Man-Kzin Wars IX by Larry Niven (Creator)
List Price: $22.00 
Hardcover - 339 pages (January, 2002) 
Baen Books; ISBN: 067131838
Review by Ernest Lilley
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It's time to scream and leap (the traditional Kzin challenge) back into the Man-Kzin interstellar fray once more as those sneaky monkeys, the humans, face off against the territorially driven "rat-cats" for the ninth installment in the Man-Kzin Wars.

If you've been living under a rock (or more likely in this series, on or in one) you may not know how Larry Niven's 1966 short story, "The Warriors", about a human colony ship light years from a pacifist Earth encountered the heretofore unstoppable Kzin and defeated them by unconventional use of their communications laser; it slices, it dices...it juliennes warships. But that was long ago, both for us and the time frame of this collection. After that came a series of wars between us and them, Kzin charging in before they were quite ready, and mankind pulling a rabbit out of the hat time and again, much too the bafflement of the furry warriors.

In "Pele" Poul Anderson starts out this little collection with the continuation of a storyline, from previous collections, spinning off from the character of Robert Saxtorph, ship captain to follow Tyra, the glam reporter gal he trysted, abortively, with in the last episode. Now she's got a berth on a voyage to a giant star that's about to eat a planet and she's getting over Robert. Not that the voyage is about her, or that she's the most famous reporter around, there's a Carl Sagan/Jacques Cousteau type aboard that I might want to space if I don't start liking him first. Above all,  human science mission to observe something wonderful in the universe, and maybe push back the boundaries of science a bit. If humans think it' a good idea, then the Kzin want to be sure they don't miss out on the action either, and  Ghrul-Captain, a Kzin stripped of honor and his command, thinks he's just the cat for the job. Things get interesting. 

Sadly this is the last time Poul Anderson will contribute to a collection, as he died last year. If you enjoy this story, or anything in this series, and haven't read Anderson, I envy you. Find a copy of The Trouble Twisters or The Star Fox and start enjoying yourself.

Hal Colebatch's "His Sergeant's Honor" takes place after Wunderland, a captured human world, is liberated by the UNSN forces. How do you talk a Kzin into surrender, when he's been charged with the protection of a royal cub, and a treasonous (from the human point of view) man? Can a Kzin step down from battle with honor? Maybe.

Paul Chafe's "Windows of the Soul" takes place in the same system as the previous story, but after things have settled down and the Wunderland systems has become in important forward manifesting base for the human effort. Humans and Kzin share parts of the system, and on the Asteroid station Tiamat, the Kzin have a very "Chinatown" sort of ghetto. The whole story is a noir detective piece, and I liked it a lot. A human detective with a checkered past, a Kzin partner, a grisly murder...and of course, a dame.

Larry Niven himself contributes the final story: "Fly-by-Night" in which he demonstrates once again why we love to read him, and tells us some more tantalizing details about the fate of that first Earth ship, the Angel's Pencil, and what became of the colony it was off to found when it encountered the Rat-Cats in deep space.

I liked this group of stories better than some of the Man-Kzin collections, in which humans don't seem to come off quite as well and the cats are the picture of the noble warrior. These stories were generally more balanced, and I enjoyed them all.

2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu