The Man-Kzin Wars, books VII, VIII, IX, X & XII short story collections (plus ‘The Children’s Hour from M-K Wars II).

created by Larry Niven but franchised out to other authors since, like, the 80’s.

The mighty, tiger-like, carniverous Kzinti humbled by the leaf eating monkey boys of Humanity. Many explosions, much creativity and an immense amount of fun.

I’ve been going on a pulp sf binge for a couple of months now and ‘The Man-Kzin Wars’ have been central to this indulgence, comforting me through the re-establishment of paid employment. I find the comfort of some standard sci-fi cleverness – those science-like brains capable of such impressive ideas constrained only by the laws and ledgers of physics and chemistry, imagination and socio-cultural design by arithmetic. That whole Cartesian comfort zone of a mechanized universe, not to mention the ego bolstering effect of species conceit (as it is on earth, so it should be in the heavens). The central assumption of this series (and most other sf) is that, regardless of how advanced, intelligent or powerful an alien species is, there is just something unique, something so damn special about humanity that we somehow manage to scrabble to survival, then propel ourselves to our rightful (read dominant, in either military or moralistic manner) and lofty place among the stars. This sort of stuff always makes me feel better about whatever mundanity is assaulting me in my day to day existence; sure, when analysed it falls somewhat flat but so do most things. It still brings back that warm glow I remember from my early teens when I watched such optimistic sf as Star Trek, or read other mainstream sf authors such as Asimov or Heinlein where, in the end, we were all okay.

The Man-Kzin books alternate between the clean cookie-cutter, humanity wins because we’re so neat to the grittier, we may not be so much better but still come out on top. There’s even the occassional alien sympathetic they can have a small, meaningless win that asserts their general right to exist but mainly just demonstrates their base-line cleverness as a firm measure of how much smarter we are.

I just can’t help myself, I have to read them. Plus the covers are, in the grand tradition of such sf, brilliantly grotesque.










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