Larry Niven Wiki
For the creators of the Ringworld, see Pak.

Known Space
Books RingworldThe Ringworld EngineersThe Ringworld ThroneRingworld's ChildrenFleet of WorldsJuggler of WorldsDestroyer of WorldsBetrayer of WorldsFate of Worlds
POV Characters Louis WuNessusTeela BrownBeowulf ShaefferSpeaker-to-AnimalsGil Hamilton
Locations EarthMarsVenusSol Asteroid BeltHomeWe Made ItJinxDownPlateauSerpent SwarmWunderlandRingworld

The Ringworld Engineers is a Hugo and Locus award-nominated 1979 science fiction novel by Larry Niven, set in his Known Space universe and considered a classic of science fiction literature. It is the first of the sequels to the Hugo and Nebula award-winning novel Ringworld, and has ties into numerous other books set in Known Space.

Plot summary[]

The plot of the novel centres on the inherent instability of the Ringworld. The recently deposed Hindmost, leader of the Puppeteers, abducts Louis Wu (who has become a wirehead, addicted to the use of a tasp) and the kzinti Chmeee (previously known as Speaker-to-Animals). Both were part of the first expedition. The Hindmost wants Ringworld technology that will give him the leverage he needs to become leader again.

Louis and Chmeee set out in the Hot Needle of Inquiry looking for where the builders of the Ringworld may have put a control or repair system. Along the way they meet members of several hominid species that have evolved on the Ringworld. They also learn more about the "maps" of various known space worlds that are located in one of the Ringworld's great oceans. These full-size maps include, among others, Kzin, Earth, and Mars.

It is on, or rather in, the Map of Mars that the party finds the Ringworld Control Room, located in a vast maze of rooms contained in the hollow space inside the map. In order to re-create the rarefied atmosphere on Mars, the Map of Mars was built to an altitude 20 miles (32 km) above the main Ringworld surface, this has the effect of pushing the map most of the way out of Ringworld's atmosphere and also creates a large (1,120,000,000-cubic-mile (4.7×109 km3)) cavity.

As well as a large variety of space ships, and the equipment you might need if you had to plug a meteor sized hole in the Ringworld floor, the Control Room contains living space for thousands of Pak Protectors, and space to grow enough Tree-of-Life plants to support this many Protectors. Tree-of-Life is dangerous to humans older than middle age - which certainly describes Louis at well over 200. He nearly succumbs to the temptation to eat the fruit and only resists because he is used to dealing with the longings for the tasp.

Other rooms in the cavity support such features as the Meteor Defense System, which uses the superconductor grid embedded in the scrith foundation material to manipulate the magnetic field of the Ringworld's sun to create a solar flare; it uses this to generate a powerful gas laser, which is capable of destroying everything in its path. (The first expedition to the Ringworld, detailed in the first novel, crashed into it after being hit by this laser.)

The key to saving the Ringworld lies with the attitude control jets, some of which have been removed by Ringworld inhabitants who don't understand their function. Louis realises that he is being led to a solution that an active Pak Protector already understands but isn't able to implement or even tell Louis about. Protectors are unable to harm their offspring and the solution involves improving the efficiency of the attitude control jets by fueling them with the Meteor Defense System. To do that they must direct an enormous solar flare in the direction of the attitude control jets, killing billions of Ringworld inhabitants with the intense radiation.

In the course of finding the control room and saving the Ringworld, the party learns what became of Teela Brown, who had chosen to stay behind after the first expedition twenty years earlier.

Teela is the Pak Protector who is trying to lead Louis towards the solution without actually telling him, and thereby causing billions of deaths.