HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Man-Kzin Wars
Author: Larry Niven with Poul Anderson and Dean Ing
Cover Illustrator: Steve Hickman
Publisher: Baen, republished 2013
Language level: 5
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Adults
Rating: ** 2 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Niven, Larry, with Anderson, Poul, and Ing, Dean. The Man-Kzin Wars (Published in 1988 by Baen Books, a division of Baen Publishing Enterprises, 260 Fifth Ave., New York City, NY 10001). The Kzinti are a cat-like species from the planet Kzin whose only goal in their flight through Known Space has been to conquer. And they have been completely successful at it—until they meet humankind. In “The Warriors” by Larry Niven, the Kzinti first come in contact with human beings when they attack a ship named the Angel’s Pencil, commanded by Steve Weaver. Who will win that battle? In Poul Anderson’s “Iron,” a scientific team led by Robert Saxtorf goes to investigate an unexplored solar system and is betrayed into the hands of the Kzinti. What will happen to them? And in “Cathouse,” Dean Ing tells how a man named Locklear, the sole survivor of a Kzinti raid, is marooned on an alien world inhabited by Kzinti females. How does he manage to maintain his life?
The first story set in the Man-Kzin Wars, “The Warriors” (1966), was one of Niven’s earliest published stories and one of the first of what would become his Known Space series. In the Introduction, Niven wrote, “’The Warriors’ wasn’t just the first tale of the Kzinti. It was the first story I ever offered for sale.” However, it evidently was not the first Known Space story published. “The Coldest Place” appeared in 1964. Both came out in Worlds of If, an American science fiction magazine. Niven went on to write a dozen Known Space novels and several collections of short stories. However, he did not consider himself qualified to write war stories; therefore, although a number of his later stories referenced the Man-Kzin Wars, he never actually showed them. So when there was a large fan demand for stories covering the conflict, and a number of his author friends had shown interest in writing tales set in the time frame, he therefore allowed the Man-Kzin Wars to become a shared universe in the spin-off Man-Kzin Wars anthologies, starting with the 1988 release of The Man-Kzin Wars.
Initially, there were plans for only two volumes. Jerry Pournelle and Poul Anderson were among the first authors approached, and both ended up writing stories. After the release of the second volume, reader demand was enough to allow continuing releases periodically, continuing to the current day. The series now numbers fourteen volumes and is still going strong. Niven himself has only written a small number of the stories, but starting with volume three, he has composed several additional entries. Smoking cigarettes and drinking beer are mentioned. Language includes some cursing (the “d” and “h” words), profanity (“God” as an exclamation), and even a little vulgarity (the “s” word and a common term for the rear end). While no actual sexual activity is recorded, there are a number of sexual references. The Kzinti don’t scalp their victims, but they do cut off a male’s scrotum to hang on their belts as a sign of conquest. Adults who like space-based science fiction and are willing to put up with strong language would probably enjoy the book. The plots are interesting, but personally I found the unnecessary bad language annoying and distracting.