I'm trying to track down a book I read in the 1980s sometime. I think it was set in the far future on an alien world colonised by humans, who had eventually descended into a kind of industrial-feudal society. The planet is facing some kind of slowly-progressing catastrophe, but for some reason (politics between city-states?) dealing with it would require an impractical level of effort.

One ruler comes up with the idea of a huge mega-project to unify people and justify the effort involved - building a gigantic spaceship to take everyone off the doomed planet. He doesn't believe it's practical, but it's an excuse no-one could argue against for doing things that benefit the world. One example given is a hydro-power dam being built "for the ship", with eight power lines running to the ship's construction site - but only two of them are real, the rest of the power being used elsewhere.

I can't remember much more than that, but I have the vague idea that the ship might have accidentally been designed and made in such a way that it would genuinely work (plot twist!).

The edition I read had a dark green cover, with a huge white triangular tail-fin rising from the middle distance of a landscape.

My question is what is the title and/or author of the book?

  • This does sound familiar.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Sep 29, 2018 at 21:28

1 Answer 1


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Lords of the Starship, a 1967 novel by Mark S. Geston; set on far future Earth, not another planet.

Here is the beginning of the Wikipedia plot summary:

In the far future, on an Earth devastated by millennia of war, the Caroline Republic is hostile towards its neighbors although sharing their dire economic straits. Outside the declining remains of civilization lie ruins and wastelands populated by mutants and monsters. It is generally felt that humanity lost its vitality long ago.

To a leading politician of the Caroline the aged veteran General Toriman proposes a centuries-long scheme to build the nation by taking control of an ancient shipyard hundreds of miles away which was apparently designed to build spacecraft. Ostensibly, the purpose of the project will be the construction of a spaceship seven miles long called the "Victory" to carry the population of the despairing world to a paradise planet called "Home". In fact, the ship will never be completed, but the effort will revitalize the nation's economy and perhaps restore mankind's missing quality.

The back cover blurb from the 1967 Ace paperback edition:

The ship was to be seven miles long, a third of a mile in diameter and have a wingspread of three and a half miles. It would take two and a half centuries to construct. Its announced purpose: to carry humanity away from its ruined world, from the world that had become a perpetual purgatory.

To build this vast ship would require the undivided activity of an entire nation and would mean carrying out a ruthless program of war and conquest, of annihilation and reconstruction, and of education and rediscovery.

But was this starship really what it was claimed to be? Or was there a greater secret behind its incredible cost—a secret so strange that no man dared reveal it?

One example given is a hydro-power dam being built "for the ship", with eight power lines running to the ship's construction site - but only two of them are real, the rest of the power being used elsewhere.

The second party of four men was to confirm a progress report from the Armories. According to the report, a "modification" had been performed on a power chain leading from a hydroelectric dam on the Denligh River in southern Yuma to the Yards. Three transformer stations had been established on the line before its eight cables reached the yards. All in all the line ran for several hundred miles through four new protectorate nations of the Caroline and the Badlands. That the lines had reached the Yards at all — all but two being dummies — was a bit of a miracle, for while the southern lands that the line traversed did not carry the legendary stigmata that the far north and west did, they still held the more pedestrian horrors in abundance. It was thus only slightly incredible that the Armories reported that only three men had been lost in its modification; two hundred men in the original crew had died. It had taken the Armories five months to carry out its mission; the War Office engineers had needed three years to build the real and fake power lines.

  • 1
    user14111 is correct, the novel I was thinking of was Lords of the Starship by Mark S. Geston. I had misremembered the cover image, but the third one in their link fits my memories. Thanks very much for your help!
    – Tim W.
    Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 4:20

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