At one time the term "science fiction" caused eyebrows to raise. "Isn't that reading for losers who can't relate to others well?" Larry Niven is one of the authors who forever changed the way SF is perceived, one whose fiction emphasizes science without cutting short on any of the tools of your typical brilliant writer of fiction. This gives us well-sculpted characters, even in the shortest of stories, with eye-opening and theoretically sound scientific concepts, plot twists, and remarkable endings. Satisfying story after satisfying story.
What's unique about this collection isn't that it includes a foreward with comments by other authors and fans, or that the author comments on each piece within the collection. Those are commonplace. But in Niven's world, he likes to let you into his world in a special way, perhaps by dishing some dirt on an SF mag who rejected a story that turned out to win a Hugo, etc. He openly questions his finished product, saying that "Today I'd write this story differently," etc. As if we could lift the lid on his cranium and step inside for a moment, seeing how the stories are crafted. Very interesting.
Not as interesting as the work, however, another unique thing about this collection: Not only short stories are collected here, many of which only appeared in one issue of some now-defunct SF mag or other, dating back to the mid 1960s upward to 1990 when this book was first published. He also includes essays, such as an unforgettable commentary on the problems Superman would have if he tried to mate with Lois Lane, as well as excerpts from his published novels at the time. A terrific sampler of a terrific author, whose early-70s work "Ringworld" stands as one of the most brilliant works of speculative fiction of all time. Intelligentsia still debates the validity of its scientific assumptions, and while even Niven admits that most of these have been disproven, how many SF works do you know that sparked so much debate while still being so widely admired?
Niven is far, far beyond any alien shoot-em-up author. This ain't "Star Trek." This is real scientific fiction told by a natural storyteller who loves what he does. We readers love him for it.