So I wasn't terribly disappointed by The Gripping Hand, since I didn't feel that it had that much to life up to.
It doesn't have the whole thrill of the first-contact story in Mote, true. And it takes a long time to get to the Motie segments anyway. But I liked the character development of Horace Bury and Kevin Renner, among others. The only characters I remembered from Mote were ones I didn't like, like Sally Blaine... I remembered a fair few more from this one.
I think one of the "problems" is that the Motie problem left over from the last book was something that needed to be tied up, but by itself it wasn't meaty enough for an entire book, without some "padding" that would concentrate on other matters--in this case, Horace Bury trying to convince anyone else that the Moties are still a threat.
I read it without being affected by the hype that surrounded it...and I found it quite readable. If you're expecting the next SF classic, this wasn't it, but every book can't be a classic...
%A Niven, Larry
%A Pournelle, Jerry
%T The Gripping Hand
%C New York
%D Copyright 1993
%G ISBN 0-671-79574-0
%P 412 pp.
%V Book 2
%O Paperback, US$5.99, Can$7.50
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