Monday, May 12, 2014

Meeow, Matey!

Wallace Beery always was a pussycat, but I'm getting ahead of myself. If you're not acquainted with Larry Niven's "Known Space" universe, you're in for a treat. You can read a summary of it HERE on Wikipedia. Now, a lot of authors have created literary Science Fiction universes — a set of stories that take place in the same universe, sometimes as a series about the same character or characters, sometimes as otherwise unconnected stories. Poul Anderson had his Van Rijn/Flandry universe, Heinlein had his "Future History," L. Neil smith his "Confederacy" novels, Asimov his "Foundation" series. But almost uniquely, Niven's universe has been so fruitful as to attract what I think is a record number of other writers eager to add to it. Good writers.

And the latest contribution to the "Known Space" series is Treasure Planet by Hal Colebatch and Jessica Q Fox. (Not, please, to be confused with the pretty good animated Disney movie of the same name.) It's counted as part of the "Man-Kzin Wars" series within the "Known Space" universe. It's a big universe. In case you haven't read any of these many books, here's a quick summary. A few centuries from now, a pacifistic United Nations Earth government rules, and mankind has a few colonies here and there. Humanity has come to believe that any advanced sentient race would have adopted pacifistic principles, and then a human ship encounters a shipload of huge tiger-like conquerers and finds out differently. Shades of Flash Gordon and hawkmen and catmen, etc., eh? But not really. This is very realistic stuff, and SF writers have been writing about cat people for decades, but none of them are anything like as believable or well-realized as these huge catlike people, the Kzin. They're like Klingons, only a lot worse and a lot more realistic. They're an aggressive and impulsive bunch, and there's both a Redneck (Border Scot) and Japanese air about them. Too impulsive, because they have four wars with humans, whom they disdain as "monkeys," and lose every one of them through basic overconfidence.

The action in Treasure Planet takes place after these wars, and starts on Wunderland, a human colony planet that was occupied by Kzin armies for decades during the most recent war, where Human and Kzin have learned to live in harmony, more or less, a generation after a peace was signed. And there are rumors of a lost treasure planet. And a human boy. And a Kzin girl. (no, no romance — this is science fiction, not Star Trek gothic fantasy) And an old Kzin pirate. And then more old Kzin pirates, and timbers are shivered and keels are hauled and many are laid horizontal. It makes me think of Smith's pirate books, Henry Martyn and Bretta Martyn, only with tigers. Also like Smith's books, there is a libertarian message to it. Even if you haven't read any other Niven, start with this. It'll be a great introduction to his whole body of "Known Space" works. To get a flavor of what this book is like:

1 comment:

  1. Where I first heard of the Kzin: