By Robert Silverberg
The Lexman Spacedrive gave man the stars—but at a fantastic price.
Interstellar exploration, colonization, and trade became things of reality. The benefits to Earth were enormous. But because of the Fitzgerald Contraction, a man who shipped out to space could never live a normal life on Earth again.
Travelling at speeds close to that of light, spacemen lived at an accelerated pace. A nine-year trip to Alpha Centauri and back seemed to take only six weeks to men on a spaceship. When they returned, their friends and relatives had aged enormously in comparison, old customs had changed, even the language was different.
So they did the only thing they could do. They formed a guild of Spacers, and lived their entire lives on the starships, raised their families there, and never set foot outside their own Enclave during their landings on Earth. They grew to despise Earthers, and the Earthers grew to despise them in turn. There was no logical reason for it, except that they were—different. That was enough.
But not all Starmen liked being different. Alan Donnell loved space, and the ship, and life aboard it. His father, Captain of the Valhalla, lived for nothing but the traditions of the Spacers. But his twin brother, Steve, couldn't stand it, and so he jumped ship.
It had happened only a few weeks before, as Alan experienced it. For Steve, though, he knew it would have been nine years in the past. Now, while Alan was still only 17 years old, Steve would be 26!
Thinking about it got under Alan's skin, finally. The bond between twins is a strong one, and Alan couldn't stand to see it broken so abruptly and permanently. There were other things, too. If Alan remained on the Valhalla, he'd have to marry one of the girls of the ship, and the choice of those his own age was pitifully small. And above all else, he was convinced that the secret of the Cavour Hyperdrive was hidden somewhere on Earth—the Cavour Hyperdrive, that would enable man to leap interstellar distances almost instantaneously, and bring an end to the sharp differences between Earthers and Spacers.
These forces worked quietly within him—and suddenly, without really meaning to, Alan in turn jumped ship and remained on Earth!
There were many times when he regretted it. He found Earth a bewildering and utterly hostile place. To stay alive, he had to play a ruthless game—and he couldn't even find anyone to tell him the rules. Within the first few hours, he came dangerously close to being murdered and then to being thrown in jail. He had no clues to the whereabouts of Steve, and couldn't even be sure his nine-years-older twin brother was still alive. And the Cavour Hyperdrive was the merest will-o'-the-wisp, dancing wildly before him in his dreams.
Somehow, he survived. It wasn't easy, and he didn't do it without serious sacrifices. He became a professional gambler, and almost became a drug addict. He became involved in a monstrous criminal syndicate, knowing that no criminal could possibly escape punishment. He betrayed the few friends he had, and fought furiously against everyone and everything he encountered.
He thought longingly, often, of the Valhalla, and his lost life aboard her. But he never completely lost hope.
Starman's Quest is Alan Donnell's story—a story that will keep you on the edge of your chair until the very last page. It's the most exciting book yet from one of the most exciting new writers ever to hit the science-fiction field.
GNOME PRESS, INC.
P.O. Box 161, Hicksville, N. Y.
Cover by Stan Mack
BOOKS BY ROBERT SILVERBERG
Revolt on Alpha C
The Thirteenth Immortal
Master of Life and Death
The Shrouded Planet
(with Randall Garrett)
Invaders from Earth
HICKSVILLE, N. Y.
Copyright 1958 by Robert Silverberg
First Edition. All Rights Reserved
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission, except for brief quotations in critical articles and reviews.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 58-8767
MANUFACTURED IN THE U.S.A.
Transcriber's Note: Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed. Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without note. Variant spellings have been retained.
This was my second novel, which I wrote when I was 19, in my junior year at Columbia. I've written better ones since. But readers interested in the archaeology of a writing career will probably find much to explore here.
17 May 2008
FOR BILL EDGERTON
The Lexman Spacedrive was only the second most important theoretical accomplishment of the exciting years at the dawn of the Space Age, yet it changed all human history and forever altered the pattern of sociocultural development on Earth.
Yet it was only the second most important discovery.
The Cavour Hyperdrive unquestionably would have held first rank in any historical assessment, had the Cavour Hyperdrive ever reached practical use. The Lexman Spacedrive allows mankind to reach Alpha Centauri, the closest star with habitable planets, in approximately four and a half years. The Cavour Hyperdrive—if it ever really existed—would have brought Alpha C within virtual instantaneous access.
But James Hudson Cavour had been one of those tragic men whose personalities negate the value of their work. A solitary, cantankerous, opinionated individual—a crank, in short—he withdrew from humanity to develop the hyperspace drive, announcing at periodic intervals that he was approaching success.
A final enigmatic bulletin in the year 2570 indicated to some that Cavour had achieved his goal or was on the verge of achieving it; others, less sympathetic, interpreted his last message as a madman's wild boast. It made little difference which interpretation was accepted. James Hudson Cavour was never heard from again.
A hard core of passionate believers insisted that he had developed a faster-than-light drive, that he had succeeded in giving mankind an instantaneous approach to the stars. But they, like Cavour himself, were laughed down, and the stars remained distant.
Distant—but not unreachable. The Lexman Spacedrive saw to that.
Lexman and his associates had developed their ionic drive in 2337, after decades of research. It permitted man to approach, but not to exceed, the theoretical limiting velocity of the universe: the speed of light.
Ships powered by the Lexman Spacedrive could travel at speeds just slightly less than the top velocity of 186,000 miles