Just a warning: I know very little about this book. If you're going to be frustrated by a lack of detail you might want to give this one a miss. If you still want to try, thank you!
This book is a science fiction novel, with FTL space travel being commonplace.
The only real detail I know about this book is that the ships in the universe (or at least the ship of the protagonist) are large ships, and the surfaces of these ships are covered with these 'spires' or 'pillars'. They aren't called spires or pillars as they have a proper technical name, but I don't remember this name. The way the ships are described made me picture them in a similar way to Hovercraft from The Matrix, specifically the hoverpads that cover those craft and constantly crackle with energy. These 'hoverpads' form a major component of the ship's propulsion, enabling FTL travel when the ship has enough. The more functioning hoverpads a ship has, the faster it goes.
There is a section in the book where a lot of these hoverpads are damaged by an attack from another ship, and the ship is no longer capable of going FTL, leaving them effectively stranded. A protagonist must spacewalk on the surface of the craft to inspect or fix some of these hoverpads. This is extremely dangerous because of the huge amount of radiation given off by the pads. I believe the protagonist succeeds. It's clear in the book that this very rarely or possibly never happens, as it's so dangerous.
The reason I remember the image of those ships covered in these hoverpad things is because I listened to the U2 albums The Joshua Tree and How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb on repeat whilst I read the book. Now every time I hear a song from one of those albums I get a vivid image of the ships and a burning desire to know where they came from. (I know this isn't relevant but it's a very strong image. I've been listening to the albums to try and jog my memory!)
- I read this book in 2012. The book was from my local library so there's very little chance it was anywhere near new when I read it. Most likely pre ~2005. (Unfortunately this was also before my library made borrowing records digital, so I don't believe a record exists.)
- The protagonists are humanoid.
- The novel had more than 400 pages (not a short story).