This is the second Larry Niven book I’ve read as I work towards his award-winning science fiction story “Ringworld”. This, like the first book Neutron Star, is a collection of short stories set in the universe he created called “Known Space”.
My ventures into Known Space at this stage are only to provide some background before reading Ringworld, so I’m not reading every story. I concentrated on the stories recommended here. This book starts with an introduction by the author who admits that some of the other stories are not his best, so I feel confident in my decision.
Here is the rundown:
The Jigsaw Man: an interesting idea is highlighted in this story – that some people can extend their lifespans by using replacement organs. These organs come from executed criminals. This leads to a change in how society deals with sentencing criminals…
The Warriors: mankind’s first contact with a race of aliens from the Kzinti Empire. The Man-Kzin wars appear to be significant in the history of Known Space.
There Is A Tide: the first story to feature Louis Wu, one of the main characters in Ringworld.
The Borderland of Sol: this is another Beowulf Shaeffer story (a character who featured several times in Neutron Star), and the best so far. This is an excellent story, featuring some great science and a lot of dry humour.
Overall, I feel that these four stories have introduced me to some important ideas and history that will help my understanding when I tackle Ringworld.
One thing to watch out for is that my copy of the book has the cover above but I also have a copy of “Three Books of Known Space” which I bought so that I can read the stories “World of Ptavvs” and “A Gift from Earth”. It contains a version of “Tales of Known Space” but it is missing the story The Borderland of Sol. I don’t know why this differs but you can find The Borderland of Sol in the book Crashlander, the collected stories of Beowulf Shaeffer. It is well worth tracking down for that alone – but also be aware that if you have read the short story collection Neutron Star you will have read the majority of the Crashlander stories. If in doubt, it is something you can check out.