Ringworld is one of the most classic of science fiction classics, and yet often the fantastic setting(which is one of the best in science fiction history) overshadows the other ideas that are going on. One of the most overshadowed are the kzin, who take a back seat in the story of ringworld even though there is a kzinti with them.
In the anthology "The Man-Kzin Wars" the Kzin step forward, and while we still get to see fascinating places and visit worlds that are both brilliant in their scientific understanding and storytelling importance it is the kzin who become the most interesting aspect.
The Kzin are a race of cat people, and from that you might assume that they are like any number of cat races in science fiction. If they are it is because those races took the ideas of Larry Niven and used them. This is a race of carnivores who believe in strength above all else. They have spent centuries breeding their women into what amounts to little more than pets and whenever they aren't at war they are preparing for it.
With this understanding you might assume that the kzin are little more than moustache twirling villains but they are far more than that. This is a race that in many ways is more honorable than humans are. They won't, or can't lie, they will almost always fight fair, and if you prove you are truly stronger than them they will submit and become quite loyal. In many ways it is this honor that allows them to continue to fight wars where humans, who don't follow any of those rules can't afford to because they would annihilate themselves.
There are three stories in this anthology, the first by Larry Niven himself covers the first meeting between humans and kzin. The humans after three hundred years of peace are hardly able to understand what is happening when the Kzin attack, but once they realize it they fight back with an efficiency the kzin can hardly understand.
Next is a story by Poul Anderson. This is the bulk of the book, taking place after the first two kzin wars, the Kzin have discovered hyperspace and with that they will soon be on equal footing again to fight humanity.
The third story begins when the kzin attack. The only survivor is captured by the kzin and put on a zoo world where he discovers kzin women from before they were bred to be docile and stupid and we discover why they were so dangerous that the Kzin men chose this course of action.
|Trek in the Park|
Morg looked down at the small bald man and downed the rest of his ale in a single gulp and began to look for the barmaid more for the chance to talk to the young woman than for any need of ale though with the money in his pocket both seemed a good idea.
"Excuse me sir, are you Morg of Torln?" the small man said. He had a small pad of paper and a piece of chalk in his hand.
"Yes," the barbarian said, refusing to look at this small man until he came to his point. Approaching a man in the bar without even the offer of ale rude enough to make Morg attack on a bad day, but this was a good day.
"And you recently had a large windfall at…" the small man looked at his notepad, "The tomb of saint Berev?"
"Yes," he said. This man had his facts right, but that wasn't surprising this was a small town and amount of gold that the four adventures had been spending had drawn many questions.
"Sir, are you aware that according to new windfall taxes law enacted by Emperor Yeron the forth that you are responsible to report all windfall profits and pay no less than ten percent in taxes to the Empire?" the small man said.
Morg wasn't certain what the small man was talking about but he suspect this was some law that would make him unhappy. "I don't know," he answered.
"Then you are also not aware that the sacking of any religious site or tomb results in a ten percent increase in that windfall tax, or that those increases are cumulative?" the small man said.
Morg reached for his axe as the little man talked, but he thought better of it as he saw the four fully armored guards standing behind the small man all reach for their swords at the same time. He might be able to kill them but there were at least a dozen more guards in town and he couldn't kill everyone.
"I owe money? Morg asked.
"Cut to the chase I like it. According to our records you owe us 684 gold pieces including fines and licenses," the little man said.
Morg didn't understand, he only had 1000 gold pieces from the entire mission and by the time that he figured out the 300 gold in supplies that he had spent on supplies for the trip that left him a profit of only 16 gold coins.
Still what choice did he have? And so he handed the bags of coins to the man, counting out the last handful to make certain he didn't give any extra. And as the man turned and walked out of the bar the young barmaid approached him and said, "Would you like to buy everyone another round?"
"I don't think I can afford it," Morg said, wondering as he did if it might be time to consider a new line of work.