Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Roll Call

Anderson, Poul, "Iron" IN Niven, Larry, Ed., The Man-Kzin Wars (London, 1989), pp. 27-177.

An exploratory group travels in the hyperdrive spaceship Rover to the planetary system of a wandering red dwarf star where sub-groups visit moons and planets in smaller interplanetary craft. I sometimes lost track of who was where when. The full list is:

Captain Robert Saxtorph from Earth;
First Mate Dorcas Saxtorph from the Solar System Asteroid Belt;
Professor Arthur Tregennis, astrophysicist, from Plateau;
Laurinda Brozik, Tregennis' graduate student, from We Made It;
Ulf Reichsteim Markham, Interworld Space Commissioner, from Wunderland;
Kamehameha Ryan, Rover quartermaster, from Earth;
Carita Fenger, boat pilot, from Jinx;
Juan Yoshii, crew member, from the Belt.

Of these eight, two are a couple, four become couples and two die.

The red dwarf has five planets and the kzinti have a base on Secunda. When the single kzinti warship in the system rendezvouses with Rover, Carita and Juan have already set off for Prima, from where they must later be rescued, in ship's boat Fido, while the Saxtorphs and Laurinda have set off for Tertia in ship's boat Shep. Markham turns out to have been all along an agent of the kzinti. That leaves Tregennis and Ryan as prisoners.

A kzin kills Tregennis when the Saxtorphs and Laurinda rescue Ryan. Dorcas alone highjacks a kzinti tug, uses it to destroy the warship, then rendezvouses with Shep so that Ryan can join her in the tug. Robert, assisted by Laurinda, retrieves the captured Rover from a Secundan moon.

The Saxtorphs use the hijacked tug to deflect an asteroid so that it crashes onto the kzinti base. Their military manoeuvres against a more powerful enemy are masterful, as is Anderson's account of social upheavals on Wunderland after the liberation from kzinti occupation. Proles who had worked in kzinti war production storm the manors of "collaborationist" aristocrats. Markham, disgusted with Earth, admires the kzinti and passes hyperdrive information to them...

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