Blood and Fire (Star Wolf #4) By David Gerrold
All good things must come to an end, and so it is for the Star Wolf series by David Gerrold. Sometime back, I asked the author what he would recommend for a good space opera book by him to read and he responded with Voyage of the Star Wolf, which I immediately downloaded on my Kindle and started to read. I very much enjoyed it and grabbed the remaining three novels. Blood and Fire is the fourth and final installment in this amazing series of tales.
In this story, it is some time after the events of the third book in the series, The Middle of Nowhere. In that story, the Star Wolf had not earned its name and will still known in the fleet as the LS-1187 (LS meaning Liberty Ship), even though the crew and especially the first officer, Commander Jon Korie, knew that they actually had, several times over. Korie also believed that he had earned his captain’s stars as well. At any rate, the ship was devastated by a small group of imps left behind by a Morethan assassin in the second novel in the series. These imps were doing a thorough job damaging the Star Wolf, and came very close to causing the destruction of the ship itself, but also causing the destruction of the starbase that the ship reported to.
Repairs and upgrades have been made to the Star Wolf and the ship gets a new captain, a woman named Parsons. Parsons is an experienced captain that knows her business and holds the respect of the crew and Commander Korie as well, which has not been the case with previous captains of the Star Wolf. The ship has also earned its name between novels.
Star Wolf has been dispatched on a rescue mission for another Liberty Ship, the Norway, which has not been heard from is some time and is in danger of being lost in a binary star system. When Star Wolf arrives at their destination, they find that the Norway is in danger of being destroyed by a ribbon of plasma that is created when one star is taking the plasma from the other. The Norway appears dead, but life signs are detected on board. Commander Korie leads a boarding party to investigate and he and his people run into some nasty trouble when they discover that the ship is infested with bloodworms that have the ability to eat right through his people’s environmental suits, but multiply when an attempt to destroy them is made with a flame thrower.
The landing party, minus one unfortunate soul, manages to escape and locate the ship’s survivors and attempt rescue, all the while fighting a race against time between the bloodworms and the plasma ribbon.
The book, in its entirety, is a great story as one would expect from David Gerrold. There is plenty of excellently written action with characters that are compelling; in short, it has all of the elements that make a spectacular space opera. However for me, the real meat in this book is the third chapter that defines much of what this piece is about. That chapter is entitled “History.”
Please allow me to digress for a moment to Star Trek. As a Trekkie/Trekker, I have come to think of our future among the stars as being rather utopian. According to canon, one day in the future, after a devastating war, Zephram Cochrane takes the first warp drive capable ship on a little jaunt in our solar system which is noticed by an enlightened race who has warp technology. This race visits the earth and it sparks a new era for humanity. According to Trek lore, we eventually no longer feel the need to acquire wealth or possessions, we no longer have wars over ideologies or belief systems, and we solve all of the problems that plague us today and have for all of our history. According to Star Trek, humans are no longer the problem, it is all of those other races in the galaxy that are messing everything up and all we humans want to do is help everyone get along and play nice with each other. Please don’t misunderstand, I am a lifelong Trek fan and always will be, and it is not my intention to bash something I have enjoyed for most of my life, but Trek does have the tendency for not accurately depicting what I feel would be the reality of what it will be when and if we do ever begin traveling to the stars. I think we will take much of our baggage with us as we move among the stars. I have always thought this and am great full to Mr. Gerrold for helping me clarify my thoughts so I can put them into words.
In the chapter called “History,” Mr. Gerrold briefly discusses what we would actually take with us as we move out among the stars. The opening statement of that chapter hit me like a ton of bricks when I first read it and has given me much food for thought. To quote: “Contrary to popular expectations, the invention of faster-than-light travel did not create an age of enlightenment. Quite the opposite.”
In the test of the third chapter, Mr. Gerrold discusses the memes that we will most likely take with us as we move away from our own solar system and travel to others. In today’s popular culture, memes are pictures usually depicting the image of a celebrity with a sometimes clever statement that is intended to be humorous, ironic, entertaining, or to advance a certain point of view (usually in a disparaging way) that appears on social media. One of my favorite memes of this type is this one:
However, this is not the type of meme that the author intends for the reader to think about while reading. According to the definition of the word meme from the dictionary on my Kindle, a meme is a noun from the study of biology which is “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.” In other words, memes are what we pass from one another in the form of political, religious, economic, and other beliefs which may, or may not be based on fact, as well as being malignant or benign in their nature. History is replete with how memes that are antithetical clash oftentimes resulting in death and destruction on a massive scale. According to the author, often when antithetical memes meet, there is only one result, both sides endeavor to eradicate each other. So, in light of history, and seeing the same thing happening over and over again, I unfortunately have to say, sorry Mr. Roddenberry, I have to go with Mr. Gerrold on this one.
In Blood and Fire, it is the eradication aspect of clashing memes that comes into play as a small group of humans work to create a weapon of mass destruction to be used against the Morethans until something goes very wrong and the weapon works against the people creating it. Solutions to problems have to be found and as more problems arise, more solutions are needed, and sacrifices have to be made.
This book and the three previous installments are all excellent stories that are very compelling to sensitive intelligent science fiction fans and I would place them high on a list of must reads. David Gerrold writes so well in his character development, plot, and voice that I rate his work at least on par with Asimov, Heinlein, Anderson, and other classic masters of the genre. He creates worlds that one can immerse one’s self in and does it in a way that makes reading his stories feel real.
Once again, the books in the Star Wolf series include:
Voyage of the Star Wolf
Middle of Nowhere
Blood and Fire
Well, there it is…