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Man-Kzin Wars X cover Man-Kzin Wars X: The Wunder War

Created by Larry Niven

Cover art by Stephen Hickman

Published by Baen Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Of all the human-settled systems to feel the first Man-Kzin War, Alpha Centauri suffered the worst -- three generations of brutal occupation. Beautiful Wunderland turned into a nightmare. Humanity had the choice of becoming livestock or hunted beasts. In the Serpent Swarm, the Centaurian asteroids, the situation was little better, although Ulf Markham was able to gather a few bands of intrepid resistance fighters.

Here is a collection of stories focusing on the events in that system, all written by Hal Colebatch, a talented Australian writer and political advisor. Some of them expand on stories told in previous volumes, while others illuminate stories only hinted at previously.

"One World for Wunderland" is almost a novel in its own right, and tells the story of Dimity Carmody, the woman whose brilliance enabled humanity to comprehend an alien manual for a hyperdrive, sold at great price by the mysterious Outsiders. But before she lived on We Made It, she was a precociously brilliant scholar on Wunderland, on the brink of a breakthrough when the kzinti arrived to bring war to a people who had deliberately forgotten its ways.

"The Corpoal in the Caves" is a prequel to "His Sergeant's Honor," and tells how Raargh-Sergeant got his name and his terrible wounds. Resistance can become a desperate thing indeed when there is no honorable alternative, and the kzinti are getting an unpleasant lesson in just how vicious a desperate human can be. But there can be alternatives, if only the two sides can treat one another with honor.

"Music Box" is a sequel to both of these stories, set during the truce after the Liberation of Wunderland. Dimity Carmody is coming home at last, straight into a nightmare of bitter hatreds left over from the final battles and the civil war that had broken out among the kzinti after the assassination of Chuut-Riit.

The final story, "Peter Robinson," is set several centuries later, when the Wunderkzin have become well established as a people apart from the Kzinti of the Patriarchy. It is also a follow-on to an old classic kzin story, "The Soft Weapon," which Star Trek fans may recall from its adaptation to the short-lived animated series under the title "The Slaver Weapon." After the disaster of that stasis box with the tnuctipun assassin's weapon, yet another stasis box is discovered. The Puppeteers want humans to go take a look at this new discovery, but the kzinti demand a diplomatic observer. Which makes it even harder for one member of the human delegation, who is not biologically human."

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Review posted March 28, 2004

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