The LS-1187 Star Wolf has returned from its mission to rescue with the Burk. While the Burke was lost with all hands owed to the efforts of the Morethan assassin Cinnabar, the Star Wolf did manage to destroy the Morethan ship Dragon Lord at the cost of thirteen of its crew, including its captain leaving Commander Jon Korie in command and having the unenviable task of dealing with Cinnabar, who transferred to the Star Wolf before the Burk was destroyed.
In this installment of the Star Wolf saga by David Gerrold, the Star Wolf is a crippled ship thanks to the efforts of Cinnabar and is in need of decontamination and refit so they can rejoin the fight against the Morethans. Unfortunately, Commander Korie learns that the Burk was sent out as a decoy to lure the enemy ship Dragon Lord in, and the Star Wolf was sent to keep the Morethan ship busy while capturing the Burk, which had been booby trapped for the Morethans.
While Korie and his crew managed to kill Cinnabar, they didn’t know what he had with him when he boarded the Star Wolf. Cinnabar managed to bring along Imps; small, stealthy creatures that when let loose, continue to sabotage the ship while avoiding capture. So, the Star Wolf hangs in space, away from Spacedock in quarantine indefinitely, that is until Korie learns that his ship will not be repaired, it is to be decommissioned and he is to make parts from the Star Wolf available to any other ship that requests them. Furthermore, he also learns that he is not to be made captain of the ship and that the Burk is going to be given credit for the destruction of the Dragon Lord.
More determined than ever, Korie decides to make an effort to get his ship fit enough to get back in the fight, but first the crew will have to deal with the imp, who has the knowledge to destroy the ship and kill all hands aboard.
The Middle of Nowhere is a book full of chases. One crewman is sent on a quest to find a particular tool while another pursues a relationship with an unlikely partner, and everyone is looking to capture the imp that is wreaking havoc everywhere on the ship. The Star Wolfe really is stuck in the middle of nowhere because they cannot return to their base for repairs; the imp might jump ship and begin to infect the Spacedock, which would severely cripple the war effort.
My favorite story line is a subplot involving one young crewman named Gatineau. When Crewman Third Class Robert Gatineau reports to his department head, he is sent to find and bring back a “left-handed moebius wrench.” What the author does is send Gatineau on a search for a non-existent tool which at first seems like the youngster is being hazed. With every stop, he is given some of the dirtiest duties to perform on the ship and when that is completed, he is then sent to the next place to find the tool. What at first seems like hazing, actually turns out to be a hands-on training program that other members of the crew have endured. Gatineau didn’t know his way from one place to the other until he was sent on this “tour,” and when it was finally over and he was let in on the secret, he knew the ship and it’s many functions very well. But this subplot is not only for the benefit of the character, but for the reader as well, we also get to know the ship and it’s functions. This was a brilliant bit of writing by David Gerrold that I really appreciate. With each chapter involving Gatineau in the first half of the book, we learn a lot about the setting of the story and get an understanding of how the ship functions.
The hero of the story is Commander Jonathan T. Korie, First Officer of the LS-1187. Ships are not given names until they have been successful in battle. Korie was supposed to take command from Captain Lowell, the first commander of the ship. On their first shakedown cruise, the LS-1187 led a Morethan fleet to the convoy which they were charged with escorting. The convoy was decimated and the LS-1187 was crippled beyond the ability of the crew to repair. Lowell was killed and Korie assumed command and used some strange methods to get his ship home, which took six months of very uncomfortable travel through dangerous parts of space. The Morethans also attacked many colonies while the LS-1187 limped back to Spacedock. One of those planets was where Korie’s wife and two sons were living.
Korie is, understandably, very angry about this and instead of mourning his loss, he deals with it by throwing himself into his job and directing his anger at the enemy, and obsessively so. This is his main obstacle to being promoted to command of his own vessel. Even though the fleet is desperately in need of commanders, and Korie has the qualifications and training to be a great commander, he is being held back because, as Captain Hardesty tells him, he is “feral” and “wild, “ and therefore not ready to command his own ship. There is a glimmer of hope for him though, because the admiral informs him that they do have plans for him.
I love David Gerrold’s writing because it reads like classic science fiction in the same vein as the greats, but with his own style. As I read his work, the level of professionalism shines through. Each sentence flows into the next as the story unfolds making it easy to read, even when the author discusses technical aspects of the ship’s operations and technology. This story covers a lot of emotional ground as well, but I find myself cheering for Commander Korie to get his command, but when he is ready, which will hopefully happen in the fourth and final book in the Star Wolfe series.
My highest recommendations for fans of space opera and hard science fiction goes with this, and the previous three books in the series.
Well, there it is…