I read a short story (I think, but it might have been a novel), where most races discover a very easy way to travel faster than light at a certain point in their technological development.
What I remember:
- The guys in wooden ships bounced around subjugating the people without FTL travel.
- Earth had never figured out the FTL, and so had poured its effort in a different path, achieving present day technology.
- The aliens were freaking out about handing the humans FTL travel.
- The story was told from the point of view of the aliens.
- I read it in the last 10 years, but there is no telling how old it actually was, although I do remember them mentioning F-18s or F-14s.