For those who DO have an ad blocker, as I do, I do not wish that you should miss the chance to see the cover of (clickable link follows =>) MAN-KZIN WARS XV, so here it is:
Seems like decades, but it's only been six years since the last Man-Kzin Wars collection was released. SIX LONG, MISERABLE, STARVING YEARS!!!!! Maybe that's a good thing; they say "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", but that's only the pathetic solace sought by one who has been denied access to the object of affections.
And there is SO much that we can be affectionate about when it comes to the war cats. To the best of my knowledge, the Long Peace, those 300 years in which humanity was lobotomized out of studying war, produced exactly ONE story: "Safe At Any Speed." Those who are SMOFs will correct me on this matter (or rather, they would if they read my blog) in the event that I'm wrong; I'm just basing that statement by Larry Niven that it's the only story from that time that he wrote, because: it's so BORING.
I wish to make this point perfectly clear: I would VASTLY prefer living during the Long Peace. I rather doubt that I would ever vote in a government that promised to socially engineer us to that point, especially since there are several billion people who don't share citizenship with me, and thus would not be subjects of that engineering, but still: if I were PERFECTLY assured (and there's the problem) of living in peace with all, I would be willing to forfeit some irascibility. I've got grandchildren, you see, and I'd like for them to be able to live as the first generation of my family who didn't HAVE to go to war. I am proud of the four generations of veterans! But war is not what I would choose for my life.
It IS what I choose for my escapist reading, however. I do not wish to read stories of interesting conversations all the time, as amusing as I find "The Importance of Being Earnest." It's a pleasant diversion, but I rather need the smell of horse sweat, the clack of the Winchester as I jack another round in the chamber, the 'voom-voom" of the light saber.
So, HOORAY for Man-Kzin XV! These Are the
droids stories we were looking for! Even if we DID have to wait six years!
And now, to the stories:
"Sales Pitch," by Hal Colebatch, one of the strong veterans of the series. I suspect he knows more about this aspect of Known Space than anyone else. Whether everything he knows is TRUE remains to be seen, but he tells an excellent story. In this one, he provides deep, deep, deep background to the conflict between Man and Kzin, giving us another reason to despise those who pull the strings.
"Singer of Truth," by Martin L Shoemaker, another long-time writer. This tale is set relatively early in the Wars, before much of the self-centered nastiness of the human race has been stripped away by the desperate need to unite for survival. A human psycho-therapist risks his life and well-being in order to make contact with the Kzinti, especially those who don't wish to make contact with him. His biggest struggles come from his own people, who fight over their own privileges as if that were the biggest deal in the world.
"The Third Kzin," by Jason Fregeau. WHO IN THE HECK IS JASON FREGEAU??? When I first heard about this volume, I went looking, and I could find NOTHING he had written. And yet, he does one of the most elaborate combinations of classic films and Man-Kzin conflicts I have read.I love this particular method, although I am partial to the Humphrey Bogart movies. This one, though, is just wonderfully satisfying, combining the best elements of the movie (including the zither) with the story of Wunderland after the war. I found "The Third Man" on a streaming service, and watched it in parallel with reading the story. I think that served to enhance my experience; YMMV. But, don't miss this one, and I hope we get more Jason Fregeau in ANY lit form.
"Excitement," by Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox." Both authors are veterans of this world, and it shows. I love the way in which they take pre-existing characters, ask 'What WOULD happen?' and then proceed to answer the question. In this case, it's the WunderKzin Vaermar-Ritt, who may yet solve the problem of a universe with both war cats and monkeys.
"Justice," by Jessica Q. Fox. As mentioned above, Fox is a MK veteran, and in this particular selection,l she appears to show some significant history with another thread that I don't recognize. Her characters seem to me to be too well developed to be created just for this story. THe Kzsin morality is their primary influence on the plot, which involves probably the nastiest villain I have seen in Known Space.
"Saga," by Brendan duBois. I'm having difficulties remembering if I have duBois' name associated with the MK universe, and the fact that I have to pick up my daughter for a cheerleader function in 29 minutes prevents me from taking advantage of my usual google-fu. Regardless, the snapshot of a particular point in Kzin development rings just as true as anything could. There have been numerous stories about the change from sentient to non-sentient females, but this strikes EXACTLY at the cusp. Even better than that, it inserts Kzin into one of the oldest myths humans have.
"Scrith," by Brad R. Torgersen. This is my personal favorite in the book, for at least three reasons. In the first place, Torgerson, a fellow POG, has written magnificently of the way in which a POG (Person Other than Grunt) can be the source of the human race being saved from a novel type BEM. Secondly, I loved Ringworld, as well as the other novels in the series, and this goes very far in answering some of the itch from "but what about" questions that linger after Niven closed the last book. Finally, it does a Wonderful job of covering new territory, while reading EXACTLY like Niven. It is UTTERLY faithful to the entire series. If you read Jurassic Park II, the you know that one of the serious questions was "How did they get this dino-clone thing right straight off the bat?" Well, same question goes for the RingWorld.
As mentioned above, I have to be else where (now in only 19 minutes) so I will nt take the time to proof ths, nor will I attempt a brilliantly succinct summary paragraph. Gert the book!
Peace be on your household!