Friday, November 14, 2014

Man-Kzin Wars Volume XIV review

This week I decided to review volume XIV in the Man-Kzin Wars short story anthology series set in the Known Space Universe created by Larry Niven. The first story in the anthology is "A Man Named Saul" by Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q. Fox. It begins with the story of a small village on Wunderland soon after the planet is liberated from Kzin rule, then expands to focus on the tale of Vaemar-Riit, a Kzin seeking to enter the world’s politics. This becomes tied to the fate of a ship shot down during the occupation by humans collaborating with the Kzin, and a former collaborator willing to do anything to hide his actions and role in the vessel’s destruction. The second tale is "Heritage" by Matthew Joseph Harrington.  It tells of the experimental carrier Yorktown whose mission goes wrong after running into a Kzin battleship on a scouting mission. The carrier lands on a distant world and discovers a long hidden human colony. But what seems like a simple request from the carrier’s crew, a request necessary for the carrier to return home, will actually require a great price to be paid by the colonists. Next is "The Marmalade Problem" by Hal Colebatch. This is the story of a sickly Kzin, only partially trained to serve as a telepath, who was named Marmalade by the Wunderland monastery that raised him. To say more would spoil the end, I’m afraid, as this story is very, very short. Fourth is "Leftovers" by Matthew Joseph Harrington. It’s the strangest tale of the set and involves a man who was part of an attempt to create generals to win the latest war with the Kzin by splicing the DNA of three people together. His partner discovers that an outside power, the Puppeteers, are behind all of the Man-Kzin Wars, using the conflicts to forge Humanity into a weapon to use against some unknown enemy. Fifth is "The White Column" by Hal Colebatch. It’s a very short tale about a man who can see the future and has been programmed to find that most advanced artifact that’s on Earth one century after the time he is in. Next is "Deadly Knowledge: A Story of the Man-Kzin Wars," again by Hal Colebatch. It is the story of a professor assigned to teach human politics courses to Kzin students during the Occupation of Wunderland. In his off time he investigates the murder of a professor assigned to teach Kzin about human literature by a professor assigned to teach them human history. Could one classic story being taught to the Kzin doom humanity to conquest? The final tale is "Lions on the Beach" by Alex Hernandez. It is the story of a fisherman on a remote colony and his adopted Kzin son as they discover a secret which might assure the world’s safety forever.
I give the collection a 7 out of 10. I like the variety of stories and feel there is something here for almost everyone, but in my opinion, many of the stories would be much better and have more impact if they had been longer. In Particular, it's hard for me to really care about the characters in "The Marmalade Problem" and "The White Column" simply because there wasn’t much of a chance to get to know them because the stories were so short.

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