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King David's Spaceship by Jerry…
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King David's Spaceship (original 1973; edition 1981)

by Jerry Pournelle, Boris Vallejo (Illustrator)

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6151015,832 (3.38)18
Member:Snowstorm14
Title:King David's Spaceship
Authors:Jerry Pournelle
Other authors:Boris Vallejo (Illustrator)
Info:Timescape / Pocket (1981), Mass Market Paperback, 260 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**
Tags:science fiction

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King David's Spaceship by Jerry Pournelle (1973)

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    The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven (usnmm2)
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    Outies by J. R. Pournelle (J.R.Pournelle)
    J.R.Pournelle: Outies is the fourth book in the Second Empire of Man series, of which KSD was the first.
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» See also 18 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
An arms race interacts with the problem of re-establishing a technology once known. This book is an essay on the difficulties of Colonialism when faced with people who have discovered how to play the system for the advantage of an in-group. But with the use of legalisms and a successful guerilla war, the result for the POV characters is assured. The overall fate of two different planets is left debatable. It's a complicated, rather than complex book. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 14, 2014 |
baen ebook
  romsfuulynn | Apr 28, 2013 |
My reactions to reading this novel in 1990. Spoilers follow.

A very enjoyable novel. Technically speaking, Pournelle does a very good job of writing a fast paced novel and covers a lot of ground in 260 pages: imperial and Prince Samuel intrigue, battles and journeys on Makassar, the research effort to build a primitive spaceship, the theft of First Empire technology, the politics of the Empire, its history,and its colonial policy. Pournelle has clearly modelled his empire on Rome's and Britain's. He also seems to have a fondness for British military history in particular -- constant refernces to bagpipes and highlanders and Prince Samuel's world seems to be settled by Scots types. Patronage and mercantilism are other elements tying this future empire to British history.

Pournelle helpfully provides a chronology to know what happens in the CoDominium universe from the time of Lysander of Prince of Mercenaries to this novel. Pournelle sees the benefit of Empire as peace and order. The taint of corruption, in the Imperial Traders Association, and oppression, in decisions like Admiral Kurosov's to wipe out an entire world rather than let it secede from the Empire, may be there but the horror of war is absent, and there is some representative government in a hereditary and elected parliament. The Empire's legal system seems based largely on the U.S.'s.

In a sense, Pournelle's portrayal of politics is much like the sense of empathy that pervades Philip K. Dick's works or the philosophical arguments in James Gunn's novels: each character involved in the political process has good, defensible, practical reasons (with the exception of Imperial Traders who seem unequivocally condemned) for what they do. The Imperial Navy has its version of the Prime Directive. It can cite whole worlds destroyed by off-world innovations. Pournelle makes a valid point that it is particularly devastating when the culture does not adopt innovations that solve the problems of the first innovation. On the other hand, Makassar seems better off with the innovations of warfare and horse collars. Sir Alexei Dmitrivitch Ackoff has good reasons for directing cultural development on Prince Samuel and for eventually supplanting the local governing officials, reasons of peace and Imperial security. Likewise, King David and Citizen Dougal have perfectly valid reasons to want as much self-determination as possible. Citizen Dougal, sinister and very ruthless head of Haven's secret police, may seem evil but are the murders he commits for security reasons really any different than any deaths associated with resistance and rebellion, i.e. martyrs as he says? Pournelle doesn't give any pat answers other than to obviously, in Colonel Nathan Mackinnie, show the value of the honorable military man.

A theme of all the Pournelle solo works I've read seems to be that all political solutions are imperfect. It's also interesting to note that, for all their honor and military prowess, both Falkenberg, from early in the series, and Mackinnie are capable of great political cunning and deceit though they both insist they have no stomach for it and -- at least Mackinnie -- no desire to be politicians. Mackinnie, like Falkenberg on Hadley in The Mercenary, stages a coup. This is an unsettling contradiction to John Christian Falkenberg's analogy of military men as sanitation crews and politicans as surgeons and doctors in Prince of Mercenaries. It seems to me Falkebnerg and Mackinnie play, however reluctantly and for however good a cause, in the political arena. Perhaps Pournelle is saying that it is inevitable a military man becomes involved in politics since war, the military man's profession, is a political tool. However, he can try to conduct himself honorably -- both Falkeberg and Mackinnie try to keep their oaths and follow the letter, if not spirit of the law -- and realize the talents of a soldier are not those of a statesman.

Pournelle did a good job with the romance between Mackinnie and Graham. Mackinnie was clearly a creature of his culture but overcomes his prejudices involving women. I liked the relationship between Hal Stark and Mackinnie, a good exmple of the brotherhood of arms. I liked the Project Orion type spaceship: bulky, mechanical gears, wooden handles for controls. It was clever and fun. I liked the clergymen on Makassar and the reverence shown an old library. But what I liked best and what I admire most in Pournelle is his skill in building the politics of a society logically, plausibly and describing it concisely. ( )
  RandyStafford | Sep 29, 2012 |
Meh. It's ok. the idea is good enough but it's not really plausible.

The setting is a lot lot later than the rest of the CoDominium books, and although it is in the same universe and history the CoDominium itself doesn't exist anymore and has been replaced by an Empire, which has disintigrated and is in the process of reforming after the internal wars. ALl the former colonies are being re-admitted otthe Empire as they are re-discovered. But the status they will hold depends a lto no the state of their internal technology, and if you want to have some measure of independance then you need to have at least Spaceflight. Which sets the story up fairly obviously. The planet involved is New Scotland. Having heard of some hidden First Empire technologies they join a trading mission to an even more primitive world looking to sneak them back in past their Imperial watchdogs and gain enough tech to be granted superior colony status.

This involves some of their military men teaching tactics tot he natives who are trying to defend their cities from the babrbarians that are all that are left of civilisation on this new world. They aren't allowed to import any tech (their own problem on the homeworld) so they are left with swords and pikes against horsemen. Not very difficult, and all fairly obvious. We're spared too many of the training/drill self control lectures.

The rest of it is Jerry's usual writing, not too bad, apart from the woman who suddenly falls in love with little prompting. In fact the whoel female culture is pretty rubbish throughout. Only really important in setting the backstory for God's Eye which is the next (and most famous) book in the timeline. ( )
  reading_fox | May 9, 2012 |
This novel is set in the same universe as the Mote In God's Eye. It actually occurs just before that book, in a nearby star system. Prince Samual's World has been rediscovered by the Empire after years of isolation, and they attempt to rediscover the lost technologies that the Empire has. To do that, they must send an expedition to an even more primitive planet!
A good novel if you enjoy what feels more like 'Rome vs. the barbarians' than traditional science fiction. ( )
1 vote Karlstar | Jul 28, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jerry Pournelleprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barlowe,WayneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freas,KellyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hardy, DavidCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kreloff, CharlesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vallejo, BorisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Dan Alderson and Gary Hudson, with many thanks
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The crowd was noisy in the Blue Bottle, although it was early in the evening.
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A substantially different version of a portion of this work appeared in Analog Science Fiction under the title A Spaceship for the King. (c) by Cande Nast Publicatins, published by DAW books, (c) 1973, Jerry Pournelle

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KING DAVID'S SPACESHIP

In the time of John Christian Falkenberg, the explosion of humanity into space was followed by a galaxy-wide technological collapse.

Since The Fall, King David's people have regained an early-industrial age technology, but another planet has progressed faster, and its imperial Navy had discovered them. If his people are not to spend the rest of their history as just another satrapy, they must prove that they can reach space unaided. Though they have just re-invented the steam engine, King David will have his spaceship...
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