I have been trying to remember a couple of fix-up novels, where I am pretty certain that I read the whole book, but I can only really remember one of the component stories.

What I remember of this novel is there is a vast interstellar war being fought between humans and some alien empire. As the humans' final weapon, they are building a huge battleship to destroy the enemies. It will take twenty years at least to build, any the crew are being raised from childhood at the same time.

I think this part of the story begins with the protagonist of the other sections of the fix-up in his office, talking to a subordinate. They look out the window, at the battleship under construction, and the subordinate makes a seemingly innocuous comment like, "So, they're really going to attack the enemy home world with that?" There is an awkward moment, and the main character says that the subordinate will have to be checked out, to make sure he's not an alien spy in disguise. The main character says that he might as well go along and get checked himself too.

The viewpoint then changes to the main protagonist's son, who is one of the crew being trained for the ship. At the moment, the son is still a child (maybe about age ten); however, the ship is keyed to him as a future crew member, and an actual alien spy somehow goads the boy into letting the spy into the ship.

That's all I remember. I don't remember how the alien spy is defeated, nor do I remember about what happened before or after this sub-story. Can anybody identify this book? It was probably published more than fifteen years ago, but I don't know the date beyond that. Nor do I have any remember anything about the cover.

  • 3
    I remember this story also but not author/title. The kid is undertaking a "rite of passage" by staying out all night. A couple of the aliens (in human guise) start talking to him on a lonely street and trying to get info about the star drive. At the same time his parents are informed by Security that he is doing his "all night" and that he is in Contact with the enemy. His mother goes into meltdown and dad has to hold her up. Back to the boy - he follows his training by continually thwarting the alien questions and finally leads them to a trap. All the while under secret surveillance
    – Danny Mc G
    Jul 15 '17 at 4:58
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    Sounds a bit like A E van Vogt. The Sound as part of The War Against the Rull.
    – Fruitbat
    Jul 15 '17 at 5:42
  • I think thats the one Fruitbat. Just looked at it online and it seems similar to the one Buzz describes and I remember. Totally forgot the kid wasn't alone during his all nighter, he had the friend alien
    – Danny Mc G
    Jul 15 '17 at 6:27

As suggested in the comments, this is The War Against The Rull by A. E. van Vogt. There is a Wikipedia article about the book here.

The exchange you remember happens after the story about the aliens trying to trick the child. At the beginning of chapter 20 Caleb Carson is talking to Trevor Jamieson:

They finished lunch, took a last look at the ship—which was towering visibly through the transparent walls; and then, as they walked out, Carson said, "Do they actually plan to go to the Rull home planet with that ship?"

He must have seen, from Jamieson's expression, that he'd said the wrong thing. He sighed. "All right, let's pause at the guard­house and see if I'm a Rull."

Jamieson nodded grimly. "And while we're about it," he said, "for your sake I'd better be checked also."

The story you remember about the child and the ship is chapters 17 to 19. It was adapted from a short story called The Sound. The boy is Jamieson's son Diddy and he is nine.

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    As an amusing side note, A. E. van Vogt invented the term "fix up novel" Jul 15 '17 at 11:40
  • I read a whole bunch of van Vogt fix-ups, and I had forgotten about this one.
    – Buzz
    Jul 15 '17 at 11:52

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