If you've always wanted to throw back a few drinks with spacefaring extraterrestrials, look no further than Larry Niven's The Draco Tavern, a collection of 27 short stories revolving around an infamous interplanetary watering hole that puts Star Wars' Mos Eisley cantina to shame.
Rick Schumann, owner of the Draco Tavern situated in a spaceport at Mount Forel in Siberia, has stories aplenty for anyone who has the time to listen. In "Playground Earth," the tavern experiences some bad press and is bombed by xenophobic terrorists. While Schumann recovers from injuries sustained in the attack, the operation is shut down -- and dozens of bored aliens turned overly curious tourists converge on an unsuspecting human populace.
The tavern's entrepreneurial owner receives some potentially priceless information in "The Schumann Computer" -- designs for the galaxy's most intelligent computer -- but after the omnipotent construct is built, he realizes that knowing everything isn't all it's cracked up to be. In "The Subject Is Closed," a priest discusses the possibility of the afterlife with a Chirpsithra -- an ancient race of giant lobster-like aliens -- and comes away with a much-changed view of his religion.
In the book's introduction, Niven states that he dreamed up the spaceport bar as a setting to deal with the big questions -- God, the fate of humankind, immortality, artificial intelligences, the destiny of the universe, interspecies commerce, etc. -- and that's exactly what he does in The Draco Tavern, a short story collection that is practically supersaturated with diverse themes and concepts. A must-read. Paul Goat Allen