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This was a secondhand book I read back in the 90s, so it probably dates back to the 70s or 80s.

The basic plot was set on an old spaceship where morale is low and the captain has basically abandoned his duties. However, they have a second in command (or similar relatively high rank) who's learned some new cross-discipline methodology and is the only person abroad the ship who believes that there's an enemy ship creeping up behind them...

A couple of specific plot points revolve around the actions the SIC takes to turn things around, including beating up an ostracised midshipman, to get the crew to accept him as one of their own.

And there was also a section where he was running through some "you know I know that you know" to try and figure out when the enemy ship would attack, only to give up on this when he realised that everything cancelled out and the attack could come at any time.

Finally, there was also some snark in one of the "technical" sections which explained how the space drive works. If memory serves, it was all through the use of warp bubbles; initial attempts to utilise these for propulsion explosively failed, but then a scientist figured out that they could squeeze multiple bubbles together to shoot the spaceship along like a popped cork. The exchange goes something like:

  • I told you that wouldn't work. But this (bubble squeezing) will.

  • Why didn't we think of that?

  • Because I did

There's some parallels to this novel and AE Van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle, but it was definitely a (relatively) newer and more military-orientated novel.

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  • That's funny, reading your post, Voyage of the Space Beagle came to my mind, while I knew that wasn't it, of course.
    – Oliphaunt
    Oct 10, 2023 at 23:39

1 Answer 1

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I believe this is one of the iterations of David Gerrold's "Yesterday's Children" aka rewritten as "The Voyage of the Star Wolf" aka "Starhunt".

They are all mil-sf novels involving starship combat with the plot hinging on whether or not the enemy ship is really out there and personal conflicts between the crew based on that. As you say, the second-in-command is the protagonist and the captain is not doing much.

Ten days ago the captain retired to his cabin, and he has not been seen since. So Korie sits in the Command and Control Seat and is bored.

The oldest version of "Yesterday's Children" had a sad ending where the hero was wrong and the enemy ship was a sensor ghost. This got re-written to have a happier ending under the same title. Then the whole thing got rewritten again and called "The Voyage of the Star Wolf". I don't know what "Starhunt" is, three versions of the same thing were enough for me.

The rewritten "Star Wolf" version had a couple of sequels to it.

I also think the whole thing started as a failed pitch for a Star Trek TOS episode and this really shows in the layout of the bridge, use of warp drive, etc. (at least in the first version of the book, the one I am most familiar with).

However, I am fairly confident that one of these versions is the book you seek.

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  • 1
    Hmm - the name Korie does ring a bell, so I think you may very well be right! I'll have to see how the variations differ; in the version I read, there was an enemy ship and it does get destroyed, much to the amazement of the crew. Many thanks!
    – Juice
    Oct 9, 2023 at 22:12
  • @Juice When it became "Star Wolf" all this stuff about genetically enhanced humans called More-thans got added. If you don't remember that stuff, it's probably the rewrite of Yesterday's Children with the happier ending. My paperback of that version has this cover: isfdb.org/wiki/images/a/af/STRDSCHLDR1980.jpg Oct 9, 2023 at 22:17
  • 1
    I have to admit, I don't remember anything at all about genetic engineering, so I suspect you're right and I got the "middle" version.
    – Juice
    Oct 9, 2023 at 22:43

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