Monday, January 7, 2008

Larry Niven's "The Warriors" (short story, science fiction): Human ship repels aliens' attack in space

Quote from science fiction short story titled The Warriors by Larry NivenIf you are not already tired of humans vs aliens space wars where primitive but smart humans easily beat aliens with god like technology, this one makes good reading. Not a moment of boredom.

This is the first story in Niven's Known Space series about human/Kzinti first contact - in fact, the first human contact with any alien species. Kzinti are violent cat-like aliens way ahead of humans in technology in this story, but by the time of Ringworld, differences will be much less.

Human society described is way too idealistic & peaceful to be realistic. But that is not where the fun lies with this story.

Story summary.

"Angel's Pencil" is a human space ship - "the fourth colony ship to We Made It". I suppose "We Made It" is the name of colony planet. It's currently "Eleven years beyond Pluto, eight years from her destination". That is when alien ship falls besides it - at a distance of "four hundred miles".

Alien ship decelerated at 200g (g = earth gravity) when it fell besides human ship; human ship can barely do 0.5g. Alien ship has "gravity planers" that let the crew withstand heavy acceleration & also provide artificial gravity in deep space.

Alien ship is armed & powered with a reactionless drive; human ship is a kind of fusion powered rocket. This fact will come in handy later in plot.

We get to see both sides of the story. A part set in human ship, then in Kzinti ship. Kzintis communicate with telepathy - in fact, they have a specialist Telepath on board. He will probe the minds of humans at a distance to learn their secrets - like the type of spacecraft, level of human technology, & that human ship is unarmed. Humans use radio that aliens are not listening to.

Finally, aliens have learned enough to decide humans are sitting duck. They also deduced, from the spinning speed of human ship before the two ships met, that human world is a little heavier than theirs & may be with a denser atmosphere - but "it should be easy to Kzinform". They can locate human world by kind of reverse tracking the trajectory of human ship.

But first they need to kill those on board - without destroying the human ship. So they train an "induction projector" on human ship - to remotely heat the human ship. Idea is to cook everyone inside.

But the human ship has a smart alec - Steve Weaver. When things are getting nasty, he figures his ship is being attacked. He manages to turn the ship around & start the rocket - so the exhaust cuts the alien ship into two! Humans triumph.

Fact sheet.

"The Warriors", short story, review
First published: If, February 1966.
Rating: A

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