I was talking to a co-worker about "throw at the wall" category books, and this story popped to mind but I can't place it. I'm not sure if it's a novel or a shorter work; I don't recall enough detail for a novel, but it's entirely possible I didn't finish it. I would have read this before 2005, I think.

In the story there are some unknown, unseen aliens who send a warship to attack Earth every decade or so. Each warship approaches Earth slowly from interstellar space, giving Earth lots of time to react. The ship is invulnerable to weapons like particle beams and fusion missiles, but can be boarded by a small party of people to shut it off. (For some reason the aliens have incredible armour and impenetrable point defence, but it's possible to fly a shuttle up to the unprotected, undefended airlock and board the damn thing.)

As I recall, this has been going on for a while (but nobody has bothered trying to figure out where the alien ships are coming from and stop them) and each ship is ever so slightly better protected than the last. (It's like someone pre-wrote the novelization of a level-based action video game.) So, for example, if on the first one the human team opened the airlock, walked to the control room and hit the big red self destruct button, then the second warship put a door on the control room, and the third warship had a robot defending the door to the control room.

(But, note, really stupid aliens because they never thought "why do we have an accessible airlock that people can walk through?" or "why do we need to put a self-destruct button on our warship at all?")

So much of it made no sense, like if it's possible to land a party of four or six people, why not more? If you can fly a shuttle up to the damn thing, why not two or three? Why not put a giant-ass freaking bomb in the shuttle instead of a few squishy meatbags?

Either I borrowed this, or it was in a collection with other works, because I have no memory of burning it.

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    ...whereas, by way of contrast, I clearly recall putting Battlefield Earth in the oven to melt the glue on the binding so I could pull the pages apart and shred them before adding them to the compost heap.
    – DavidW
    Dec 8, 2023 at 18:34
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    @Valorum I'm not here to denigrate anyone else's taste. Among (many) other things, I couldn't get past the radiation-sensitive Psychlo atmosphere, in a book written 70 years after the discovery of cosmic radiation.
    – DavidW
    Dec 8, 2023 at 18:47
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    @DavidW Wouldn't want that in my compost!
    – Mark Olson
    Dec 8, 2023 at 18:53
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    @DavidW I was done with Battlefield Earth when it turned out that no one could understand the alien's mathematics because it was written it in base 11.
    – user23087
    Dec 8, 2023 at 19:27
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    That's a nicer answer than my guess
    – Andrew
    Dec 8, 2023 at 23:35

1 Answer 1


You may be thinking of Marc Stiegler's Earthweb which does feature a series of alien vessels attempting to harm Earth but defeated by teams of infiltrators (directed by a marketplace of bettors who gamble on the features of the defenses the team will encounter). From the wiki article:

EarthWeb is set in a future where Earth faces a recurring attack every five years by a massive spaceship of unknown origin. Named Shivas, after the Hindu deity, these ships are vast, robot-crewed, and progressively more advanced. The apparent ultimate goal of the Shivas is the total extermination of the human population on Earth.

Highly trained hero commando squads, known as Angels, infiltrate and attempt to destroy each Shiva using data gathered through an expanded, global version of the internet.

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    Yargh. That plus the copy I found in the Internet Archive are enough to confirm it. I'm sorry you read it too. ;) It being by Stiegler explains why it was borrowed; after David's Sling I definitely would not have bought it. On the positive side, I'd managed to block out all the libertarian-based market stuff...
    – DavidW
    Dec 8, 2023 at 21:08
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    @DavidW, it seems a large part of why you dislike this book is your assumption that the aliens are trying to destroy Earth. Maybe it's their version of reality TV: "Can the primitive humans destroy our ship before it destroys their planet? Stay tuned to find out."
    – cjm
    Dec 10, 2023 at 2:39
  • @cjm I'm actually often fine with really out-there concepts or plots, as long as the story itself is sufficiently well-written, or the characters are sufficiently well-drawn and engaging. Any one of the three (setting/premise, plot/story, or characters) can be good enough to carry a tale, though obviously the best hit on all three. But the throw-at-the-wall books fail on all of them, even if I don't remember the specific details of all the failings. Now that I know what book it is I can see I would have individually hated many elements of the world-building too...
    – DavidW
    Dec 10, 2023 at 17:19
  • I actually enjoyed Earthweb very much so there!
    – Danny Mc G
    Dec 10, 2023 at 19:05
  • You can read the full text of Earthweb at Baen using the Free Download link. I didn't think it was completely terrible - about standard for Baen, but certainly not great and the premise is pretty bad.
    – bob1
    Dec 13, 2023 at 20:35

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