Five-time Hugo Award-winner Larry Niven weaves together time travel and fantasy to create an utterly unique novel on the origin of the Martian "canals."
Hanville Svetz was born into a future earth that matches the sorriest predictions of Greenpeace. With most of Earth's original species extinct, Svetz travels back and forth in time retrieving them. Svetz learns that Mars was inhabited, and how the sapient Martian species were wiped out. He forsees that Earth could soon fall victim to the same fate.
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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.