According to Larry Niven, time travel is logically impossible--sheer fantasy. So when time-agent Svetz heads back from polluted future Earth in search of extinct animals, he tends to sideslip into fantastic, fictional worlds. In short stories collected in The Flight of the Horse (1973), his quests for a horse, a Gila monster, and a whale unearthed a unicorn, a dragon, and Moby-Dick. Less comic but equally daft, Rainbow Mars combines both space and time travel to explore Mars in the deep past, before it was a dead world. Naturally it's populated by a menagerie of warring fictional Martians from Edgar Rice Burroughs (multi-armed sword-wielders), H.G. Wells (tentacles and heat rays), and less familiar authors. Svetz and companions are soon in big trouble. Complications include a gigantic alien tree extending into Mars's orbit--an organic version of the space elevator in Arthur C. Clarke's The Fountains of Paradise. One of these useful "beanstalks" on Earth seems a highly desirable facility, but there are hidden drawbacks, and most of the multiplying timelines lead to disaster. This is fun for experienced SF readers who can follow the in-jokes and the switchback ride through tangled alternative histories. The earlier, even funnier Svetz stories are included as a bonus. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
Time, space and a reader's patience become vertiginously distorted in this dizzying compilation of six linked tales written over a 30-year time span by Niven (Destiny's Road, etc.), winner of five Hugo Awards. Five short stories written between 1969 and 1973 follow the title novella (copyrighted 1999) but relate events predating its Martian adventures of Niven's klutzy time-traveler hero, Hanville Svetz, as he scours previous centuries for animals extinct in his environmentally devastated 2300 A.D. Earth. When Svetz's Institute for Temporal Research is transferred to the Bureau for Sky Domains, the resulting power struggle launches Svetz into Mars's inhabited past, accompanied by two lissome, stretch-suited astronauts, Zeera and Miya, on a mission to save Earth from Mars's dried-up fate and to colonize the solar system. After surviving Miya's lusty libido and multitudinous hokey alien monsters, Svetz solves one of the chief mysteries of Niven's universe, that of the Beanstalk stretching from earth to the heavens. Occasional satiric sparks light up Svetz's perils, but internal consistency is weak, while a generally gluey pace retards Niven's intended flights of imagination.
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