The Draco Tavern (2006)

27 vignettes that cover the encounters between many diverse aliens and humans in the Draco Tavern. Established in Siberia two years after the arrival of the first aliens, the Draco Tavern is the only place on Earth where you can sit around a table with aliens, drink something and talk about everything, be it science, gods, sex, technology or other important things.

But beware, talking to aliens might, if you ask the right questions, make you rich or lose yourself completely. These vignettes are a bit like jokes, if you share the writers taste, you might like them as much as I did, but if you don’t you might wonder why people care about them. You won’t get deep characterization or much action, most of the time you have humans and aliens philosophizing about mundane or not so mundane things. The whole setting reminded me a bit of James White’s Orbit Hospital with its many aliens and living conditions, and another thing that is similar, humans (and most aliens likewise) seem to be more peaceful than in most other fiction.

The stories feel like a look at the dawn of mankind before it begins to grow into something bigger, before humans go out to the stars, travel, discover. Uncommon for SF, here mankind gave up space exploration, then aliens came and this changed. Whatever mankind grows into, there always will be the knowledge that we got a second chance, that we had a helping hand, that we aren’t alone out there and have many friends, even if they are strange and alien. Great collection IMHO and I hope Larry Niven writes more Draco Tavern stories.