I was planning on two more reviews today
(Futurama: Vol. 1 and Supreme Power Vol.
2: Power and Principalities
), but that’s a lot
of articles for a Sunday. I think those will be
written, but not posted until later this week.

General Information

Title: Tales of Known Space

Author: Larry Niven

Original Publication Date: Short stories published as
early as 1964
were originally collected in 1975. That’s out of
print individually,
but is available in a Three Books of Known
Space
collection
that includes two novels and was published in 1996.
This is the
volume the links and stats below refer to. The other
two novels
within (World of Ptavvs and A Gift From
Earth
will
be reviewed at a later, undetermined date.)

ISBN: 0-345-40448-3

Cover Price: $12.95 US, $17.95 Canada at first
printing. That’s
probably increased over the years.

Buy from: Amazon.com
or Amazon.ca

Past fiction reviews can be found here.

Premise

This includes a number of short stories set in the
Known Space
chronology. Those particular stories are:

  • The Coldest Place: A story about early astronauts
    looking for
    signs of life in the coldest place in the solar
    system.
  • Becalmed in Hell: The same astronauts from the
    previous story are
    now checking out Venus.
  • Wait It Out: A mission to Pluto ends
    unpredictably.
  • Eye of an Octopus: This time, it’s a mission to
    Mars, that
    uncovers signs of life.
  • How the Heroes Die: A later Mars mission intends
    to set up a
    colony, and make contact with any life that may still
    be around.
  • The Jigsaw Man: Mankind fights crime and organ
    donor shortage at
    the same time.
  • At the Bottom of a Hole: A smuggler hides on
    Mars.
  • Intent to Deceive: Lucas Garner tells a tale of
    one of the first
    automated restaurants.
  • Cloak of Anarchy: What happens in a true
    anarchy?
  • The Warriors: Mankind’s first encounter with the
    Kzin, aliens
    later licensed by Paramount for Star Trek: The
    Animated
    Series
  • Madness Has Its Place: Preparations are made to
    get Earth’s
    peaceful society ready for war.
  • There is a Tide: Our first encounter with Louis
    Gridley Wu and the
    Trinocs is a competition for a very valuable
    object.
  • Safe at any Speed: A tale demonstrating the
    results of the
    Puppeteer breeding program.

High Point

“At The Bottom of a Hole”. Niven’s psychology
background works very
well in this story. How would living on a planet
affect someone born
and raised in the asteroid belt?

Low Point

“There Is A Tide”. This bugs me purely for
scientific problems.
Other stories have errors in science that Niven
couldn’t have
predicted. (Mercury’s orbit in these stories doesn’t
match the real
one, but that doesn’t mean the orbit in these stories
couldn’t work.)
This story has science problems that would have been
known in 1968.
(It’s a degenerate fluid, not a solid. That’s all I
can really say
without revealing spoilers.)

The Scores

There are some very original ideas in this
collection. “At
the Bottom of a Hole,” “Wait It Out,” “Eye of an
Octopus,” and “The
Jigsaw Man” all leave a lot of room for thought.
“Eye of an Octopus”
is one of the main reasons I can accept some of the
problems in Signs;
it is handled very
convincingly here. Some of these stories have ideas
I just haven’t
seen anywhere else. I give it 6 out of 6.


The imagery has some great descriptions of
certain characters
and locations, and no descriptions of others. I give
it 4 out of 6.

The stories work well individually, and as
part of a larger
picture. Even “There Is A Tide,” the low point, is
an interesting
story, even if the science bugs me. I give it 5 out
of 6.



The characterization is often the best of
it. The characters
(with one exception) seem real, which helps the
reader connect to a
situation that he or she has no experience to relate
to. The one
exception is the protagonist from “Safe at any
Speed,” but that
character is supposed to be disconnected from the
people of today, so
even then, it still works. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is strong. Each
story works on its
own, and the progression through the future history
is similarly
engaging. I give it 5 out of 6.



The editing is also of high quality. There
were only three
typos I noticed in this edition (“Marsmobile” is
missing an s in one
instance in “Eye of the Octopus,” “stood” is missing
a t in one
instance in “There Is A Tide,” and there is an extra
letter in one of the
earlier stories, but I don’t remember which right
now. I think it was
a third o in a word that was supposed to have two of
them.) The
editing for content is well done, with nothing that
seems to drag or
rush. I would have preferred it if “Madness has its
Place” had gone
just a touch further to tell the story of what
happens next, though.
I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a great collection for anyone
who likes
well developed characters in their science fiction.
I’d reccomend the
entire volume linked to above. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Tales of Known Space receives 37
out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

The next few books I read will likely be the rest of
the Known Space
series that haven’t already been reviewed. That
means World of
Ptaavs
, A Gift From Earth,
Flatlander,
Crashlander, Neutron Star (if it
has anything not in
Crashlander; I don’t rightly remember) and
the Man-Kzin
War
books (of which I own the first nine, and
will pick up the
tenth when the paperback arrives in May.)