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''The Mote in God's Eye'', by Creator/LarryNiven and Creator/JerryPournelle, is a science fiction novel that was first published in 1974. The story is set in the distant future of Pournelle's ''Literature/{{CoDominium}}'' universe, and charts the FirstContact between humankind and an alien species. The title of the novel is a wordplay on Luke 6:41-42 and Matthew 7:3-5. ''The Mote in God's Eye'' was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards in 1975.

''The Mote in God's Eye'' might be one of the more realistic depictions of a first-contact story. The discovery of alien life is sudden and unexpected, and most of the book deals with the diplomatic/military/espionage group that is sent by the humans to meet the new species. A great deal of tension arises between the humans and "Moties" who have a very dim understanding of each other at first, and between the xenophiliac scientists and the xenophobic military personnel with the human expedition.

In essence, the story is one long, long conflict in which the humans are trying to decide whether the discovery of other life in the universe is a cause for fear or a cause for celebration.

A sequel, entitled ''The Gripping Hand'' (a.k.a. ''The Moat Around Murcheson's Eye'' in the UK, Australia etc.), was published in 1993. A third novel, ''Outies'' (written by Jerry Pournelle's daughter, Dr. Jennifer Pournelle) was published in 2010 and is set during and slightly after the events of ''The Gripping Hand''.

!!Tropes that appear in this work include:

* AbsentmindedProfessor: Dr. Buckman in ''The Mote in God's Eye'' and ''The Gripping Hand''. Not a terribly important character, but an excellent example -- he spends his life living in his own little bubble, blissfully ignorant and uncaring of the goings-on unrelated to his passion of astrophysics.
* AlternativeNumberSystem: The Moties have a total of 12 digits on their right hands and use base 12.
* AmbiguousGender: Asach Quinn from "Outies"; this is lampshaded at a desert settlement. Moties see Quinn as "complete", unlike one-sexed humans.
* ArcWords:
** "Come, I will conceal nothing from you". Renner (and Renner's fyunch(click!)) make a point of complete candor... even though, perhaps because it puts other humans off-balance.
** "I can't read your mind." Bury's fyunch(click!), continual trying to reassure him.. And achieving just the opposite.
* AristocratsAreEvil:
** Subverted in ''Mote'', in which [[TheGoodCaptain Captain Blaine]] is a nobleman (heir-apparent to a Marquis), and is a decent guy. WordOfGod is that ''Mote'' is set in a time when the Empire is in a dynamic, expansionist phase, with the aristocrats generally more concerned with duties than privileges. By the time of ''Hand'', there are references that may indicate that the reverse is gradually becoming true, and the Empire is starting to exhibit signs of decadence (at least on the capital world). Blaine himself is still a decent guy, though.
** The Motie Masters, alternately, seem almost entirely motivated by self-interest.
* BadassArmy: The Sauron Supermen and Motie Warrior class.
* BizarreAlienBiology: Moties have an asymmetrical anatomy, and their reproductive system differs greatly from most Terran species. [[spoiler: All Moties of all types are born male. After a while, they change genders and become female (except the Keepers). If they don't get pregnant and give birth, they die. If they do get pregnant and give birth, they become male again. This cycle repeats - no one's quite sure how old a Motie can get if they keep with the cycle.]]
* BizarreAlienPsychology: {{Inverted|Trope}}. Motie mediators assigned to human emissaries go mad trying to comprehend how they act. In one example involving a main character, the Mediator assigned to Captain Blaine goes mad, unable to comprehend the chain of command, and how one being both gave and responded to orders.
* BoardingPod: After the Imperial battlecruiser ''[=MacArthur=]'' is taken over by Motie miniatures, the battleship ''Lenin's'' cutter is used to get a boarding party onto the ''[=MacArthur=]'' by ramming through its Langston Field and into the ship.
* TheCaptain: Blaine in ''The Mote in God's Eye'', Renner in ''The Gripping Hand''.
* CasualInterstellarTravel: Due to the Alderson Drive, it only takes the blink of an eye to travel between star systems. However, the trip is only possible along certain "[[HyperspaceLanes tramways]]" ending near a star, and ships spend days or weeks traveling interplanetary distances getting from one endpoint to the other, or to the target planet.
* ColonyDrop: The Moties got this one covered by virtue of there being no fissionables left in their star system. Ancient excessive use of asteroids wiped out the species on the planet, which required recolonization. All the remaining asteroids and comets were moved into circular orbits to prevent further use as bombardment tools, a feat requiring staggering levels of fuel.
* CorruptCorporateExecutive, subverted: Horace Bury funds a war in ''The Mote In God's Eye''. But in ''The Gripping Hand'' it's [[RetCon retconned]] that he was only doing so because he wanted his planet to have religious freedom. He still has shades of being a greedy bastard, however, and even in ''Mote'' he's shown eventually developing goals aside from his own personal profit and power.
* CowTools: The toolroom "IQ" test used on the Motie ambassador ship, to determine the technical abilities of the humans they were visiting.
** Some of the humans think it's an IQ test, but Motie culture is ''different''. Their initial interpretation of the results is that the engineer, who does pretty well on the tool test, is an idiot savant and not worth communicating with, since in their culture the Mediators (who do all the talking) are completely uninterested in such things. All the humans who "failed" the test get a dedicated fyunch(click) (think personal translator); the engineer doesn't get one until after the Moties learn enough English to find out humans don't specialize to the same extent, and it later develops that the engineer's fyunch(click) has been slowly going insane (by Motie standards) since the engineer keeps talking to her about ''technical'' things.
* DataPad: The humans have PDA-like pocket computers.
* DecadeDissonance: ''The Mote in God's Eye'' features the INSS ''Lenin'', a massive battleship with a reputation of being a nigh-invincible mobile DepopulationBomb. In the sequel, ''The Gripping Hand,'' 25 years later, the main character tools around in an aircraft described as if it was found and restored from the Alaskan bush.
* DepopulationBomb: Admiral Kutuzov has a certain reputation as a world-killer, given his past involvement in quelling a budding rebellion in a rather terminal manner for the local populace. It's not as if he's a murderer who enjoys the work, however. It's simply understood that since he's done it before, if the Empire orders him to wipe out the Motie planet, he WILL.
* EmbarrassingFirstName: Horace Bury is not pleased with his first name, and devoted time, trouble and money to locating the Navy officer who suggested it to his father. Suffice it to say that the Navy officer does not enjoy the last laugh.
* EnemyMine: At the end of the first book, it is clear that human unity is greatly aided by the danger from the Moties.
* ExplosiveBreeder: [[spoiler:Every species of Motie - except the Mediators and Keepers (Mediators are sterile physically-female mules; Keepers are sterilized males)]]. It's at one point explicitly stated that the only method of contraception available for them is infanticide.
* FantasticRacism: Horace Bury after a traumatizing encounter with the Moties caused him to very quickly go from thinking the Moties represented a lucrative commercial venture to being a threat to the entire human race that must be exterminated, due to the involvement of the moties in [[spoiler:the destruction of the INSS ''[=MacArthur=]'']], and his realizing their explosive population growth potential once outside the resource restrictions of their home system.
* FantasticReligiousWeirdness: One of the questions that Chaplain Hardy concerns himself with is whether or not Moties have souls and can thus be opened to missionary activity.
* FasterThanLightTravel: Alderson Drive, which operates more like a [[OurWormholesAreDifferent wormhole]] system, but not quite.
* ForScience: The apparent motivation of some of the more... enthusiastic... researchers aboard the ''[=MacArthur=]''.
* GadgeteerGenius: The Engineer ("Brown") caste of Moties, and also the miniature, non-sentient "Watchmakers", who can understand, re-engineer, and optimize completely alien technologies in minutes.
* GeneralRipper: Admiral Lavrenti "The Butcher" Kutuzov, you ''do not'' want to be on a rebellious colony when he is around. [[spoiler: Subverted in that he is right, right, ''right!'' in every possible way,]] at least according to his supporters.
* HeadsOrTails: Twice:
** While the midshipmen are trying not to be captured, Horst Staley proposes flipping a coin when deciding what to do so his Mediator Fyunch(click) can't predict his decisions.
** When the human expedition prepares to leave the Mote system, the Moties send them a gift ship full of alien technology. The human leadership decides to randomly cut up the technology into pieces in case the Moties designed any of it for nefarious purposes. While Lady Sally is directing the procedure she flips a coin to decide how many times to cut -- because of the fear that the Moties could have been smart enough to predict how the humans would try to destroy the devices.
* HeelFaceTurn: There is no doubt that Horace Bury's priorities switch from What Benefits Bury Most to What Benefits Humanity Most, i.e. ensuring that [[spoiler:the Moties NEVER escape quarantine.]]
* HiredGuns: Motie armies are run by Masters who typically take up whatever cause seems most profitable.
* HumansAreInsane: To the Moties, we are all "Crazy Eddie" - we refuse to accept that some problems just don't have solutions, and persist in trying to TakeAThirdOption.
* HumansAreSpecial: Charlie predicts humanity will take over Motie civilization after the next collapse and the Keeper more or less confirms it.
* HumansThroughAlienEyes: We are as strange to the Moties as they are to us, perhaps more so. They don't regard humanity with fear, exactly, but they are confused by our biology and culture. Motie diplomats are trained to think exactly like the person they are negotiating with. Diplomats who think too much like humans are regarded as having gone [[HumansAreInsane insane]].
* HyperspaceLanes: Alderson points. The one in the Mote leads into a red supergiant that serves as a bottleneck to Motie expansion [[spoiler:until a new Alderson path is opened in ''Hand'', by the ignition of a new star]].
* IResembleThatRemark: The [[ShoutOut Scottish]] [[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries engineer]], when the first officer complains about his accent.
--> '''Jack Cargill:''' Will you stop talking like that? You talk just like everyone else when you get angry!\\
'''Jock Sinclair:''' [[OohMeAccentsSlipping THAT'S A DAMNED LIE!]]
* ImmortalProcreationClause: Inverted. [[spoiler: If the Moties don't get pregnant ''and give birth'', they die young, and horribly.]]
* LaResistance: In ''The Gripping Hand'', the "Medina Traders" are effectively the LaResistance against the much larger "Khanate". Averted with the Mormon colony in the start of the book, who are quite concerned with how the Empire handles traitors. They go to ridiculous lengths to keep from appearing as adversaries to the Empire.
* LivingMuseumExhibit: The Moties let some humans visit their museum. Not only have they replicated entire habitats in the museum, but the museum also contains non-sapient Moties. It's hinted at as to what their purpose is, [[spoiler:as they are called Meats]].
* MarketBasedTitle: "The Gripping Hand" is titled ''The Moat Around Murcheson's Eye'' in the United Kingdom and some other countries.
* MateOrDie: the Moties (technically, theirs is "get pregnant or die")
* MobileSuitHuman: Some Watchmaker Moties try to pull this off with a spacesuit and a severed head. Bury spots them [[InSpaceEveryoneCanSeeYourFace through the faceplate]] and has [[NightmareFuel nightmares for decades]] as a result.
* OnlySmartPeopleMayPass: The "museums" on Mote Prime have complicated locks requiring you to solve scientific puzzles to gain entry, to ensure that barbarians won't get in before they can comprehend the contents.
* PatronSaint: St. Barbara, patron of those in dangerous occupations. One Navy ship has a statue of her with fans to ensure that the candles will continue to burn in free fall.
* PromotionNotPunishment: Commander Blaine gets one of these at the beginning of the book for leading his [[SpaceMarine marines]] in a coup de main against a rebellious planet's [[DeflectorShields shield generator]]. If he had failed the admiral would have had no choice other than orbital bombardment, killing most of the population and dooming what remained to a slow death by starvation. In the end, Blaine's action was successful, so he was promoted and given command of a battlecruiser
* RagnarokProofing: Later additions to the structure of the Motie museums are quite durable. [[spoiler: They have to be, as the purposes of the museums is to preserve technology after the all-too-common falls of civilization in the Mote system, in the hopes that getting a head start on rebuilding civilization.]] The subway leading out of one museum is said [[spoiler:by a motie protesting its being damaged]] to be thousands of years old.
* SolarSail: The Empire first learns of the Moties from a solar sail vessel coming from their star.
* SpareToTheThrone: Commander Roderick Blaine was the second oldest son in a noble family, who wanted nothing more than a Navy career and the chance to become Grand Admiral someday. His older brother George was in line to inherit the estates and title when their father retired, but George was killed in battle, leaving Rod as the heir. He is also related to the Imperial family, not too far down the line of succession.
* SpeciesLoyalty: Humans join the defense against the Moties for this.
* StarfishAliens: The Moties are a species that has deliberately evolved into multiple castes, all of which look odd by Earth standards, mostly because they're asymmetrical. Moties are described as looking something like a bipedal dog with two small, limber arms on one side and one strong, thick arm on the other.
* SternChase: The second half of ''The Gripping Hand'' consists of a series of trips in various directions by the protagonists, to escape being killed or to buy time until the cavalry can arrive.
--> "If someone tells me that 'a stern chase is a long chase' one more time." Joyce said, "I'll scream."
* TakeAThirdOption:
** Humans ''always'' look for the Third Option - to the point where the fatalistic Moties, condemned by their biology to two bad choices, consider us all insane for not understanding and accepting what is and must always be. Their term for humans is "Crazy Eddie", after a character in their folklore who's all about the (often absurd) Third Option.
** At the end of the first book: The Motie mediators serving as ambassadors to the Empire manage to come up with a third option in spite of their race's inherent fatalism. [[spoiler:Unable to talk humanity into letting them out of their system and facing the annihilation of their race, they manage to come up with a third option: humanity blockades the Mote.]]
** Also in the first book, one Mediator shocks the others by [[spoiler:killing her Fyuck(click)]]. It is clear to the reader, however, that she realized that he faced a SadisticChoice, and identified him with so thoroughly that she shared the dilemma and took this as the third option [[spoiler: between suicide and risking the human race by capture]].
* WeWillUseManualLaborInTheFuture:
** The Runner, Farmer and Engineer castes on Mote Prime. Engineers in particular are pretty much treated like portable autopilots. [[JustifiedTrope Justified]] in that the Moties bomb themselves back to the Stone Age every five generations or so, are aware of the fact, and keep the old methods around as preparation for the next time. Their high breeding rates further discourage automation, as a job done by a machine is one not done by a Motie.
** Also seen in the Imperial Space Navy, where WordOfGod is that warships have large crews that are primarily there for damage control in combat. When not in a battle, most of what the ratings do on duty is make-work that could be done automatically, but isn't so that they don't get bored. By contrast, a passage in the short story ''Reflex'' (which originally was an early chapter of ''Mote'' that was cut for length reasons) indicates that civilian ships make widespread use of automation and have much smaller crews, something supported by the scenes aboard the "yacht" / auxiliary warship ''Sinbad'' in ''Hand''.
* WithDueRespect: The ''correct'' way to contradict a VIP is to say "That turns out not to be the case." Kevin Renner acknowledges the cleverness of what he ''should'' have done the first time it comes up, then uses it the second time to keep from causing an incident.