08 February 2013

Review: Man-Kzin Wars XI by Hal Colebatch and Matthew Harrington

Kindle eBook, n.pag.
Published 2005
Acquired June 2012
Read August 2012
Man-Kzin Wars XI
by Hal Colebatch and Matthew Harrington

I picked this book up as part of a Baen eBook Bundle; I'd read the first Man-Kzin Wars book, and I had a vague memory of being indifferent to it. Based on my memories and that cover, I expected macho man-versus-animal space combat, nothing either good or impressive. The first story in the book, Hal Colebatch's "Three At Table," substantiated that viewpoint: it was mostly about a guy on a hunting expedition dealing with dangerous Space Animals, with some weird sex thrown in.

But after that point, the book improved a lot, and made me think I'd probably read "Three At Table" unkindly.  Colebatch's next two stories, "Grossgeister Swamp" and "Catspaws," are complicated depictions, not of a society at war, but of a society after war. There are a lot of characters across all the Colebatch tales here, and many of them are soldiers-- from both sides of the war-- trying to cope with peacetime life and new attitudes.  "Catspaws" is more a short novel than a short story, taking up 40% of the book according to my Kindle, and I liked it quite a bit. I would definitely read more Man-Kzin Wars stories by Colebatch. Though these stories stood alone, these characters quite clearly had histories worth reading about.

There are two stories by Matthew Joseph Harrington: "Teacher's Pet" and "War and Peace." These are less standalone than Colebatch's stories, as they both deal with something called a "Pak Protector," which I dimly recall from when I read the Ringworld books in high school. The stories are decent and do some interesting stuff (especially "Teacher's Pet," where the Pak Protector exploits a kzinti warrior), but they seem to assume I'm much more interested in the minutiae of Pak Protector continuity than I possibly could be.

The book closes out with a quick Larry Niven story, "The Hunting Park," which was decent. A neat idea: it feels like the Man-Kzin Wars story that Ernest Hemingway would have written.

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