Friday, December 14, 2012

Convergent Series, by Larry Niven

(pb; 1979: science fiction anthology)

Overall review:

All of the twenty-one stories in this collection are worthwhile reads.  More thoughtful and quirky than your usual action-and-laser-beams science fiction anthology, Convergent Series is largely a talk-oriented anthology, with its tightly-edited stories revolving around a few core themes (communication between divergent cultures, time travel, etc.).  Most of the stories build on ideas, characters and places from previous pieces, especially the Draco's Tavern entries.

Worth owning, this.

Standout stories:

1.)   "The Meddler":  Quirky, imaginative genre blend of noir and science fiction, about a private detective (Bruce Cheseborough, Junior) going after a crime lord (Lester Dunhaven Sinclair III) with the help of a strange alien.

2.)   "Convergent Series": Especially clever, light-hearted piece about a man who matches wits with a demon.

3. )  "Singularities Make Me Nervous":  Intriguing story about a time traveler whose conundrums increase unexpectedly.

4.)   "The Schumann Computer":  This story, the first in the Draco's Tavern series, is a darkly funny piece about a tavern owner (Rick Schumann) who builds a supercomputer (Baby), based on alien - "chirpsithtra" - technology, which has unexpected personality quirks.

5.)    "Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing!":  Rick Schumann learns disturbing facts about one of the alien races [the "Gligstith(click)tcharf"] who patronize his tavern.  Laugh out loud funny, excellent tale.  One of my favorites in this collection.

6.)   "Cruel and Unusual":  An intergalactic crime cause Rick Schumann to close Draco's Tavern, an establishment he founded/ran for twenty-two years; it also, in relation to the aforementioned crime, raises reader-haunting questions about what defines "cruel and unusual".

One of my favorite stories in this anthology.

7.)   "Transfer of Power":  Good, fantasy-themed piece about a post-bloodless coup conversation between a deposed king (Sarol) and the country's new leader (Guppry) - a conversation that may or may not herald disastrous events for the fledgling, magic-based society.

8.)   "Night on Mispec Moor":  On a low-gravity planet (Sereda) in the year 2731, a soldier (Tomas Vatch) is besieged by doubt and legendary undead men ("night walkers").  Good, action-oriented story.

Other stories:

"Wrong Way Street"; "Bordered in Black"; "One Face"; "Like Banquo's Ghost"; "Dry Run"; "The Deadlier Weapon"; "The Nonesuch"; "Grammar Lesson"; "The Subject is Closed"; "Cautionary Tales"; "Rotating Cylinders and the Possibility of Global Causality Violation"; "Plaything"; "Mistake"

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