Ringworld - Larry Niven (1970)
I picked this up in a charity shop just before Christmas having heard of it before but didn't really know what it was about. The basic premise is pretty wicked; a group of four explorers travel to Ringworld, an artificial world in the shape of a ring (akin to a Dyson sphere) orbiting a sun. Crash landing upon its surface, the four must find their way free of this world, exploring it as they do so.
The whole way through reading this novel, I was reminded of Bob Shaw's Orbitsville (1975) a similar story in which mankind discovers a Dyson sphere. As such I couldn't help comparing the two throughout and I've got to say that I found Orbitsville far more entertaining, was better written and imbued me with a greater sense of awe.
Niven's novel is hard science-fiction and as such frequently explains precisely how things work. Now I have nothing against elaborately conceived worlds that don't dumb down the science to appeal to a wider audience, but in Ringworld I found it pretty intrusive. Most of it was fairly hard to follow for my brain which has very little understanding of science. It also slowed the pace more often than not and I would have been far happier to simply accept that a house could float than have characters hypothesise how and why before finally agreeing upon a theory.
Of the four main characters, Louis and Speaker, were likeable but Nessus and Teela were both pretty annoying. There isn't a lot else to say other than I did actually enjoy it. I just found that the points of wonder were often too far apart and that I've read far better examples of the genre. If you like big adventure, discovery sci-fi and you come across this, give it a read, but I'd recommend Orbitsville and Gateway ahead of it.