ID this book: scifi: (80s/90s?) humanity vs. 1st contact aliens, asteroid ships, sol sys colonized

I’m running this query on other websites (so the query itself may look familiar)

A book I read a long time ago (I think 80s-90s era), library has weeded it, and records have been purged. Was card-catalog days too.

Medium bad story, so wasn’t super popular, and probably tossed by the wayside by most people.

Setup was that humanity was divided into 4(?) major blocs politically. And described as Uncle Sugar (US roughly), Uncle Vinegar (USSR), Uncle [something] (China) and the UK had been left out in the cold, and formed a default left-over bloc, adding in places from the commonwealth like (maybe) India, and several other small 3rd world countries.

The blocs had divided up the Solar system, with the major blocs getting the nice planets like Mars and Venus, UK bloc ended up with Pluto (and maybe some other places)…

Lots of cold-war stuff, and some hot shooting off-and-on. So the blocs are tense and heavily armed.

Then the aliens show up…

And they’re here to conquer, and add us to their empire. They’re used to walking all over new races, and not meeting races who’ve developed war technology. They use lasers, and don’t have armor. The humans use slug-throwers and have armor. They come in off the ecliptic (makes no sense, I know), and ‘obviously’ hit Pluto first. The UK base on Pluto ends up shooting them up, and get their hands on FTL travel + tech, and ‘defeat’ the invasion force.

Sadly, when the aliens can’t walk in over a race, they follow up with a Nova-bomb, which will cause the sun to go nova, and wipe out the problem race’s solar system.

The UK learns about this, and since the Nova takes awhile to get rolling (4 months? 45 days?), so there’s time to prep. The UK starts building asteroid ships, and exports the bulk of their population. The other blocs think it’s a trick, and ignore and pooh-pooh them. Except for China which makes like one harem-ship, and puts their chairman on board…

They manage to flee, and the Sol system is toast, and with it, the other blocs.

The UK outfits one asteroid with tons of depleted uranium railguns and nuclear weapons, and manages to backtrack the aliens to their homeworld. Then they go in for vengeance. Outfitted with mainly Scotsmen, it’s very rah-rah, the Scots are badass. They go in tear up the alien fleet, and carpet-nuke the alien’s planet. That asteroid is a kamikaze, and I don’t believe anyone who was on that attack run lived.

Also, this book is not the Incarnations of Immortality, all you default google-searchers :slight_smile:

Footfall maybe?

Did you read Footfall?

Aliens trying to take over the Earth (and ‘current’ day Earth at that).

Teensy bit different, what with human Pluto bases (granted Elephants had their huge ship around one of the gas-giants, iirc), etc, etc.

Been awhile since I read Footfall, but no.

Not Footfall.

No idea, but, it sounds great and crazy. I’m interested.

Doesn’t ring a bell for me, unfortunately. Since it’s so UK-specific, I wonder if you could find a British fan site that could help (maybe drop a line to David Langford (of Ansible fanzine fame). I’ll mention one name of a prolific pulp SF British author that leaps to my mind: R. L. Fanthorpe (bibliography here

All of the pieces sound familiar to me, but the stories I attach to them are all completely unrelated to each other. I suspect that whoever your author was, he was borrowing heavily from others.

Yes I have - but it’s been a while as well. I thought I remembered something about a fight in space or something like that. Something about threatening to take out their mother ship near Saturn or something - as you suggest in your IIRC.

My memory of it is extremely hazy so I took a shot.

Actually that first part makes some sense. I’m reminded of how in the Honor Harrington books, it’s mentioned that military craft usually enter from off the ecliptic because while it’s less efficient, it’s also less predictable.

Yeah, the concepts are great(ish) (when I’m retelling them), but the writing - as I recall from like 20+ years ago - was hack (which is why I didn’t chase down and purchase my own copy). And yes, quite likely he was borrowing concepts from others (but how is that any different than most scifi?)

Just a note, this was from an American library. And while we don’t shun British stuff, I’m suspecting it was from a generic large-ish name publisher. Like DAW or Baen (but not sure when Baen started - I do know I didn’t recognize Baen at that point, and I think I soon got the gist of the Baen idea, and finally started paying a little bit of attention to publishers at whatever that point was). Also Libraries don’t usually source small-print-run publishers - and those guys don’t normally do MMPB, and I suspect British MMPB didn’t get shipped overseas a lot back then (but correct me if I’m wrong).

And I’m not sure that it’s UK specific. Probably dude (assumption, feminists, assumption) has some Scots heritage, and thus needed to write it as UK-led, if he wanted to feature a bunch of angry-scotsmen showing their spirit to the alien hordes! I mean, the best you can do from an American standpoint is to have some Texans, or some Green Mountain Boys (and that tradition has all but faded from memory) to take it to the hordes. About the best we do, esp. in scifi nowadays is to glorify the Marine Corps. (ho-hum, semper-fi) or the Navy.

Now we’re headed off-topic, but I’m curious - how does it make sense? Just because an author said so (to justify their action sequence) doesn’t make it so - even for hypothetical constructs like interstellar warships ;).

And while I don’t specifically recall from the novel, I’m not sure the aliens knew where they were going (ie: FTL not assuredly linear), and even if aiming at any other star-system (for linear FTL) the likely arrival is mathematically (err, geometrically) against arriving on the ecliptic.

Not much use, but I read that freaking book. So, the Cobb County Public Library in Cobb County, Georgia has a copy of whatever it is–or at any rate, they did 20 or 30 years ago.

It means the defending side has a much larger area to defend; a sphere instead of a disc.


Gypsy Earth by George W. Harper.

Well, not really. The Milky Way is shaped like a disk, but it’s not exactly flat - it’s average width is about 1000 light years. Probably thinner out by us, but that’s still hundreds of thousands of stars in every direction.

That certainly sounds like it ( "The story chronicles the events of the UN space fleet - one of five power blocks on a future Earth - when the first contact with an alien spieces results in the destruction of Pluto base, followed by Pluto itself and then the Earth. "

I just read Footfall last week. Very silly book, but pretty fun, and definitely not what the OP describes, for these reasons:

[spoiler]The aliens look like baby elephants, and there’s no freakin way you’d remember anything about the book while forgetting the baby elephant aliens.

It happens during the Cold War, I think in 1996 (written in 1985, they didn’t project the future very accurately).

Humans only have one space base, and that’s on the moon.

Humans manage to defeat the aliens in near-earth-orbit without having Earth be destroyed, even if it does get banged up a bit.

There might be a dude with a giant red beard in the book, but there’s no true Scotsman.[/spoiler]

I PM’d the OP about MEBuckners find so maybe they will be back.

MEBuckner you’re my hero.

That certainly sounds like my book.

TENTATIVELY SOLVED (most likely, actually solved, but have ordered - will find out)

Also, it was good to read that I wasn’t crazy, nor misremembering it when you said you’d read it. :slight_smile: Nobody else has ever said that, so sometimes I felt like I was from an alternate Earth…

Just curious, how did you find it? Because I’d tried and tried google searches and stuff for years, hoping that eventually it would show up on some db or website somewhere, but had had no luck…

Now, to OT fun:

Yes, precisely. So (again), why would it make military sense to come in on the ecliptic?

Me: … likely arrival is … against arriving on the ecliptic.

So, that contradicts me… exactly how? ie: I’m saying, there are stars in every direction, and each star’s ecliptic is oriented independently of its position in the galaxy (ie: doesn’t matter where the galaxy’s ecliptic is)

I did a bunch of web searches, none of which got anywhere (Google: “alien invasion earth destroyed asteroids”…25,300,000 results. Wheee!). I was pretty sure the author’s first name was “George”…so, yeah, big help that was. And then, from somewhere deep down in the memory banks: “Hey, was the title of that book ‘Gypsy Earth’?”

To be honest, I’m stunned I remembered it. I’m pretty sure I read it maybe not long after it came out–so when I was 12 or maybe a few years after that–and I think I re-read it years later, just to see how it held up. (It was pretty pulp-y, IIRC, though even my recollection of my adult re-read is now pretty hazy.)

Anyway (assuming I’m right, that is) you’ll have to give us a book report.

Yup, is the correct book.

Not the most well-written, but a bit better than I recall.

Characterization of Our Hero is pretty wooden. Much old-school stuff (author was born in 1927), like formal Gaelic welcoming of the clan-leaders to do funeral stuff. Attempt at modernization (1 and 5 year marriage contracts), but mostly dated stuff going on (skirts and kilts going to zero-g, gee those crazy women can’t dress correctly).

About zero mention of saving anything other than cows, sheep, and humans - for your ecological considerations :slight_smile:

Lots of (semi-realistic) detail about some things - then meshed with magic technology: like melters which make any rock into lava and/or vaporized away. Orbital maneuvering is complex… but we don’t need a computer to do it in an alien ship; whose language and controls we don’t understand.

Our deductions are infallible!


Analog review on the front says: ‘…should please every reader who see “Doc” Smith as an embodiment of SF’s Golden Age.’

As the blips rising from Pluto’s surface appeared on the repeater screens, Major Duncan Campbell of the Argyll and Sutherland regiment could see that the United Nations scouting force was outnumbered six to one by the mysterious aliens who’d materialized from nowhere to destroy the Plutonian base. Six to one: impossible odds, but it wasn’t in the Highland spirit to shirk… and perhaps the Sampson, the Minotaur and the Ajax could weaken the enemy before the inevitable defeat.

But when the Sampson’s computers began the gut-wrenching evasive maneuvers of deep-space dogfighting and her weapons systems sprang into action, the odds changed quickly. One after another, the alien warships were blasted into drifting debris; it was clear that the enemy was accustomed to another style of fighting.

All at once, the surviving attackers vanished, leaving the bewildered Scots in possession of the battlefield but uneasily aware that they faced an enemy with a superior technology. No human ship could simply disappear. And it was only a matter of time before the unidentified fleet returned, upgunned and with new tactics, to finish the task of destruction begun on Pluto.

It was up to Campbell, his crew and thousands more like them to find some way to avert the hammerblow they knew would come, to find some chink in the enemy defenses, to find some route along which to carry the war to an unknown planet in an unmapped star system… before the war was brought to Earth.

Human tech:
Tapes hold all messages, but multiple redundant computer systems exist :smiley:

Ship assembly happens at the bottom of Earth’s gravity well (dumb, esp. because author moves to space-based construction later).

Steam-jet manuveuring drives for ships.

Going major fractional C is not a major problem - even for huge asteroids, some shielding barely mentioned.

Apparently infinite power from something (reactor rooms)?

Magic transuranic element 126, celaenium. Also used in warheads; 37mm machine rocket rounds contain two 72g hemispheres separated by a thin lead membrane with proximity-fused rounds that can be set to different sensitivity raidii.

Any element can be synthesized in the cryogenics section.

Alien tech:
The hyperdrive doesn’t work much inside of the range of Pluto.

p6 lays out the political situation:

Blocs pulled out of the UN some time ago - the situation has been unstable for decades:

Major blocs are: US + clients (American Birch Bark Society / America First Party; a one-party system w/fundamentalists == “You just want back on America’s dole, we shan’t be lured into involvement with your petty tricks and lies.”), China (Chinese Presidium / People’s Celestial Republic == “You foreign barbarian dogs, our Malay half-breed translators will degrade themselves to speak your filthy tongue.”), Russia (but really == USSR) + clients (Soviet Foreign Minister == “You capitalist swine!”), EU (EU Minister / “We’re the only bastian of Civilization!”)

UN = 40 small countries + UK == the garbage can of the big blocs. Assigned Antartica, because otherwise blocs would occupy and fight over it, each having to fortify and defend otherwise useless territory - or worry what others were doing with it, etc.

Same in space with an informal agreement with the Blocs a decade ago; UN got Mercury and Pluto, and kept two Moon bases - signing over all claims on Luna, Mars (being settled now) and Venus (in the process of being terraformed; water pulled out of clouds) to the blocs. Other chunks are still up for grabs in the solar system.

First round; UN responds to Pluto base getting razed with 3 ships (one a utility vessel, headed by our Hero) vs. 23 alien ships.

Political stuff; no bloc believes in alien threat, but UN announces massive shipbuilding program, all other blocs follow suit, in order to maintain balance of power in case UN aligns with one of them against the others.

“The High Command feels the original assault of Pluto was largely accidental. An enemy approaching from the opposite quadrant would never even notice Pluto since it would be some six thousand million miles distant and on the opposite side of the sun. And even had they broken out of their space drive just thirty to forty degrees on either side of her 'twould be unlikely they would have altered course simple to investigate a frozen ball of ice and metal far off on their flank. To the High Command’s way of thinking this indicates the enemy must have broken out of their hyperdrive somewhere in the immediate vicinity of Pluto, detected the base on their electromagnetic devices and attacked.”

Humans get a fairly long time to prep, shipbuilding, idea for asteroids as forward base(s) for logistics/supply, military training for vast expansion.

Round two; Humans conclude aliens will seek battle at fairly even odds, in order to test out improvements - turns into 1415 vs. ~500 human ships, in a running battle, UN does much of the fighting (but other blocs back them up after being engineered to be in the way by the UN), only 200 alien ships escape.

Afterward, blocs refuse to unite to save Earth. UN announces major mobile asteroid base building program, blocs consider following suit.

Round three; FTL used inside Pluto-limit, to take bombs to center of the Sun to cause it to go Nova or flare - happens pretty quickly, some people make it off Earth, but many of the survivors were already enroute.

Survivors are the ones who made it past Jupiter’s orbit, and thus survive the Sun swallowing everything else (and blowing off most of Jupiter’s atmosphere): 110K Americans (but 2/3rds male - stupid Americans), 35K English, 20K Indians, 60K Japanese, 72K Russians, 22K Africans, 9K Jews, 51K Arabs and Persians, 5K Chinese (49/50ths female) - total ends up with ~550K human survivors, the bulk of which are Scots.

Scots and UN rally on Styx, build last ship:

Revenge ship: ‘Claymore’, outfitted with 4K torpedo launchers and 4K warheads of 50 kilomegaton rating (200 == obliterate a continent), over 11K 44mm machine cannon. 3 celaenium-producing facilities. 22sq miles of surface area studded with bewildering arrray of defenses and special devices. 5K humans.

Send it off, getting up near C towards alien’s base detected by sensor-net when aliens did round three… which turns out to be their homeplanet (humans name it Shiva)

Aliens don’t seriously investigate Sol system until 20yrs later, while Claymore is enroute (and detects them passing them by).

Clandestine effort to secure the hyperdrive, and send back info to human survivors on Styx, then Attack!

Aliens have a 12 system empire, and like to torture aliens they take over, who they don’t consider real/sapient.

All alien ships, including those without hyperdrive, apparently carry the plans for hyperdrive in a manual, so humans win! :smiley:

Attack: One pass, asteroid with only a few support ships (Danish?), takes on 1,200 alien vessels, carpet-nukes Shiva to the radioactive-slag stage.

Claymore heavily damaged, begins repairs, and slags several attempts to follow it. Goes 500ly away from Earth, and 400ly from Shiva, and plops down on a planet, newly named: New Skye

Your first post said “They come in off the ecliptic (makes no sense, I know)”, which seems to be the opposite of what you’re saying now.

Typo, maybe?