April 5, 2020

Review: The Man-Kzin Wars XIII Created by Larry Niven

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Galactic interspecies war has never been hotter. And one of the most enduring conflagrations in modern scifi-dom has been between humanity and the cat-like Kzinti. The Kzin were first introduced by science fiction author Larry Niven in his 1966 short story “The Warriors,” and went on to become frequent players in his Known Space stories, including his classic novel Ringworld.

The Kzin have also continued their quest for galactic domination in the Man-Kzin Wars saga. The series just past its 25th anniversary mark last year with the re-issue of the first volume of the Man-Kzin Wars.

This week, we’re taking a look at the 2013 installment with Man-Kzin Wars XIII out from Baen Books. The series is actually up to the most recent 14th installment, which we covered in our November 2013 sci-fi roundup.

Man-Kzin Wars XIII may actually be the best collection of short stories in the series yet. We get to see the culture and ethos of the Kzinti as never before, as humans attempt to better understand their enemy. Would two separately evolving civilizations in the galaxy be able to duke it out technologically, or would it be a “no contest” knock out? The authors all tackle this question and more within a hard science framework that Niven was famous for.

The book opens with Misunderstanding by Hal Colebatch & Jessica Q. Fox. A curious tale, Misunderstanding tells the story of first contact with the Kzin by a bizarre race that’s become a fan of early human TV broadcasts. The method by which they manage to deceive the approaching Kzin ship is intriguing, to say the least.

In Two Types of Teeth by Jane Lindskold, a exobiologist gets the unprecedented opportunity to study a live Kzin that has been captured as a prisoner of war. Jenni Anixter soon finds, however, that she may have more in common with the trapped Kzin in her own present situation than she had realized. Two Types of Teeth takes a hard-nosed look at the deceitfulness implicit in human nature through the eyes of an alien.

In Pick of the Litter, we get a rare look at Kzinti females and their young. But what would happen to a male Kzinti cub if he were raised among humans? Pick of the Litter by Charles E. Gannon addresses the whole nature versus nurture controversy, Kzinti style. But just what aspects of Kzin upbringing are beyond our control, or are we not even aware of?

Man-Kzin Wars XIII contains seven short stories in all, also including Tomcat Tactics also by Charles E. Gannon, At the Gates by Alex Hernandez, Zeno’s Roulette by David Bartell, and Bound for the Promised Land, also by Alex Hernandez.

Oh, and watch for a surprise appearance of the Slaver Stasis Boxes of early Niven fame. Did you know that the Kzinti achieved a brief run in animated form when Niven penned a tale for the original Star Trek animated series in the early 1970’s? Check out the bizarre crossover episode named The Slaver Weapon, and be sure to read Man-Kzin Wars XIII!

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