The Gripping Hand

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The Second Empire of Man barely survived its first contact with the biologically specialized race that human’s dubbed Moties (THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE), and no one involved was anxious to repeat the experience. Fortunately, a single Alderson point connected the two systems, and a portion of the Imperial Fleet was assigned to destroy any Motie vessel which survived the passage.

The universe, however, is not a static environment, and when a new transit point opens the Empire is faced with another challenge to its very existence, inasmuch as humanity and Moties cannot coexist. The Moties are divided into distinct biological forms, each supremely adapted to serve a different function in a manner that human’s can’t match. Moreover, as a group they are incapable of restricting their reproductive functions. It’s not that theyare a race of superior beings bent on conquest and domination, aswere the genetically engineered Saurons; rather, the Moties must, once their resources prove insufficient to deal with the increasing population density, expand or die. Fortunately, in the years since the first disastrous contact, the Empire of Man has developed what may prove to be a method whereby the Moties can regulate their reproduction. The question is, can Humanity convince the Moties that salvation is at had before they spread like lemmings throughout the Empire.

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle demonstrate once again that each deserves the literary honors heaped upon them—they know exactly when to offer detail and when to stimulate the reader’s imagination. THE GRIPPING HAND is a worthy successor to THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE, but readers should not attempt the sequel without reference to the earlier work.

The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Mote in God’s Eye and The Gripping Hand concern the conflicts attending humanity as it expands its reach into the galaxy. Primary among these conflicts is the encounter with an alien species from a star system called the Mote. This species differs from humans, particularly in its highly stratified social organization, which has evolved out of biological stratification, creating what are effectively subspecies. Each subspecies has its own peculiar social task: Warriors, Engineers, Mediators, Masters, and many others adapted for various specific tasks. This makes the Moties, as they are called, more similar to the social insects than to humans, who can perform a wide variety of tasks. The Moties’ efficiency is increased by specialization, making them formidable opponents both in war and in peaceable endeavors.

The Moties’ alarming rate of population increase causes a cycle of boom and bust on the Motie planet—civilization is followed by chaos in cycles of a few hundred years. The hope of certain Moties is to expand beyond their home planet into the galaxy and thereby find “living room” where the species can expand boundlessly. This, however, is what other Moties term a “Crazy Eddie” solution. They point out that the galaxy is not boundless and that eventually, once filled with Moties, it will be subject to the same cycle.

This fact establishes the basis for conflict between humans and Moties. The first human contact with Moties generates considerable enthusiasm,...

(The entire section is 621 words.)