There are many scenes in these stories that stick with me. In Hal Colebatch's, the whole of "Three at Table", especially the shattering yet uplifting end, such a contrast to the dark, miasmic scenes of rain, night, depression, guilty sex and fear that have gone before the final literal and metaphysical turning on of the light.
Also his delicate relationship between the misfit human female genius Dimity Carmody and the misfit Kzin male genius Vaemar - are they in love? I'm not sure and I don't think they know (or will admit it) either. A likeable (but unsentimentalised) Kzin of a different sort is the tough old ex-sergeant Raargh. His friend, the human female Leonie Rykermann (Colebatch seems to be working on variations of the "Beauty and the Beast" archtype in these stories)is also a touching character - an intrinsically kindly and gentle person forced to become a guerrilla leader. Rarrgh and Leonie gain both tragedy and strength from the fact that they are forced to live roles completely outside their characters and conditioning. A wonderful blend of story-telling, action, and subtle yet complex moral and social points.
Scenes from Colebatch's "Grossgeister Swamp", some of them strangely dream-like, also stick in the mind. I laughed at the moment of self-parody when the pedantic Vaemar tells a human student: "You must realise that for cats our space-faring has an incongrously nautical vocabulary"!
Colebatch's three novellas in this collection add up to about 95,000 words, building on the seven novels and novellas he has published previously in the series, with the same characters. Putting them together, it can be said that he has now written a fantasy novel about two-thirds the length of "The Lord of the Rings," and each story is enthralling, though different.
Colebatch dedicated his last Man-Kzin book, "The Wunder War" (140,000 words)to the memory of Poul Anderson and I reckon the Great Poul, quaffing in The Old Phoenix, will approve of these.
In Matthew's stories you have to work a bit to follow what is going on, and you have to know a bit about Niven's ealier works (Particularly "Protector"), but it's well worth the effort - twists and turns of perception, and gradually the full significance of events dawns upon you - wonderful intellectual puzzles as well as action stories and good sciencve told with a voice of expertise.
One of Matthew's greatest feats is actually getting you inside the mind of a super-intelligent being (the human Protector Peace Corben)with its strange blend of arrogance, coldness, compassion and love, in a convincing way. This is one of the most often attempted feats in science-fiction but one of the hardest to do successfully. Further complexities of the feline, predatory Kzin are revealed in ways that surprise, but always convincingly. The thoughtful and complex Kzin in these stories have come a long, long, way from the simple carniverous villians in Larry Niven's first stories like "The Warriors" and "The soft weapon," yet these stories also do honour to his original intentions and his wonderful initial inspiration.
Matthew Harrington really transports you to an alien environment that is thoroughly convincing, and evokes the "sense of wonder" that science-fiction often claims but seldom achieves.
With writers like these, no wonder the Kzin, like Tolkien's Orcs and hobbits, are entering the general canon of fantasy folklore.