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I'm looking for a novel from the 70's (pretty sure). I believe it starts off with the court martial of a starship captain. The story lays out the reasons for the court martial. It turns out the ship was sent out to visit established colonies and just show the flag. When they arrive at one colony they detect a ship vanishing into hyperspace. They visit the colony and everybody has vanished. After a search some colonists are found. Only they've been hideously modified and are hiding in a cave. The captain sends everyone else back to the ship and talks to the colonists. They beg him to kill them, so he does. That's the reason for the court martial. The truth comes out and he is acquitted.

There was a second book where a starship arrives at another colony where the changes are just starting to take effect. The colonists are giving birth to monsters. A female crewmember gets pregnant and gives birth to a monster.

That's about all I remember. Starfleet headquarters was in San Francisco, I think.

  • Starfleet HQ in San Francisco sounds like a serious clue to Star Trek. Problem is, there were around thirty Star Trek novels published in the 1970s (I once owned all of them). I don't, however, recall a story like this, and can't picture Kirk sanctioning a mercy killing -- his style is more "solve the impossible problem" than "put the victims out of their misery". – Zeiss Ikon Jun 7 '17 at 17:48
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    I don't know if it's the same guy, but sffchronicles.com/threads/36637 sounds like the same query. Unfortunately, no answer there. – FuzzyBoots Jun 7 '17 at 19:07
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    Possible duplicate of: Starship captain put on trial for destroying a colony – John Rennie Jun 8 '17 at 11:48
  • Hi user84507. Please have a look at the question I've linked above and see if it is the same book that you are asking about. – John Rennie Jun 8 '17 at 11:55
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    I agree with John. This looks to be a duplicate of Starship captain put on trial for destroying a colony. – Dosco Jones Jun 8 '17 at 16:51
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This is definitely A Thunder Of Stars (Venturer Twelve, Book 1) by Dan Morgan and John Kippax. I remember it well, though I don't see a handy on-line synopsis.

The description in the question is as detailed and accurate as anything I can come up with from memory.

Although I can't describe the second book, the points I remember are: starship making a show the flag visit to a colony planet, colonists at first appeared to be gone, but a few are found in a cave, hideously modified, one colonist begged the captain to kill them, the story was told in a courtroom setting with the photos of the modified colonists being the final exhibit which exonerates the captain.

  • Could you summarise some plot points that are similar to asker's description? – Gallifreyan Jun 8 '17 at 20:12
  • Actually, the description in the question is as detailed and accurate as anything I can come up with. – John Thompson Jun 8 '17 at 20:15
  • Although I can't describe the second book. But the points I remember are: starship making a show the flag visit to a colony planet, colonist at first appeared to be gone, but a few are found in a cave, hideously modified, one colonist begged the captain to kill them, the story was told in a courtroom setting with the photos of the modified colonists being the final exhibit which exonerates the captain. – John Thompson Jun 8 '17 at 20:21
  • That seems to match the asker's description: "There was a second book where a starship arrives at another colony where the changes are just starting to take effect. The colonists are giving birth to monsters. A female crewmember gets pregnant and gives birth to a monster." Could you edit your comment into your answer? – Gallifreyan Jun 8 '17 at 20:23
  • Done. And thanks to whomever added the cover pictures. – John Thompson Jun 8 '17 at 20:28

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