on the planet. Blaine is given secret orders to take Horace Hussein Bury, a powerful interstellar merchant of Arabian descent who is suspected of fomenting the revolt for his own profit, to the Imperial capital, Sparta. Blaine is one of the few people available who is wealthier than Bury, so he is the ideal man for the mission as he can't be bribed. The MacArthur is to be repaired in the New Caledonia system, then proceed to the capital. Another passenger is Lady Sandra Bright "Sally" Fowler, the niece of an Imperial Senator and a rescued prisoner of the rebels.
New Caledonia is the capital of the Trans-Coalsack sector, located on the opposite side of the Coalsack Nebula from Earth. Also in the sector is a red supergiant star known as Murcheson's Eye. Associated with it is a yellow Sun-like star. From New Caledonia, the yellow star appears in front of the Eye. Since some see the Eye and the Coalsack as the face of a hooded man, perhaps even the face of God, the yellow star is known as the Mote in God's Eye.
While in the New Caledonia system, Blaine receives a message saying that an alien spacecraft has been detected, and includes an order that MacArthur intercept it. Human ships use the Alderson Drive, which allows them to "jump" instantaneously between points in specific star systems. The alien craft, by contrast, is propelled by a solar sail, taking 150 years to cross between stars at sublight speed. MacArthur duly intercepts the craft and is fired upon by its automated systems, but manages to capture it relatively intact. However, on arrival at the planet New Scotland, its single occupant, evidently the pilot, is found to be dead.
The alien is bizarrely asymmetric, with two delicate arms on one side of its body and a single, much larger and stronger arm on the other. Although it is bipedal and has a head and face similar to humans, its anatomy is entirely different. It has no flexible spine and the face is capable of little expression. It is the first apparently intelligent alien race that humans have come into contact with. The ship itself is composed of alloys with remarkable properties and designed around unique, custom-built parts, no two alike, that perform multiple unrelated tasks simultaneously.
The Crazy Eddie Point
MacArthur and the battleship Lenin are sent to the Mote: the star from which the alien ship came. MacArthur carries civilian research teams intended to meet with and investigate the Moties, while Lenin is there to ensure the security of humanity's technology and secrets, avoiding all contact with the aliens. Aboard Lenin is the commander in charge of the mission, Admiral Lavrenti Kutuzov, a ruthless, supremely loyal officer who had already sterilized one rebellious colony planet to safeguard Imperial Reunification. Bury goes along ostensibly because a merchant is needed to assess the trade possibilities, but actually because there is nobody trustworthy enough to take him to the capital. Sally, a trained anthropologist, ranks too highly in the political aristocracy to be refused. Despite (or rather, due to) the civilians' distrust, Blaine remains in command of MacArthur.
The Mote has only one Alderson point leading to it, from Murcheson's Eye, and to reach it the ships must actually enter the outer layers of the red supergiant itself before activating the drive. Supergiant stars are up to 500 million km in diameter, but the outer layers are basically a hot vacuum, which the human ships can survive because of the protective Langston Field.
MacArthur successfully makes contact with the Moties. They have advanced technology (in some areas superior to that of the First Empire, let alone the current Second), but seem friendly and willing to share it. Indeed, they would have been a formidable threat to Humanity, had they not been bottled up in their home system. Although they also possess the Alderson Drive, they consider it a failure—the "Crazy Eddie" Drive which makes ships disappear. When everything works perfectly, the termination of their Alderson Drive tramline inside the supergiant destroys their ships, since they have no knowledge of the protective Field. The Moties deduce that humans use the drive because MacArthur and Lenin appear at the "Crazy Eddie Point", the local origin of their tramline.
Meet Crazy Eddie
The Moties are an old species that has evolved into many specialized subspecies. The first to board MacArthur is an Engineer, a brown fur form with amazing technical abilities but limited speech, who brings along a pair of tiny Motie "Watchmakers" as assistants. Some days later, an official delegation of Motie Mediators arrives, brown and white forms like the dead pilot of the probe ship, who have astounding communication and negotiation skills but very limited ability with tools. A contact party of humans, including Sally Fowler, accompanies them to the surface of Mote Prime. Each Mediator adopts a particular human in this group, becoming his (her in Sally's case) Fyunch(click), studying their subject and learning how to think like him or her, even to the point of exactly reproducing voice and mannerisms.
Back on MacArthur, disaster strikes. The Watchmakers have escaped, and although it was assumed they had died, they have actually been breeding furiously. Despite several attempts to rid MacArthur of the infestation, the Watchmakers, unknown to the human crew, continued quietly redesigning MacArthur and rebuilding it for greater living space. When they are discovered, a losing battle for control of the ship erupts. The crew is eventually forced to abandon ship. The contact party is also recalled without explanation and told to rendezvous directly with Lenin, which destroys MacArthur to prevent the capture of human technology. These events reveal the existence of an improved Langston Field which expands as it absorbs energy, increasing its surface area and dissipating heat faster.
During the evacuation, three MacArthur midshipmen escape from the ship in lifeboats. Unfortunately, these were reconstructed by the descendants of the escaped Watchmakers, and automatic controls force a landing in an unpopulated area of Mote Prime. Exploring unsupervised for the first time, they find a fortified dome-like structure whose doors are locked by a puzzle that requires relatively advanced knowledge of astronomy to solve. It is a perfectly maintained yet completely deserted building that appears to be some type of museum. Every aspect of Motie civilization is preserved in detail, including in-place fragments of several smaller domes which have been violently shattered. The exhibits as a whole provide evidence of a very long and violent history, though the Moties had carefully portrayed themselves to the Expedition members as completely peaceful.
Following this discovery, the midshipmen, Jonathon Whitbread, Horst Staley, and Gavin Potter, are reunited with Whitbread's Fyunch(click) Mediator escort, who reveals the self-destructive character underlying Motie society. Unlike human wars motivated by greed or malice, the Motie civilization is driven to conflict because of biology.
The Moties are sequential hermaphrodites, changing sex over and over again during the course of their lives. However, if a Motie remains female for too long without becoming pregnant, the hormone imbalance will kill her. This characteristic ensures a never-ending population explosion. Attempts at population control through chemicals or infanticide have always failed for the Moties, because those who (secretly or openly) breed uncontrollably eventually swamp those Moties who comply. Once the population pressure rises high enough, massive wars inevitably result.
Humans have encountered eight of the larger Motie subspecies, not including hybrids such as the Mediators: Masters, Engineers, Doctors, Porters, Farmers, Runners, Watchmakers and Meats, but the Masters concealed the existence of another type - the Warriors. Bred specifically for combat, they are innately superior in ability to any human soldier and capable of using any type of weapon. There are no longer any fissionable materials remaining in the Mote system, but asteroid bombardments serve as more than adequate weapons of mass destruction, giving the entire surface of the planet a cratered appearance resembling Mars.
Each war typically ends in the complete destruction of the current civilization on Mote Prime. However, due to their high birth rates, enough Moties always survive to eventually repopulate the planet. A faster rise to civilization leads to a longer period between Collapses, since productivity increases more quickly than the population. The museums exist to accelerate this process after a collapse. They are located in unpopulated areas to avoid their destruction during the inevitable wars. Once the surviving population is advanced enough to solve the puzzle at the door, they have access to a literal catalogue of civilizations, and the weapons to put them into effect. Population is controlled by disease and injury between collapses and reconstructions, but the cycles have thus far never been stopped completely.
The cycles of civilization, war, and collapse have apparently been repeating for hundreds of thousands of years. In some cases, Mote Prime was completely sterilized and then repopulated by those living in hollowed-out asteroids within the system. The current asymmetrical form is probably a mutation resulting from nuclear weaponry prior to a collapse.
Presumably, each civilization arises, unlocks the museums, and discovers that unless they can solve a problem that had plagued countless others, they are doomed. Thus, the Moties have become fatalistically resigned to the never-ending Cycles. Only a mythical character called "Crazy Eddie" believes there is a way to change this, and any Motie who comes to believe a solution is possible is labeled as a "Crazy Eddie" and deemed insane.
The current civilization is organized as a type of "industrial feudalism", where coalitions of related Masters govern the planet. Using the system's Alderson point to colonize other planets is proposed as one (ultimately unworkable) solution to the Cycles, leading to its designation as the "Crazy Eddie Point". Conflict erupts on Mote Prime between two groups of Masters considering this idea.
The smaller group recognizes that expansion to other planets would only postpone the Cycles; nearby planets would soon be filled with Moties, and the Alderson Drive takes time to use — years of travel across systems from tramline to tramline to reach distant planets. Eventually, it would be easier for Moties to challenge humans for their planets, especially since humans cannot compete with Moties, technologically, biologically, or even numerically. Motie victory would be inevitable, but eventually futile as the population continues to expand exponentially. However, the more powerful coalition of Masters sees this temporary solution as more appealing than the impending phase of collapse. Both groups send envoys to the human worlds with instructions to negotiate for the majority position. To conceal the danger to human civilization, the three midshipmen who reached Mote Prime are not permitted to return to Lenin and are killed while resisting capture.
Crazy Eddie's Answer
Lenin returns home, taking with it—in violation of explicit orders to avoid contact at all costs—the three Motie ambassadors. Kutuzov takes this step only after much debate.
The Motie embassy contains two Mediators called Charlie and Jock, and a Keeper (a sterile Master), known as Ivan. The choice of three infertile Moties occurs both to avoid conflict on Mote Prime, since no single family will control the mission, and to continue the deception of the humans. Their mission is to open the galaxy to their ships while concealing the inevitable drive to war of any Motie civilization. The Jump out of Mote System with the Alderson Drive reveals that the more complex nervous systems of the Moties produce a much more intense version of jump shock than humans experience, nearly killing the Moties.
Back on New Caledonia, an Imperial Commission is on the verge of granting colonies to the Moties, not realizing the ultimate danger. Fortunately, MacArthur’s sailing master, the unconventional Kevin Renner, manages to assemble various clues unknowingly gathered during the expedition. In particular, a series of images taken by MacArthur's cameras as it was attacked by the Motie probe ship reveal the well-kept secret of the Motie Warrior caste. This information, combined with the knowledge of unlimited population growth on Mote Prime, forces the commission to decide against permitting the Moties to leave their home system.
Because the Moties learned about the Langston Field, enabling them to establish colonies independently, it seems the only option is to send the Fleet to eradicate the entire Motie species. However, the Mediator Charlie, who represents the minority view from Mote Prime, persuades the Commission to establish a permanent blockade of the system's only worthwhile exit through the Alderson point, allowing the Moties to survive with the seemingly endless Cycles, until such time as the humans can find a cure for their birth rate, something "sane" Moties think impossible.
With Motie assistance in planning the blockade, the Commission accepts this alternative. Since the Moties are helpless for so long after a Jump, the ships of the human fleet can easily destroy any blockade runners with their laser weaponry, especially within the superheated photosphere of Murcheson's Eye. Even the Moties' improvement on the Langston Field — causing it to expand as it absorbs energy so as to faster dissipate heat — is useless in this environment. It simply causes faster heat absorption, resulting in a chain reaction that destroys every ship that makes the attempt to traverse the tramline even before they can return to inform others of the weakness.
Sally Fowler establishes a private foundation seeking a cure for the Moties' unavoidable birth rate. The book ends with the mediators glumly considering the future; Jock predicting that a later generation of humans will destroy the Motie species after the next collapse, but Charlie arguing that they have bought "hundreds of years of time"; and, perhaps, a cure will actually found. In either case, it seems that "Crazy Eddie" was right — the Cycles will finally end. Jock reflects that Charlie has gone "Crazy Eddie", and thinks to herself the Motie definition of Crazy Eddie: "this delusion that all questions have answers, and nothing is beyond the reach of a strong left arm". Jock reflects that Charlie is perhaps right: "Two generations of power would not hate Moties".
- Commander Roderick "Rod" Blaine
- A navy officer member of an aristocratic family, Blaine is promoted to Captain of the Imperial battlecruiser, INSS MacArthur, and given secret orders to take Horace Hussein Bury and Lady Sandra Bright Fowler, to the Imperial capital, Sparta.
- Lady Sandra "Sally" Bright Fowler
- Twenty two years old, Sally is Senator Fowler's niece. After leaving the Imperial University at Sparta with a master's degree in anthropology, she persuaded her uncle that she should travel through the Empire and study primitive cultures first hand. Sally and a classmate, Dorothy, left Sparta with Sally's servants, Adam and Annie. During a stopover at New Chicago, they become caught in a revolution. Dorothy disappears and Sally is imprisoned. Months later, she is rescue by imperial forces and send home aboard the MacArthur.
- His Excellency, Horace Hussein Chamoun al Shamlan Bury
- Magnate, Chairman of the Board of Imperial Autonetics, and influential member of the Imperial Traders Association. Son of a rich trader, educated on Sparta, he is the most rich and powerful man on New Chicago. He tries to take control of New Chicago by starting a revolution, with the help of Jonas Stone, and fails. The Navy suspects Bury was behind this rebellion, but there's not enough evidence to put him in preventive detention. He requests to appeal to the Emperor and is sent on the MacArthur to Sparta to make his appeal.
- Bury's servant, skilled with dagger and poison learned on ten planets. Travels with Bury to Sparta.
- Jack Cargill
- First Lieutenant on board the MacArthur, gets promoted to Exec after the battle of New Chicago.
- Jock Sinclair
- the Chief Engineer on board the MacArthur. Born in New Scotland.
- Jonathon Whitbread
- Midshipman on board the MacArthur. He's the first man to make contact with a living motie.
- Horst Staley
- Midshipman on board the MacArthur.
- Gavin Potter
- Midshipman on board the MacArthur.
Theodore Sturgeon, describing Mote as "one of the most engrossing tales I have encountered in years," reported that "the overall pace of the book [and] the sheer solid story of it" excuse whatever flaws might remain, particularly an unexplained key feature in the imagined alien society. Portsmouth Times reviewer Terry McLaughlin found the novel "a superior tale, told without the pseudo-psychology background that seems to mar many a new science fiction novel."
The original intent of the authors was to write the ultimate First Contact novel. Casting around for a model society, they decided to use the CoDominium future history already written by Pournelle. Various features of this society, particularly the form of government, the existence of Alderson Drive and Langston Field technology, and the limited access to Murcheson's Eye on the other side of the Coalsack, were ideal for their purposes.
Although they invented the Alderson Drive and the Langston Field technology, the authors go to great lengths to keep the rest of the novel within the bounds of known science. The spaceships, in particular, have significant limitations despite their use of highly efficient nuclear propulsion systems based on hydrogen fusion, aided by the ability of the Langston Field to confine and direct hot plasma. They cannot zip from planet to planet in mere hours. In pursuit of the Motie probe, MacArthur accelerates at up to 4 g for five days to match velocities at about 6% of the speed of light, then has to decelerate to reach New Scotland safely, arriving more-or-less out of fuel. Warships like MacArthur tend to get to their destinations as fast as possible using constant acceleration and deceleration, while commercial ships coast on long transfer orbits to conserve fuel. When artificial gravity is needed, the ships are spun to produce centrifugal force.
The Alderson Drive and Langston Field also have their drawbacks. Alderson Jumps are bad for delicate electronics and biological systems, especially nerves. The authors provide an in-universe theory about this "Jump shock", stating that the instantaneous travel across interstellar space requires either no time, or 'transfinite time', in either case, an experience that both humans and computers cannot cope with easily. Electronic equipment is shut down for the duration of a Jump and carefully restarted afterwards, and the crews of Navy ships are quite young, as the young recover faster than their elders. Blaine is only 25 standard years old. His junior officers range down to midshipmen in their mid-teens. The Moties suffer from jump shock more severely than humans, although this difference is never explained, and differences in biology or neurology must be the cause.
Jumps can also only be performed from specific jump points or Alderson Points. These points connect regions of equipotential thermonuclear flux between two stars and can be difficult to find. Not all stars possess "transit points", as the pathway between two stars might be interrupted by another star or stellar object. Other stars possess multiple points, such as Sparta, the Imperial capital, suggested (in a brief passage of the sequel) to have over a dozen jump points to various systems. So, escaping a battle by "jumping to lightspeed" from an arbitrary location is not possible in this universe.
In effect, space as traversed by this type of technology is not the equivalent of a wide-open ocean where ships can choose from countless possible routes, but is similar to a series of discrete narrow seas connected by specific channels which can be easily blockaded by a superior naval force. Without this basic feature, the book's resolution which preserves the Moties' existence could not have occurred.
The Langston Field can absorb energy, but must store it somewhere or re-radiate it away to the outside, otherwise the field will overload and collapse, with all the energy released in a burst, destroying the ship.
In spite of these limitations, the ships are immensely powerful. In addition to the basic armaments of high-power lasers and nuclear missiles, the fusion drives can themselves be used as plasma weapons, especially against unprotected ground targets, and as communications devices. These plasma beams can also be used to burn roadways across the landscape to help in terraforming a world. This technique is mentioned during the MacArthur’s stopover at New Scotland in the New Caledonia system. While the ships seem to have vast reserves of power, all of it is required in order to send a message across interplanetary distances using a maser. The Langston Field is also used within the fusion drive, to contain the reaction sufficiently intense to provide enough energy to power the ship.
The novel mentions some other technologies of the Second Empire of Man. Marines use laser rifles and laser resistant armor. People use pocket computers that resemble the current PDA, which at the time of the novel’s writing was futuristic and fantastic. Despite these sophisticated technologies, the Second Empire is not as advanced as the First Empire and some knowledge, such as the fabrication of ultrastrong materials, has been lost completely. Due to interstellar war, some worlds have even reverted to primitive levels of civilization.
Moties is the human name for the alien species which inhabit the Mote system. Their defining factors are their asymmetrical anatomy, their genetically hardwired reproductive rate, and their instinctive specialization, which makes each caste innately expert at the jobs they are bred for.
Inhabiting the planet Mote Prime and most of the habitable orbiting bodies in Mote System, as well as many artificial orbiting constructs, the Moties' primary distinguishing physical feature is their specialization into castes. Castes mentioned in the chronicles include Mediators, Engineers, Masters, Warriors, Doctors, Runners, Porters, Farmers, Laborers, and Meats. All of these castes are in the entourage of a Master. Feral forms have also been observed. Engineers use the semi-intelligent Watchmaker caste (called "miniatures" or "brownies" by the crew of MacArthur) as mobile tools. Where a human can to a greater or lesser degree carry out similar tasks, a Motie of a given specialization performs a single function at a high level with no training.
Moties alternate between being male and female. A female Motie will revert to male after giving birth, changing back to female after a time. At some point the female must become pregnant again or else the hormone imbalance will kill her. This life cycle naturally forces Moties to become pregnant whenever possible.
Although the original four-armed symmetrical Motie body plan still exists, the typical member of the species inherits an ancient asymmetrical mutation. Most Moties have two right arms for delicate manipulation and a much heavier and stronger left arm. An equivalent left-handed form with two human-scale left arms and a heavy right arm also exists. The gripping hand has only three large fingers, while the other two smaller hands have six each — four fingers and two opposable thumbs. By analogy with humans counting in base-10, supposedly as a result of having ten digits, the Moties count in base-12 numbers to match the combined digits on their right hands. The strong gripping arm also attaches to one side of the head for greater leverage.
Moties have no spine, instead developing three bones which perform a similar function. During first contact with humans, the Moties found the spine to be of great interest.
Masters command the loyalty and obedience of groups of other kinds of Moties, such as Engineers, Warriors, Doctors, etc. However they are not good negotiators. Mediators were created as sterile hybrids of the white Masters and brown Engineers to minimize the number of wars between rival Masters. Mediators will always obey Masters, so they cannot themselves change the direction of Motie civilization, but they have considerable latitude to do their job. There is no monetary economy as such, but Masters barter prestige, material goods, etc. A few sterile Masters (unlikely to attempt a takeover for their children) are designated as Keepers and given control of the Museums where knowledge is carefully stored to aid recovery after collapse. When a civilization is doing well, alliances of Masters can cooperate to achieve great things, but the urge to reproduce always causes the alliances to break down, usually resulting in catastrophic wars.
Motie castes are physically distinct, and differ in coloring, body size and the number and size of the arms. Each of the castes, such as the Masters and Engineers, are so different genetically that they form separate species. While a mating pair composed of two castes may produce offspring together, the offspring are usually sterile, as with the Mediators. Obedience has been bred into the inferior castes, so Engineers will obey Masters and Mediators without question, while Watchmakers take instruction from Engineers. Warriors can only be controlled by Masters, and their Master's Mediators. Even then it takes a certain number of Masters to control an army of Warriors.
From time to time in Motie history attempts have been made to eliminate some of the castes, but these have never succeeded. Some Master has always kept a small breeding stock of the forbidden caste, from which the numbers have been rapidly replenished.
Each of the listed castes come in numerous space-adapted and planet-bred versions, however space and planet castes can interbreed successfully within their caste to produce fertile offspring.
Motie Masters have white fur and are described as decision makers by the Mediators. Some might be ship commanders; others might be warlords who control large territories. Masters have the biological imperative to breed and protect their offspring and siblings; however, sterile individuals, or those who have bred a sufficient number of times, can hold positions for the good of the Race. These positions include that of Keeper. Keepers are responsible for the safeguard of the "museums" that preserve technology so that the survivors of a Collapse can find the tools to rebuild civilization as quickly as possible.
Motie Engineers (also referred to as Browns) have brown fur and are essentially idiot savants. They communicate very little but are geniuses when it comes to anything mechanical or electrical. They can build, modify, or repair almost anything with great speed and competency. Engineers tend to have a supply of Watchmakers on hand, which they regularly cull to keep the numbers down, for instance tossing most out into the vacuum of space, keeping a few back to use and breed.
Watchmakers are not Moties proper, but a related non-sentient, "animal" subspecies. Genetic tests indicate they are likely a degenerate offshoot of the brown Engineer sub-species. They are about a third the size of Moties, have four arms and brown-and-white mottled fur. They are used by Engineers as assistants and share that caste's ability and ingenuity with anything mechanical or electronic. According to the ambassador Moties at the end of The Mote in God's Eye, "Watchmakers given time to adapt can destroy any ship. They contribute greatly to a collapse. If they were not so useful we would have them exterminated."
Mediators are created by breeding Master moties with Engineers. They have mixed white/brown fur and are highly empathetic. They are sterile mules, and because of this their lifespan is shorter than average—about 25 years. Since Moties sexually mature in 10 years the useful life of a Mediator is short.
Mediators learn languages very quickly, which is essential on Mote Prime with its millions of years of population-explosion cycles and competing Masters. They are actually a product of genetic engineering, with their ability to think independently carefully tuned to allow them to negotiate away conflicts while still being loyal to a Master. Mediators can commandeer any kind of transport, so they can travel quickly to defuse hostilities. Extremely fast aircraft are reserved for Mediators alone, as Masters will not trust each other to use them for peaceful purposes.
In order to represent their Masters in negotiations (with some leeway), Mediators are assigned with the intention that they will learn not only the language but also the culture and personality of their host. Mediators have a word - Fyunch(click) - which describes their relationship with a counterpart whom they must learn about and emulate in every way. Mediators emulate the sound of the voice and the mannerisms of their counterpart.
Warriors are controlled by Masters and far surpass any human warriors or soldiers. They can operate and maintain any weapon, fire with deadly accuracy, throw objects at high speed, and fight hand-to-hand using built-in weapons. These include fangs, hard edges and horny points on the limbs and extremities, and a vestigial second left arm adapted as a bone dagger. Warriors have enhanced senses, especially vision, enabling them to resolve detail at a distance impossible for a human. They are described as "standing like coiled springs". Their marksmanship is described as "inhumanly accurate": one of the midshipmen is told by his fyunch(click) that "...if you've exposed an eye, any Warrior could have shot it out."
During an earlier cycle of societal collapse, a subpopulation of Warriors also degenerated into a wild miniature form which appears in the first novel as a zoo animal and in the second novel as a War Rat, a spaceborne version with Watchmaker abilities living in hive-like space colonies. It is implied that War Rats and Watchmakers can interbreed forming a hybrid sterile mule variant that is voracious and skilled at building miniature weapons.
The last of the truly sentient Motie classes, the Doctors are to physiology what Engineers are to electronics. They have a great store of instinctive physiological knowledge, can manipulate the smallest objects, and can build, or cause to be built, any necessary medical devices. Their fur is a rust-red color. While Doctors do not fight, there is a Doctor-Warrior hybrid that fills the role of the field medic. A doctor-master hybrid was bred to serve as a medic for injured humans.
Runners are employed carrying messages and are much taller than other Moties, but the Runner is mostly leg. The Gripping Hand also describes a variety of Runner whose multicolored layers of erectile hairs allow it to camouflage itself while delivering messages.
These semi-sentient Moties do menial jobs, carrying heavy objects. Much taller than the average Moties the Porter has symmetrical strong arms. A feral version of the porter, with large claws on its hands, was seen in the zoo.
Farmer Moties tend crops, which grow on whatever land is not covered by buildings or roads. They ignore anything except plants and anything that seems to threaten the plants, being essentially agricultural relatives of the Engineers. Their hands and feet are adapted for digging and tamping down soil. They can operate machinery such as tractors.
A non-sentient Motie caste bred as a food supply, they were kept in museums and zoos as a relic of an earlier time, and in case they become necessary again in another crisis cycle.
Besides the Mediators, several other hybrid types were mentioned in the books. The doctor and warrior castes were crossed for a field medic. The engineer and warrior became an engineer with combat capabilities. A master and doctor cross was for when more thought was needed in addition to the doctor caste's instinctual medical ability (this was thought to be useful when the Moties needed to treat an injured human.) It is unknown whether these crosses are mules or fertile. The implication is that all crosses are sterile, else they would form a separate breeding caste as the others do.
After thousands of Cycles, the Motie system has depleted its natural reserves of important materials. When humans arrive in the system, consumables such as fossil fuels and radioactives had long since been exhausted. As the Moties are said to be using all of the easily-accessible metal in the system, making something new invariably involves dismantling something else, rendering metal quite valuable. Where human technology relies on specialized devices, often with multi-redundant backups, Moties rely on the technological idiot savant Engineers, assisted by the semi-intelligent miniature Watchmakers, to constantly build and rebuild devices to order, recycling existing parts that are not needed at the moment. For instance, rather than have a programmable autopilot in a ship, an Engineer would build one to send a ship to a new location, using its ever-present kit of tools and advanced materials. Moties do not use computers as such, relying on the instincts of their specialized castes for jobs such as space navigation. On the ground, Engineers drive at breakneck speed on crowded roads without fear of collision, and upon reaching destination, will dismantle their cars so they won’t take too much parking space.
Another feature of Motie technology is that, to save material and weight, devices perform multiple functions simultaneously, such as being both structural components and sensors. However, having adapted to space, the off-planet Moties are at home in zero gravity and do not have to spin their ships. This has important consequences for the structure of their ships, which are always in flux in any case.
In the first book, one of the complaints of the Motie ambassadors was that they had no Engineer with them to customize their cabin and beds, and to build them devices to help them live more comfortably. This decision was made by their Masters so as to not give away the secrets of Motie biology, especially the reproductive compulsion.
This is a translation of the term the Moties use for any exercise in futility, or any attempt to do, or even think about doing, anything to try to stop the inevitable collapse of their current civilization which is war driven by overpopulation. Their version of the Alderson Drive was called the Crazy Eddie Drive. The spaceship sent to New Caledonia was called the Crazy Eddie Probe, particularly since the effort needed to send it on its way with huge lasers caused a collapse all by itself. The Mediator assigned to Rod Blaine goes Crazy Eddie, infected by Blaine's idealism. Going Crazy Eddie is an occupational hazard for these Mediators, who cannot deal with humans' ability to switch between different roles in their society, or who succumb to the optimism inherent to human nature.
Awards and nominations
- Nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1975.
- Nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1975.
- Nominated for the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 1975.
- Portions of the book are available online for free (or the entirety, for pay) through Baen's WebScription service including the prologue which was cut from the original publication.
- The Mote in God's Eye title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- The Mote in God's Eye at Worlds Without End
- Portions of the sequel Outies are available for free download from Amazon.com.