An early collection of short works. Includes: All the Myriad Ways (1968); Passerby (1969); For a Foggy Night (1968); Wait It Out [Known Space] (1968); The Jigsaw Man [Known Space] (1967); Not Long Before the End (1969); Unfinished Story No. 1 (1970); Unfinished Story No. 2 (1971); Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex (essay, 1969); Exercise in Speculation: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation (essay, 1969); The Theory and Practice of Time Travel (essay, 1971) Inconstant Moon (1971); What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers? (1971); Becalmed in Hell [Known Space] (1965).
Laurence van Cott Niven's best known work is Ringworld(Ringworld, #1) (1970), which received the Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards. His work is primarily hard science fiction, using big science concepts and theoretical physics. The creation of thoroughly worked-out alien species, which are very different from humans both physically and mentally, is recognized as one of Niven's main strengths.
Niven also often includes elements of detective fiction and adventure stories. His fantasy includes The Magic Goes Away series, which utilizes an exhaustible resource, called Mana, to make the magic a non-renewable resource.
Niven created an alien species, the Kzin, which were featured in a series of twelve collection books, the Man-Kzin Wars. He co-authored a number of novels with Jerry Pournelle. In fact, much of his writing since the 1970s has been in collaboration, particularly with Pournelle, Steven Barnes, Brenda Cooper, or Edward M. Lerner.
He briefly attended the California Institute of Technology and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics (with a minor in psychology) from Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, in 1962. He did a year of graduate work in mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has since lived in Los Angeles suburbs, including Chatsworth and Tarzana, as a full-time writer. He married Marilyn Joyce "Fuzzy Pink" Wisowaty, herself a well-known science fiction and Regency literature fan, on September 6, 1969.
Niven won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for Neutron Star in 1967. In 1972, for Inconstant Moon, and in 1975 for The Hole Man. In 1976, he won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette for The Borderland of Sol.
Niven has written scripts for various science fiction television shows, including the original Land of the Lost series and Star Trek: The Animated Series, for which he adapted his early Kzin story The Soft Weapon. He adapted his story Inconstant Moon for an episode of the television series The Outer Limits in 1996.
He has also written for the DC Comics character Green Lantern including in his stories hard science fiction concepts such as universal entropy and the redshift effect, which are unusual in comic books.
Rating based on the title story, one of his very best. But the whole collxn is first-rate. Time for a re-reread!
TOC, with a few comments: "All the Myriad Ways" Nominated for the Hugo for best short -- twice! "Passerby" "For a Foggy Night". Classic parallel-worlds story. 6 stars! "Wait it Out" "The Jigsaw Man", Organlegger story. Hugo Award Nominee for Best Short story (1968). "Not Long Before the End", 1969, might be the best of his "Magic Universe" or "Warlock" stories. "Unfinished Story #1" "Unfinished Story #2" "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" !! Con-souvenir classic. Online: http://www.rawbw.com/~svw/superman.html "Exercise in Speculation: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation" "The Theory and Practice of Time Travel" "Inconstant Moon" (Made into an Outer Limits episode) "What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?" Indeed, what can you say?? "Becalmed in Hell" Online copy: https://www.baen.com/Chapters/9781481...
I can't remember if I own the collection, but the better stories have been reprinted many, many times. There is a complete copy online, at the Internet Archive, but their format is so wonky, you would do be better to spend a few bux on a used mmpb. IMO. No ebook at Amazon, 10/7/21.
"All the Myriad Ways" is pretty ancient, by modern science fiction standards, but it's also more than that. It's one of Niven's collections of mixed fiction and commentary, science explanation, and basically "wild ideas" that he has either come up with or is happy to pass along to others. (Had string theory been around when it was written, I feel sure Niven would have discussed it.)
I chose this one to review because it's the one I can find my copy of and remember what's in it. But use it as a generic review of all of Niven's short works, whether fiction, fact, or essay, because it's what he does best. (Even his novels seem drawn not so much with the broad brush of huge activity as with the thin stroke detailed studies of individuals.) Thanks, Larry.
The title story is amazing. Instantly rises to my top 5 fave short stories of all time, right alongside The Veldt by Ray Bradbury. A quick, easy read that provokes challenging philosophical ideas. The easy writing style and enthralling, dreamlike sci-fi setting is enough to prompt me to read Niven’s other works. “Casual murder, casual suicide, casual crime. Why not? If alternate universes are a reality, then cause and effect are an illusion. The law of averages is a fraud. You can do anything, and one of you will, or did.”
This unusual collection combines 14 short fiction and non-fiction pieces into a mostly satisfying grab-bag. The highlights include "Passerby," a clever take on deus ex machina; "The Jigsaw Man," which speculates about a world in which organ replacement has become commonplace, and the implications which result from the possibility of near-eternal life; "Not Long Before the End," a remarkably original take on swords and sorcery which hinges upon an examination of the source of magic; "Man of Steel/Woman of Kleenex," which explores, in hilarious and graphic detail, the physical implications of Superman's reproductive urges; "Inconstant Moon," a splendid apocalyptic story with a satisfying twist ending; "What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?" which offers a creative take on the origin of species; and "Becalmed in Hell," a tale of two astronauts, one of whom is a preserved and functional human nervous system, who nearly get stranded on Venus.
The low points include "For a Foggy Night," which might have worked better had it been a bit less muddled; the two "Unfinished" stories, which are toss-aways. In addition, the two non-fiction pieces in this volume, "Theory and Practice of Teleportation" and "Theory and Practice of Time Travel," seem jarringly out of place among so much fiction. Both of them are somewhat brow-furrowing, especially the former, and they might have been better-served by forming the basis of a non-fiction collection, although they do offer insight into the process of a sci-fi writer.
The remaining stories fall somewhere in between, but, as is often the case, even Niven's near misses are entertaining. Despite the weak points, this is still highly recommended.
I've read a good deal of Larry Niven over the years. I lost faith when he was writing his fascist military books together with Jerry Pournelle but I got this from a friend and it was worth a few hours reading. There are some pretty wild ideas but most of the stories are so easily forgettable I had forgotten the ones in the beginning by the time I reached the end. I didn't hurry. What's the point of a short-story collection if you can't drag it out.
All the Myriad Ways refers to the theory of the multiverse in which every decision everyone faces spawns a new universe. Niven puts a couple of spins on this. It it's proved true, for example, what's the point - of anything? You live, you die, you're happy, you're not - if not here then somewhere you are and are the opposite.
There is a sword and sorcery story which foretells his series that begins with The Magic Goes Away. I assume, I haven't read those but have heard it referenced and that is in fact what is happening in an ancient world of sorcery.
The most famous story is no doubt Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex in which Niven points out the difficulties of Superman ever having children with a human woman - Lois, for exampel. Mr Niven assumes that all of Superman is super so that each of his sperms would batter its way into her egg which wouldn't matter really as his ejaculation would blow off the top of her head.
There's a long essay - lecture - on teleportation and another on time-travel, both based on physics (as we know it) and neither very edifying or exciting. Better to read fiction!
Not being a dummy Niven saves the best for last. The final three stories are all unique and exciting. In Inconstant Moon he shows us, among other things, how a writer can hoodwink a reader.
In What Can you Say about Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers? he invites us into the world of an intellectual elite and then shifts it completely. What if all creation myths were true?
Finally in Becalmed in Hell he takes us to Venus to discuss how things work, or don't work, in the future in an atmosphere of "searing black calm". Not a pleasant place but an interesting environment for us to meet two humans in trouble. Or are they? Human I mean, they are absolutely in deep trouble.
A collection of so-so Niven short fiction with a couple of excellent stories. "Not Long before the End" tells of one of the greatest showdowns in the age of magic. In "Becalmed in Hell", an astronaut and his ship (yes, it's sentient), stranded in the "searing black calm" of Venus's atmosphere, attempt to repair an engine failure before they get crushed or incinerated (or probably both).
A collection of Larry Niven's earlier stories and essays, some excellent, others merely good. Standouts for me are the stories Passer By and For a Foggy Night, and the first of his Warlock stories, Not Long Before the End. The essay on The Theory and Practice of Time Travel is a careful exploration of the different ways time travel might be made to work in fiction and the consequences that follow, while the tongue in cheek Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex is a an amusing take on what might happen if Superman and Lois Lane ever got together.
The title story and "Inconstant Moon" were really great, I think they alone make it worth to buy the book. Especially the first one throws up many interesting questions concerning practical philosophy - what do "free will" and "free decision" mean? What are their value? Is a free decision only pure chance and nothing more? I feel the other stories do not match up in quality to these two, but they all are short, interesting and fun reads.
This is an early of collection of fiction and non-fiction from Niven with many of what would be come to be known as his early classics included. What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers? was always one of my very favorite titles, Inconstant Moon is an established classic of the field, and people are still reprinting and discussing his Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex essay. There are also a number of early Known Space stories... a strong selection indeed!
Niven is my favorite writer. He combines real physics, humor, personality and mystery as no one else can. Enjoy yourself. Read this and all his books. My best is Lucifer’s Hammer. Ringworld is most people’s favorite.
Super mini review: lots of great, intriguing, thought-provoking, interesting 60s sci-fi from a man I'm starting to associate "great short stories" with. There's also two unfinished stories and three essays. Stand-outs include, "All the Myriad Ways", "Not Long Before The End", and "Inconstant Moon"
I've read a few Larry Niven books and this ranks as one of the top. Reading this book made me realize how much I like science fiction short stories and essays over long form novels. The short story forces the narrative to be clear and precise and goddam entertaining. Even though reading a short story might not be as satisfying of an accomplishment as reading a 1000 page novel, it's usually more rewarding of an experience, and one that is more easily remembered (unless the S.S. sucked, which many do). None of the stories in this collection were bad or outdated. If everything I read by Niven was this good I'd have read his completed works by now, but unfortunately I've come across a few stinkers. Can't recommend this one enough though.
Stories aus den 60ern und Anfang 70ern. 4 davon kannte ich schon. Alles Ideenstories, deren Ideen nicht alle plausibel oder wissenschaftlich solide sind. Aber dafür originell. Am besten gefielen mir: "Magie und Materie" (Not Long Before the End / 1969) über einen Zauberer, der eine deprimierende Tatsache über seine Kunst herausgefunden hat, die ihm aber später das Leben rettet. Und "Generalprobe Weltuntergang" (Inconstant Moon / 1971), wo einem Journalisten auffällt, dass der Mond extrem hell scheint. Doch der Mond reflektiert ja nur die Sonne...
This was fun! A lot of this I can easily see in the 1960's Star Trek TV show. Nothing overly complex, just some really cool, short ideas! As many have said, it's very technical in the middle and I can see not many being keen on that. All good. Was neat to think about and to try to get into Niven's head a little but if you're not looking for technical writings, just skip them. In particular, I enjoyed Passerby and Inconsistent Moon.
An early collection of Niven’s including some early time-line Known Space stories and others, ranging from sf (“Becalmed in Hell”) to fantasy (“Not Long Before the End”). Among the other stories here, “The Jigsaw Man” was nominated for a Nebula Award and “Inconstant Moon” won the Hugo for Best Novelette in 1972. Also included are the speculative non-fiction pieces, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” riffing on Superman’s love-life, “The Theory and Practice of Time Travel” and “Exercise in Speculation: The Theory and Practice of Teleportation”. This gives the reader a good idea of what Niven was up to in the late 1960s and early 1970s. While the stories might not all be top-level they are all at least interesting and worth reading. R: 3.2/5.0
I bought the paperback in 1976, but I haven’t kept track of how many times I’ve read each story since then. I’ve just now read the whole book, which I don’t normally do, because as usual I like some stories more than others.
“All the myriad ways”: Two stars, and that’s generous. The title story is the one I like least: I neither enjoy it nor agree with it. But it’s not quite bad enough for one star.
“Passerby”: Three stars. An unlikely story, but not a bad one.
“For a foggy night”: Four stars. Preposterous but delightful; I’m fond of this one.
“Wait it out”: Two stars. Unlikely and not particularly entertaining.
“The jigsaw man”: Two stars. First published in 1967, this was at the time a reasonable and interesting attempt to predict the future; but the prediction hasn’t yet come true, and it’s not particularly entertaining as a story.
“Not long before the end”: Four stars. A fantasy story in which magic is found to be a non-renewable resource. A good idea and a nice story.
“Man of steel/woman of Kleenex”: Three stars. A non-fiction but amusing discussion of Superman’s unique and inevitable sexual problems.
“The theory and practice of time travel”: Three stars. A quite interesting non-fiction essay.
“Inconstant moon”: Four stars. A good story about a night when the moon was much brighter than usual, and what that may mean.
“What can you say about chocolate covered manhole covers?”: Three stars. This is quite fun, but there isn’t really much to it, beyond the central idea.
“Becalmed in hell”: Two stars. This is the oldest story in the book, dating from 1965, and it shows. It reminds me of Hal Clement, although not at his best.
I used to read Larry Niven's stories voraciously as a kid. He's one of the hard sci-fi authors, who actually understands the science part of sci-fi and works out the myriad ways (see what I did there?) that scientific advances will affect society and the way people behave, the things they assume to be part of their world, and what throws them in these advanced technologies. Niven is a big ideas guy, on a rank only below Asimov, IMO.
This collection of short stories are story starters: short stories written to explore a particular theme, to see how they fare and if they could stand becoming larger stories on their own. For example, The Jigsaw Man explores the basic concept that becomes the underlying theme of the novel A Gift From Earth. Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex and are discursive forays into "what ifs", with Niven showing his line of thinking.
Niven makes for quick reading: his stories are spare in details and setting. His characters tend to be stock types, because what they look like is less important than the ideas they come up with and act on. Sometimes I confuse which character is saying what, but it doesn't really slow down the plot.
I liked several of the stories in this book, but I think it was a mistake to throw three non-fiction essays in the middle. They make it pretty obvious that the stories are all about the clever idea and not about anything else.
There are some clever ideas here. My favorite story was "What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?," but I also liked the two extraplanetary stories, one set on Venus and one on Pluto. "Not Long Before the End" was a clever take on the death of magic. I didn't much care for the two parallel universe stories, especially since they were so close together in the collection.
The highlight of the collection is "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex," which I had read before. It's a hilariously earnest discussion of a set of increasingly difficult problems Superman might face in a physical relationship with a woman. It captures the spirit of nerdy conversations that are taken very seriously precisely because they are so ridiculous.