The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The stories in Tales of Known Space: The Universe of Larry Niven are part of Larry Niven’s Known Space chronology, which includes a number of novels and other collected works. The Known Space stories and novels tell a relatively coherent future history in which humans expand their civilization into space, go to war with the Kzinti, and eventually take part in an informal bartering economy with several species. The galaxy is littered with artifacts from earlier species, including weapons, plants, and animals from the Slaver empire and large artifacts from a species known as the Pak Protectors.

This collection includes stories from several distinct periods in this future history. The first stories involve human exploration of the solar system. Some are tales of difficult conditions on Pluto and Venus, and others hint at a reclusive race of Martians. A second set tells of social pressures related to crowding and new technology, particularly the improved ability to transplant organs. A third set focuses on human encounters with alien species, including the first contact with the warlike Kzinti. The final story tells of a distant future when humans have discovered a “lucky” gene and have perfected technology to keep them safe even in difficult circumstances.

In “Wait It Out,” the first explorer on Pluto removes his spacesuit so that he will freeze and thus be preserved for rescue by a later mission. He ends up semiconscious...

(The entire section is 486 words.)