A couple of weeks ago, while I was looking at my Facebook feed, I saw David Gerrold was talking about writing and reading sci-fi. Now usually, when Mr. Gerrold posts something, there are usually hundreds of responses and I never asked him a question I had been meaning to ask for some time because I thought it would get lost in the shuffle, or that it would be off the topic for which he was addressing.
This time though, it seemed like a good opportunity to ask "if one wanted to read some David Gerrold space opera, what would be a good book to start with?" I got an almost immediate response from Mr. Gerrold himself telling me that a good one to start with is his The Voyage of the Star Wolf. So I grabbed it for my Kindle and began to read. Within the first pages, I was engaged in the story and really hated to stop reading whenever real life interfered.
Star Wolf is the story of the first officer of the liberty ship LS-1187, Jon Korie. Korie is a good man who gets along well with his captain and crew. When this particular voyage is over, acting as an escort of a convoy, the current captain is standing down and everyone on board the LS-1187 expects that he will be taking over as captain. As the LS-1187 arrives on station for their escort duty, the convoy is attacked by a giant warship called the Dragon Lord. The convoy is decimated and the LS-1187 is left adrift in space, barely operational and quite unable to defend itself. In the attack, the current captain is incapacitated and it is up to Korie to take command and get his ship and crew safely home. Using his wits and crew, the LS-1187 Does indeed manage to get home, but they do not arrive to a hero's welcome as expected. As a matter of fact, Korie is thoroughly dressed down by an admiral and told that he is not a particularly a good first officer and would not be offered a command. After offering his resignation several times, he is sent back to the ship to begin making repairs and to wait for a new commander.
In this universe, the ships have to earn their names, and the LS-1187 has done nothing in it's three years of existence to have any other designation other than its registry number, and from the description of the way that work proceeds for repairs, it would appear that this isn't going to change. Everyone on board, as well as those that are in command of the fleet, believe that the LS-1187 is a jinxed ship. A member of the crew is assigned to rid the ship of its evil spirit by performing some kind of weird voodoo-like ceremony, and of course, that is the moment that the new commander, Captain Hardesty chooses to come on board and take command. Along with Hardesty, comes several officers that are very good at their jobs.
Hardesty wastes no time in explaining his command philosophy and tells Korie that he is not a good first officer, but he will be before it is all said and done. The new captain order that the ship be cleaned up and all systems repaired, whether they need it or not. Thanks to his hard-nosed style, Hardesty manages to get the LS-1187 into top shape to reenter the fight with the Morethans.
The Morethans are a race of humans that have been enhanced in every way (in other words they are "more-than" human, thus the name). They are faster, stronger, more intelligent, and far more ruthless than humans, and have come to think of them as something to be eliminated as a nuisance. The Morethans have not only been enhanced, but they continually enhance themselves in any way they can, including taking any technology that the humans come up with to try to gain an advantage.
Meanwhile, Hardesty manages to get the LS-1187 back into the war with a mission. They must rescue the James Burke, a liberty ship that has been outfitted with some enhancements that the Morethans would love to get their hands on. So it is a race for control of the Burke. On one side it is the LS-1187 and on the other, it is the very dangerous Dragon Lord.
I enjoyed this story because of its many facets. When I first started reading, I thought it would be about the struggle that Korie faced getting his ship home, playing hide and seek with the Dragon Lord, but then there was the first surprise with Korie getting dressed down by his commanders, and I felt that Korie, while resourceful and intelligent, was really kind of a pathetic commander and agreed that he probably didn't have the "right stuff" to command a starship in a war against such a ruthless enemy. He needed some intense training, and got it from Hardesty. [There are several stories within the overall story, but it is so well written that it flows and I had no trouble keeping everything straight. Each chapter of the book is titled and stays on the topic specifically; the chapters are also quite short with no wandering off the subject in each which makes it easy to put down and come back to later with no loss of continuity. In short, it is one of the best organized books I have ever read.
The main character of the story, Korie is not perfect by any means, he is very human with many flaws that he must deal with in his journey to become a commander in his own right. He has a tendency to second guess himself often and also seems to have a knee-jerk reaction to situations that could get him in trouble. Korie has some good people skills, but he needs to work on his command skills. As his former captain tells him before he succumbs to his injuries in the opening chapters of the book, he tries not to lie to his crew, but he soon learns that sometimes being command also means not being honest with the crew all of the time, and he really struggles with this. I found that I could relate to Korie in a personal way because I myself am not perfect, but then, who is?
When I read a book, I want the author to paint pictures with words without being wordy about it. That is another reason that Star Wolf appeals to me. While I read this, I could visualize the descriptions of the ships and the people with no effort and without finding my mind wandering and waiting to get back to the action. Word-pictures is a skill that Gerrold displays in abundance in this story and allowed me to be entertained without having to filter out a lot of the static that I find in many other stories that I have read.
In short, I would give this story my highest recommendations to read The Voyage of the Star Wolf and I am also very eager to read the other stories in this series to see how Commander Korie grows as a commander and as a person.
Well, there it is...