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Best of all Possible Wars:
The Best of the Man-Kzin Wars

edited by Larry Niven
Baen Books, 352 pages

Best of all Possible Wars
Larry Niven
Larry Niven has authored or co-authored more than 40 novels and short story collections. His 1970 novel, Ringworld, won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, while his short stories have earned him four more Hugos. His collaborations with Jerry Pournelle include The Mote in God's Eye, an intense first-contact yarn, Oath of Fealty, a blistering tirade against liberal values and the #1 best-seller, Footfall. He resides in Tarzana, California.

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

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The Man-Kzin Wars is probably the best -- and most successful -- of the shared-world series. Now up to number 8, it has spawned a "best-of", and it's pretty good: two Larry Niven shorts, a Greg Bear / S.M. Stirling novelette, and a Jerry Pournelle / S.M. Stirling short novel.

The Larry Niven opener, "The Warriors"(1966) has a certain clunky charm -- it was his first Kzin story and the first story he tried to sell. He dreamed it up in math class, working up to flunking out of Caltech, and rewrote it for years, "trying out what I was learning from my correspondence writing course." It's enough to give an amateur writer hope.

The second Larry Niven, "Madness Has its Place" (1990), is professional but minor. In "The Man who would be Kzin" (Greg Bear & S.M. Stirling, 1991), a powerful projective telepath leads the Kzin Second Invasion Fleet into disaster. It's clever, logical and smoothly-written. I enjoyed rereading it.

Jerry Pournelle & S.M. Stirling's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (1992) occupies two-thirds of the book. It's not flawless, with a pointless Buford Early / ARM-as-Illuminati sub-plot, plus it is a sequel to "The Children's Hour" -- but it moves smartly (after a slow start) and if the ending doesn't raise up the hair on the back of your neck, you probably shouldn't be reading this stuff.

I believe all eight of the Man-Kzin collections are still in print, and the publisher obviously hopes you'll go out and buy more after reading this "teaser" collection. Be warned -- they're habit-forming. The series remains high-quality throughout, though there are a few clunkers. It's pretty much required reading for Niven's Known Space fans. My personal favorite is Dean Ing's "Cathouse" & "Briarpatch", actually a novel, awkwardly split between Man-Kzin Wars 1 & Man-Kzin Wars 2.

Copyright © 1998 by Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Usenet, "Under the Covers", Infinity-Plus, Dark Planet, and SF Site. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. More of his reviews are posted at www.silcom.com/~manatee/reviewer.html#tillman .


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