I remember reading this story many years back, and I vaguely started to recall it the past few weeks. Here is the image that jump-started the recall process—

enter image description here

But for the life of me, I can't recall much else than what I've written below. It's starting to get on my nerves now, halp!

  1. The story is set in the future, but the story describes space-war as if it was written a few decades back, so think more like Star Wars/Star Trek style writing rather than, say, Avengers/Guardians of the Galaxy. (I know I'm using movie analogies to describe a book, sorry, they are the best examples.)
  2. Protagonist is a run-of-the-mill soldier. (I think)
  3. Humans are at war with aliens, quite a prolonged war. (I think)
  4. He is suddenly thrown into an arena, where is made to fight aliens, one-on-one.
  5. Arena doesn't mean a colossuem-style building, its more like a empty grassland/marshy patch of land.
  6. Aliens also aren't like your typical little-green-men(this I'm quite sure of). I think they were different, maybe invertebrates the size of a large dog(But this could also be the image biasing my memory.) He begins with nothing but minimal clothing, and starts using sticks, stones and other things he finds around. I also think he fashions a sort of knife. He ultimately prevails.
  7. Finds himself back with his squad, and humans ready for their last stand, in an all-out face-off in space.
  8. Human ship fires first salvo, and hits one alien ship. But this blast jumps from ship-to-ship, destroying all alien ships.
  9. Protagonist realises he is the cause of the human victory, but I think he decides not to disclose it.

That's it. That's all I can remember. Anyone else remember reading anything like this?

  • You're off to a great start with some pretty uniquely identifying details, however a time period of when you read it/when it was written would help narrow it down, can I reccomend you take a look at this guide. You've already provided a lot of detail, but this might just help you remember a few more. – Edlothiad Nov 28 '17 at 13:50
  • Maybe also scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/101945/… depending on whether we include "Which anthology contains this story among others". – FuzzyBoots Nov 28 '17 at 14:08
  • @Edlothiad Wow, I did not know story-identification was an actual category here. Thanks for the edit, and the tips, have added details accordingly. – Sujan Sundareswaran Nov 28 '17 at 14:15

This is Fredric Brown's "Arena" (bolding mine).

The mysterious Outsiders have skirmished with Earth's space colonies and starships. Their vessels are found to be faster and more maneuverable, but less well armed. There have been no survivors of the small raids on Earth forces so Earth has no information about the Outsiders. Fearing the worst, Earth builds a war fleet. Scouts report a large armada approaching the solar system. Earth's defenders go to meet them. All indications are that the two fleets are evenly matched.

Bob Carson is the pilot of a small one-man scout ship on the outskirts of the fleet. While engaging his Outsider counterpart in battle, he blacks out. When he awakens, he finds himself naked in a small enclosed, circular area about 250 yards (230 m) across. Other than vegetation and blue sand, he sees in the distance only a red sphere about 1 yard (0.91 m) in diameter. The sphere turns out to be an Outsider, with several dozen fully retractable thin tentacles to manipulate objects. Based on its method of movement, Carson labels it a "Roller".

Carson hears a voice in his mind that identifies itself as the end product of the evolution of an entire race. While traveling through various spaces and dimensions, it had come upon the impending battle. The evolved intelligence decided to intervene because both humans and Rollers have the potential to one day evolve into a being like itself, but the upcoming war would utterly destroy one side and hurt the other so badly that it would not be able to fulfill its destiny. It therefore chose one individual from each species to fight in this small arena. The loser will doom its kind to instant extinction.

Carson and his opponent discover, through trial and error, that there is an invisible barrier between them, and that living things cannot cross it, though inanimate objects can. Carson tries to communicate with the Roller, to see if a compromise is possible, but receives a mental message of unremitting hatred.

Carson then observes his foe catch a small blue lizard, casually pull off its legs, and throw the body unimpeded to his side. Thinking that the barrier is down, Carson charges and nearly knocks himself out when he is proved wrong. While he is on the ground recovering from the collision, Carson is seriously wounded in the leg by a rock thrown by the Roller.

Aware that his wound will eventually kill him, Carson searches desperately for a way to get to his enemy. When he finds that the blue lizard is still alive, he puts it out of its misery. Then realization hits him – the lizard passed through the barrier while it was alive but unconscious. Taking a risk born of ultimate desperation, he knocks himself out on a slope and rolls through to the other side. He regains consciousness but lies motionless in order to lure the faster, healthier Roller into range, then kills it using a knife knapped from a flint-like rock.

The next instant Carson finds himself back in his scouter ship. He receives a jubilant message from his commander, Captain Brander aboard the mother-ship Magellan, informing him that Earth's first salvo somehow caused the entire enemy fleet to disintegrate, even the ships that were out of range. When Carson sees several newly healed scars where he had been wounded, he knows he did not imagine the fight, but wisely keeps his experience to himself.

Found by searching for science fiction soldier arena aliens

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