I'm trying to identify a novel that retells the story of Ragnarok as a space opera. If I recall correctly, the protagonists were a small group of extraordinary individuals named after the Norse gods, while the antagonists were ordinary men who crewed starships with names like Surt, Fenris and Garm. It had many elements of Starship Troopers, Armor, and Ender's Game, although with a mythological rather than political slant. I bought the novel in a supermarket in the mid-to-late 1980s, so it was most likely published around that time. It predates Stephen R. Donaldson's Gap Cycle. I've since lost track of the book, and I haven't been able to figure out the title or who wrote it.

The story is primarily written from the point of view of the godlike protagonists, although if I recall correctly there are also counterpoint sections following the antagonists. The climax features a space battle roughly following the story of Ragnarok, with heavy losses on both sides (e.g., Odin is killed in combat with the ship Garm).

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    This was the plot of a tabletop campaign I was in. I feel somewhat cheated... – Adele C Jun 16 '13 at 19:09
  • @AdeleC Interesting! I wonder whether your GM read the same novel, or if it's just a common idea. I have no idea whether it was a good novel, although I enjoyed it as a teen. I suspect that it was written by a new author (or under a pseudonym) and that it's long out of print. – Bradd Szonye Jun 16 '13 at 19:12
  • Unfortunately, I'm not in touch with him anymore, or I would ask. – Adele C Jun 16 '13 at 19:18
  • A high school buddy just asked me about this book today! Confirms the timeline for the book as late ’80s, but unfortunately he couldn’t remember the title or author either. He contacted me to find out. – Bradd Szonye Oct 27 '15 at 23:31

Could it be The Survivors by Tom Godwin?

The Survivors is a science fiction novel by author Tom Godwin. It was published in 1958 by Gnome Press in an edition of 5,000 copies, of which 1,084 were never bound.

A ship heading from Earth to Athena, a planet 500 light years away, is suddenly attacked by the Gerns, an alien empire in its expansion phase. People aboard are divided by the invaders into Acceptables and Rejects. The Acceptables would become slave labor for the Gerns on Athena, and the Rejects are forced ashore on the nearest 'Earth-like' planet, called Ragnarok. The Gerns say they will return for the Rejects, but the Rejects quickly realise that that isn't going to happen.

Ragnarok is not so 'Earth-like.' Its gravity is 1.5 times that of Earth, it is populated by deadly, aggressive creatures and it contains little in the way of usable metal ores. This, combined with a terrible deadly fever that kills in hours, more than decimates the population.

The novels follows the stranded humans through several generations as they try to survive there, and their unswerving goal to repay the Gerns for their cruelty.

And here's a picture of the cover:

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There's also the sequel, published in 1964, called 'The Space Barbarians'

It is explained elsewhere that the humans on Ragnarok develop extraordinary feats due to living in the harsh environment for generations.

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  • That sounds a lot more similar to the novel I read than the other suggestions so far. Do any of the novels end with a climactic battle on Ragnarok where many of the "gods" are slain according to Norse myth (e.g., Odin slain in battle with a landing ship named Garm)? – Bradd Szonye Jun 12 '14 at 18:48
  • I'm sorry, but I haven't read the books myself, I only searched google. However, you can read more about the books on Goodreads and you can read The Survivors aka Space Prison here: gutenberg.org/files/22549/22549-h/22549-h.htm – Stefan Urziceanu Jun 13 '14 at 5:20
  • Definitely not the book I’m looking for, but the first chapter was an interesting read. – Bradd Szonye Mar 24 '15 at 1:56

Could it be the Northworld trilogy, by David Drake? Came out in 1990, so shortly before the Gap cycle. It's not the 80's, but I think everything else matches (humans as gods vs human technology, warriors training for upcoming Ragnarok, etc). It's even freely available (Baen free library).

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  • Thanks for the suggestion! Unfortunately the plot summary doesn't sound familiar at all. The novel I read was mostly or entirely written from the point of view of the "gods," not an outsider. – Bradd Szonye Jun 12 '14 at 18:41
  • If I recall correctly, there were significant portions written from the viewpoint of the "gods" (though not mostly). Good luck searching! – JJV Jun 12 '14 at 19:14
  • Ah ok! I'm almost certain that I read the novel in high school, so definitely before 1990 and likely 1987–88. But this sounds quite similar in some ways so I may need to check it out anyway. – Bradd Szonye Jun 12 '14 at 20:07

I saw a book fitting that description today: Absorption, by John Meaney. Is that possibly what you were looking for? It looked like this book may have been a new release though.

(Funny you should ask this question in the exact same day I saw this book.)

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    A simple search provides early-2011 as the release-date. OQ said mid-to-late 80s. This may be better put as a book-suggestion comment under the question. – Solemnity Jun 17 '13 at 2:56
  • I think I saw that one the last time I tried to find the book I'm talking about. It's far too recent though, only a couple years old. The one I'm thinking of came out when I was in high school in the 80s, a little after Steakley's Armor, I think. – Bradd Szonye Jun 17 '13 at 2:56

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