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I had read a part of a space fiction novel/story a long time back. I don't remember names of the characters or spaceships but the plot is something like this:

  • A group of space soldiers find a huge round spaceship (much larger than their vessel) abandoned in space with no signs of life.
  • They map the spaceship remotely and find that it is organised as layers with each layer being a floor.
  • They send in a team using beam transport to explore. The team finds upper "layers" look like a cruise ship - decorated and comfortable
  • As they continue going down, they find the layers become more spartan - possibly crew quarters and like
  • They scan the core from upper layers and find that it is made up of some sort of loose matter.
  • Once they get near the core, the scans find that the loose matter is actually lots of humanoid dead bodies, possibly the ship's passengers.

All the action is from point of view of a team-member (male) who is either a biologist or extraterrestrial specialist - not a soldier as far as I remember.

I'd appreciate if anyone can point me to the story/novel.

EDIT

The story beginning is somewhat similar to Rendezvous_with_Rama except that spaceship is round and all floors are empty and I don't remember any sea. The team leader is a female but she is not the seniormost among people in the reconnaissance vessel.

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    "a huge round spaceship" - how huge? Marrow (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marrow_(novel)) fits some of these points but probably not enough to propose as an answer - unless the ship is the size of a Jovian planet...
    – tardigrade
    Jan 10, 2018 at 16:52
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    @Oliver_C Yes that's it! I found this which has a small excerpt from the book, which I remember reading. If you can post an answer, I'll accept it. Thanks Again!
    – RedBaron
    Mar 16, 2021 at 9:53

1 Answer 1

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+100

This seems to be Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers - The Belly of the Beast, published in 2000.

Here are some excerpts that fit the mentioned story points.

Regarding the ship's size and form:

It was a monster, more than fifty times bigger than the Enterprise... It was round, like a small moon ... Two smooth rings circled the outer hull of the ship ... The rings were as thick as the Enterprise saucer section and twice as wide ... Picard had no idea what the rings were for.

Remote scaning and discovering that it's probably a cruise ship:

As they gathered details about the Beast, the computer would fill in the three-dimensional map floating above the table surface ...

"We're getting clear images of the top deck area," Stevens said. "And the rings. But the deeper we go into the center of the ship, the worse it gets."

Geordi could tell it was one amazing ship. There had to be far over a hundred decks, with large open areas scattered throughout. And the rings looked more like observation decks than anything else. There were a number of very large, multiroom private quarters scattered in the rings, and a lot of large gathering areas.

"Check out the material on the outer side of the rings," Geordi said, pointing. "I'm betting you can see through it from the inside."

"What the hell was this ship?" Gomez asked.

"I'm putting my money on a cruise ship of some sort," Carol said.

Geordi knew instantly she was right ...

Less luxurious quarters on lower levels, and the strange readings of the core:

The room they had beamed into was large and well-lit, but not as plushly furnished as the upper decks.

"Looks like this ship had some economy-class passenger fares as well," Geordi said.

"You didn't expect all the rooms to look like those suites up in the rings, did you?" Gomez asked.

...

Here there was no soft surface, no art, just door after door on both sides of the halllway.

"Crew's quarters," Geordi said, studying his tricorder. "But there are energy signatures coming from ten decks down. I think that might be a warp core I'm reading." ...

"Getting weird readings," Geordi said frowning. "It seems to be hollow, more than likely a null-gravity core of some sort. And it's packed loosely with some sort of substance I'm not getting a fix on. We need to get closer."

Once they reach the core, they find the dead crew and passengers:

The race that had inhabited this cruise ship was clearly humanoid in almost every fashion ... They were packed into what had to be a core area big enough to hold the Enterprise. They were all floating, limbs tangled up in limbs, faces moving slowly past the viewport ... Faces frozen in terror and pain ... It was like a giant, slowly moving, zero-g dance of bodies.

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