The novel “Voyage of the Star Wolf” by David Gerrold was published for the first time in 1990. It’s part of the Star Wolf series.
The starship LS-1187 doesn’t have a name for it has to be conquered in battle. It’s assigned to the fleet which has the task of protecting the interstellar commercial route known as Silk Road and the planets on the route from possible attacks by the Morthan Solidarity.
Against any prediction, the fleet is attacked by Morthan starships that outgun them and the result is disastrous. The starship LS-1187 gests severely damaged and ends up drifting into space, with very little chance for the crew members who weren’t killed in the attack to survive. Its Executive Officer Jonathan Thomas Korie must take command to bring the starship to salvation but things start getting bad.
David Gerrold accumulated a lot of experience writing scripts for various Star Trek TV shows and novels connected to them. This famous fictional universe gave him various inspirations to create a series of novels containing elements different from “Star Trek” such as the normal use of genetic engineering.
The first novel of the series was “Yesterday’s Children” (1972), later expanded and republished as “Star Hunt” in 1985, featuring for the first time Jonathan T. Korie, one of the tributes to Star Trek. However, it’s with “Voyage of the Star Wolf” that the author truly develops his fictional universe.
In the Star Wolf series, genetic engineering has been practiced for many centuries, so much that at some point a group of genetically modified humans breaks out from their original species to form a separate group whose members call themselves Morthans. The most aggressive among them created their own society separate from humans, the Morthan Solidarity, up to becoming enemies with their “cousins”.
This concept is what gave my the greatest perplexity in reading “Voyage of the Star Wolf”. In many occasions the Morthans are described as superior from an intellectual point of view to unmodified humans and yet they seem to be more than ever slaves of the lowest human instincts being very tribal and tendentially aggressive. The Morthan Solidarity is a danger in its spaceships’ firepower but weapons apart they’re technologically backward.
All this seemed to me a bit contradictory: the Morthans seem like very refined strategists, far superior to the greatest military leaders in human history, yet they don’t seem very good at technological development. Their intellectual superiority, which gets reiterated several times without specifying anything, seems actually limited to some restricted fields. Curiously, they seem to be able to steal the technology of others understanding how it works but they seem too busy killing their neighbors to develop their own technologies.
Perplexity over the company Morthan aside, “Voyage of the Star Wolf” seemed to me a novel built on a series of crises faced by the starship LS-1187’s crew. The first part is basically the story of the survivors’ of the Morthans’ attack to trying return to the nearest base despite the damage suffered. The journey is made more difficult by the risk of being identified by an enemy starship while basically sitting duck.
Throughout the novel, but especially in this first part, there’s a remarkable attention by David Gerrold to the characters’ psychological side. Only a few protagonists are well developed, especially Jonathan T. Korie, and for some character the author uses some clichés but at least they have their own personality that allows to tells their reactions to the extreme situation they end up after the human fleet was destroyed by the Morthans.
In my opinion this is the best characteristic because sometimes the plot is predictable and in some moments puzzled me. For example, Jonathan T. Korie has problems to formally take command of the starship LS-1187 when the Captain gets seriously injured because the Harlie Artificial Intelligence System was damaged and can’t record that act. In short, it seems that a military force doesn’t have a regulation for such an event, creating an ambiguous situation in the chain of command at a critical moment.
The next part of the novel is basically a story of second chances in which Jonathan T. Korie and the other surviving crew members of the starship LS-1187 have to learn to believe in themselves. In the end it seems that a not very competent Captain was at the originn of all their problems and with a different attitude things can get better.
In the end, “Voyage of the Star Wolf” with its merits and flaws gave me mixed feelings. In my opinion, it’s a type of novel that fans of military science and in general adventurous science fiction might like.