Starship is a classic science fiction book that I've wanted to read for a long time. It's also a generation ship story, and I'm fond of those in general, so it had that going for it as well. This was written in the 1950's so I wasn't sure how it would work but after a rough start I got into this. It's the story of Roy Complain, a member of a primitive tribe who are only vaguely aware they are on a starship, and his journey to discover the truth.
Roy is initially not interested in exploring the ship, but when he loses his wife to a raiding party from another tribe, he loses status and falls under the sway of a priest named Marapper. The priest has more than a little con artist in him, and has come into possession of something that hints to the true nature of their world. So Roy, now alone and being turned out of his home since the loss of his wife (housing is at a premium), decides he has nothing left to lose, and joins Marapper's expedition. Along with a few others they leave the clan and set off into the ponics- basically a jungle of mutated plants that grow so fast they have taken over entire parts of the ship.
The journey through the ponics is hazardous, and they run afoul of other tribes, mutated rats, and encounters with other mysterious creatures, including the Giants- who are apparently men but are much taller than the tribesmen. We're left to wonder exactly why the tribesmen are so small, but Roy soon discovers that these Giants can travel between decks of the ship through hatches and other shortcuts. But who are the Giants? And when they capture Roy, why do they later release him?
This book has a well known twist that I won't detail here. Suffice to say that the trip to Procyon, their original destination, has gone horribly wrong and now the initial mission has been altered somewhat. The tribes of course have largely forgotten who they really are, but there are people in the Forwards section who remember more. Marapper has an inkling of how to get to the Control center, but that turns out to be difficult, and when Roy meets Vyann in the forwards we get a romance subplot as well.
I'm a big fan of the generation ship concept, and as this is one of the original stories I was especially keen to try this. The cover always appealed to me too, with the primitive look and the hint of technology just below the surface. I actually didn't like this book in the beginning but I stuck with it and I'm glad. The first two thirds of the book weren't really my thing, although there were some interesting observations about life and how it might adapt to circumstances like what happens here. But the last third of the book had my attention and I was really anxious to see what would happen.
I wasn't sure about Vyann at first- I didn't think she was going to play a large role but then her and Roy get involved, and I was soon rooting for them to survive as all kinds of things start going wrong. You have mutant rats, telepathic butterflies, a ship that may have no one at the helm, a running battle between different decks of the ship- I had a lot of fun with this towards the end. I got a kick out of the romance too- Roy and Vyann were soon calling each other "darling"- this was the '50's- and while it wasn't instalove it was insta- relationship. But that's okay, I liked 'em, and considering that I didn't like any of the characters at first, that's an accomplishment. All in all I'm glad I read this- the twists are awesome and I'm glad to have finally taken the journey.