Saturday, February 6, 2010
Rainbow Mars by Larry Niven
This book contains the original Swetz short stories, and a new novel where he is the main character. The Swetz of short stories was a bumbling comedic figure, but the Swetz of the new novel is an action hero who shoots the aliens and gets the girl. And there are a lot of aliens to shoot. The newest secretary general of UN, and supreme overlord of all earth is more interested in space aliens than exotic animals. So they must find some aliens from somewhere. The only place where there might be aliens available is the past of Mars. So that's where they'll go. As an added bonus the past Mars seems to have a giant tree, which grows up to the geostationary orbit. That would be pretty nice on Earth too – so they are going to try to find some seeds for that. The Mars turns out to be inhabited by several species of people (modeled on Martians from the classics of sf) and then our heroes have have battles with them. A lot of battles. A lot of boring battles. The book is probably meant as a parody of some kind, but it didn't work for me, the battles were boring, and writing wasn't very captivating. By far the worst book by Niven I have ever read.
The original stories – at least some of them - were a lot better. In those stories Swetz tries to find some samples of animals in the past, and to transport them to his own time (where all animals have died out due to massive pollution). Unfortunately his time machine not only travels back in time, it also travels sideways at the same time, and the animals he captures tend to be "a bit" special. These stories are for most part at least amusing.