In the book, humans were in a long war with an alien race that had a slight upper hand in numbers and technology, and so were slowly losing ground. At the start of the war, Earth had cut itself off from all contact with the rest of humanity; I think this was hundreds of years before the events in the book. As the book opens, a single spaceship from Earth arrives at the human's capital world, IIRC to pick up an ambassador to travel to the alien's home world for peace negotiations.

Some more plot points dredged from memory:

  • The Earth ship had a small crew, somewhere around 4 or 5. The Earth humans had psychic powers, but galactic humans didn't.
  • Earth had gone through a lot of social upheaval during its isolation from the rest of the galaxy.
  • I think the aliens were telepathic (the Earth humans didn't tell the galactic ambassador about all their plans because he couldn't shield his thoughts).

The ending went along these lines:

After the peace mission, the aliens invade Earth with a large part of their military and trigger a booby trap that destroys them along with Earth. After that, the balance of power is in humanity's favor.

If it helps, I would have read the book in the late 1970s or early 1980s, but I believe it was published some time before that.

  • 1
    Could be a John Varley or Robert Silverberg books. Both books dealt with alien invasion and were published around that timeframe. Commented Jan 17, 2011 at 3:11
  • 2
    @scope_creep: definitely not Varley; in his Eight Worlds stories, humanity didn't leave the solar system. I'll go through Silverberg's bibliography and see if I see anything that might be it.
    – Niall C.
    Commented Jan 17, 2011 at 4:05
  • @scope_creep: didn't see anything like it in Silverberg's work either.
    – Niall C.
    Commented Jan 28, 2011 at 3:11

3 Answers 3


This sounds like Norman Spinrad's The Solarians.


From Wikipedia:

The novel takes places centuries in the future when humanity has colonized many star systems. Another race, the Duglaari or "Doogs" is slowly conquering human systems, herding the inhabitants into barren areas where they simply starve to death. The two races have approximately equal technologies, and space battles are decided by superior numbers, with the Doogs always having the advantage.

The colonists are awaiting the emergence of saviors from "Fortress Sol", the Solar System, which has been closed off to all ships since the early days of the war. Before sealing themselves off with billions of space mines and robot ships, the Solarians, as they are known to the colonists, promised to re-emerge with an answer to the numeric superiority of the Duglaari.

Returning from yet another lost system, a fleet commander called Palmer finds that a group of Solarians has contacted his superiors and wishes him to accompany them on a mission. The mission is to journey to the Duglaari home world and end the war.

Along the way, he discovers that they are different from any people he has ever known. He was raised in a hierarchical military society, where computers make all important decisions, including the conduct of battles. He is amazed that the Solarians use computers very little, relying on their innate skills to pilot spaceships, navigate, and decide on tactics. They rely on the "Organic Group", the idea that humans have individual talents allowing them naturally to adopt roles in small cohesive groups. One man, stereotypically handsome and charismatic, is Leader. Another takes the role of Gamesmaster, intuitively understanding probability and psychology. The group includes a pair of telepaths, and a mysterious woman who has no specific role, except that the Group is better with her than without. Her role is described as "Glue". Part of her job is to relax their guest and prepare him for his role, which involves offering sexual as well as spiritual comforts.


The Solarians take Palmer to Fortress Sol, behind all its defenses, and tour the system so he can see Earth for the last time. The Duglaari fleet arrives and penetrates the defences, unleashing massive bombardments that destroy all the habitable planets. When all seems lost, a stardrive in a ship on Mercury is activated, and Sol explodes, annihilating the Doog fleet. Suddenly the Solarian scheme becomes clear to Palmer. By goading the Doogs into risking a large part of the fleet, they have destroyed so many ships that from now on, the colonists will always have the advantage. Palmer's humiliation was a necessary part of the deception. He believes that Earth sacrificed itself to save the colonies. He is wrong in one detail, however.

In the final chapter, it is revealed that humanity had evacuated the Solar System and is traveling between the stars in massive Space Arks. Faster than light ships cannot be larger than a certain size, but the Arks, proceeding slower than light, can be as big as necessary. In a matter of a few decades, they will reach Alpha Centauri and humanity will reunite to defeat the Duglaari. In addition, with Earth destroyed they will cease looking back to the home world and will conquer the galaxy.

  • Yes it does (though it looks like I was wrong about the aliens being telepathic). Thank you.
    – Niall C.
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 22:26

To add another possible line of investigation; it sounds like a prequel to van Vogt's Empire of the Atom. Which was published 1957 (around the time you were indicating).

He did a lot of short stories and I don't know his work comprehensively enough to know whether this is one of them.

  • 1
    I'm sure this was novel length, not a short story.
    – Niall C.
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 3:43

This could be Old Man's War by John Scalzi, but then I don't recall any telepathic/psychic being in it. Still, check out that book. It's pretty awesome, IMHO.

  • Old Man's War matches the title pretty well, but neither it nor any of the sequels match the rest of the description. Commented Jan 16, 2012 at 20:02

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