The Flight of the Horse

by Larry Niven
Reviewed date: 2007 Jun 12
212 pages
cover art

I despise time travel, but these whimsical stories by Larry Niven are an exception. They're funny, not serious. And they're fantasy, not science fiction. The only science fiction story in this collection is Flash Crowd, which I remember reading years ago. It was good then, and only slightly less so now.

What Good is a Glass Dagger? is the best story of the collection, about a young werewolf who attacks a warlock and is rewarded with an invisible glass dagger stabbed into his heart. If he ever leaves a mana-rich area, the magic dagger will materialize in his chest and kill him. Larry Niven's concept of mana as a limited resource required for magic is the basis for many role-playing games. So perhaps it may seem cliche now, but hey, Niven used it first.

  • The Flight of the Horse: Svetz goes back in time to capture an extinct animal--a horse. He captures one, but it nearly gores him to death with its horn.
  • Leviathan: Svetz travels back in time to collect a whale, and runs into the biblical leviathan.
  • Bird in the Hand: The Secretary-General desires a roc, so Svetz sees what he can do to turn an ostrich into a giant mythical bird.
  • There's a Wolf in My Time Machine: Svetz's time machine slips sideways into another universe where men evolved from wolves.
  • Death in a Cage: Svetz's time machine is hijacked by a man who wants to change the history of his time line to prevent nuclear apocalypse.
  • Flash Crowd: Matter displacement booths allow instant easy travel all over the world; roving mobs and floating riots abound.
  • What Good is a Glass Dagger?: Magic requires mana to work, but mana is a finite natural resource; when it is used up in one place, magic will never work there again.

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