Book reviews / Science Fiction

Book review: The Mote in God’s Eye

So, when I read Dune I realised that I hated the idea of some vast space empire built on heredity. I mean, Star Wars has an empire but we know it was because of Senator Palpatine.

This book’s central government is a vast space empire, with a royal imperial family, that has other aristocrats afforded superior status and all that stuff. Like some idealised version of the Russian Empire or something. Also, everyone else seems cool with it (who are characters in the story and not just people on other planets). It’s all a bit dumb.

But that’s not the worst bit. That’s the fact that it’s also a massive patriarchy. The one female character (who isn’t an alien) does something audacious…she wants to have a career and not get married right away. GASP. She’s generally quite cool, headstrong, opinionated and intelligent (and also survives a prison camp). However, she’s basically married away (luckily to the person she wants to marry) and while she is a bit indignant about this, this is what her husband to be says about the entire situation:

Too right. Then New Scotland, where you were practically the highest rank around. You enjoyed that, didn’t you? The few people above you weren’t interested in making you do anything. And on to Mote Prime, doing exactly what you wanted to do in life. You were out from under for a long time. Now you’re back in the box. P. 441.

There’s also the delightful exchange between Sally and her alien counterpart talking about birth control. This book was written in 1974. 13 years after the pill was legalised. Yet, Sallys says this:

“But a proper woman doesn’t use them [birth control]. P. 247.

Omg. Fuck off patriarchy. Utter failure when it comes to the test.

Sally, the main character, often rails against the injustice and discrimination against women in the Empire, but at the same time she’s an aristocrat so goes along with it. It kinds of makes the rebellious pose a bit…hollow. Oh, she also happens to be one of the richest people in the Empire, so she’s allowed to do all this stuff, whereas everyone else can just go get fucked.

There were other things that were super grating (you know, aside from the tacit approval of a space-wide patriarchy in over 200 planets.) You know how when angry, you’d say someting like “screw that!” In this charming book, the phrase is instead “rape that!” What the fuck is that about! It was so jarring and it happens several times throughough the book. So not needed, so unbelievably insensitive and stupid.

Also, the central conceit of the booked bothered me to no end. The general plot is that an alien probe arrives in the star system, the navy is sent out to investigate it, they meet the aliens and learn about each other. The aliens are in another star system and don’t have the technology to move out of it but humanity does.

However, what becomes apparent about 3/4s through, is that the Moties (what the aliens are called) breed at incredible rates and have periodic collapses in their civilisation because of over population. Yet, they’re incredibly advanced. They can create technological marvels and it’s all super amazing. Yet, birth control is a bit too hard. Instead, the entire civilisation is just going to collapse, rebuild, collapse, rebuild, collapse rebuild…fuck off.

Basically, this book was terrible. Really terrible. It feels like it’s basically going “hey look, patriarchy and institutionalised priviledge is the best way to run society.” And it’s hard to get away from when it’s emphasised all the time. Not only that, it’s just terrible from a story writing point of view. EVERYONE IS AN IDIOT. The entire ship full of marines were all negligent in their duties which leads to them having to BLOW UP THEIR BATTLECRUISER. And everyone’s so trusting and ugggghhh. Everyone’s is just an idiot and it takes far too many (probably 200 pages) for them to finally stop being idiots.

I give this a 0/5 stars. It’s terrible! Down with the patriarchy! Down with bad story telling! Down with 550 pages of bad story writing and patriarchy!

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