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Two-Space War

Two-Space War

4.5 20
by Leo Frankowski, Dave Grossman

It is six hundred years in the future and mankind has learned to move between the stars . . . by going into Two-Space, the vast realm where sentient wooden ships travel beneath canvas sails in a universe that is corrosive to technology. As they charged headlong into the galaxy, humans discovered others who were already there: The elven Sylvans who live in the


It is six hundred years in the future and mankind has learned to move between the stars . . . by going into Two-Space, the vast realm where sentient wooden ships travel beneath canvas sails in a universe that is corrosive to technology. As they charged headlong into the galaxy, humans discovered others who were already there: The elven Sylvans who live in the vast forests of low-gravity worlds, the dwarven Dwarrowdelf who thrive deep in the mines of high-gravity worlds, and other, far more alien races. The ancient Sylvan race is enchanted by the human culture, embracing Tolkien as prophecy and taking "classic" human science fiction as a guide. Against this stellar backdrop, Lt. Thomas Melville's ship is mortally wounded in a cowardly surprise attack. With his captain killed, Melville must capture a feral, sentient enemy ship, then must fight his way across the galaxy to warn of the vast invading armada. In an odyssey of turmoil and battle he forges his ship and crew into a mighty weapon of war and earns the love of an alien princess. Now, if he can only survive the attacks of two very angry alien empires, and avoid being court martialed by his own nation of Westerness for getting them involved in a vast intergalactic war, he might live to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Product Details

Publication date:
Baen Science Fiction Ser.
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Two Space War

By Dave Grossman Leo Frankowski

Baen Books

ISBN: 0-7434-7188-1

Chapter One

A Race of Rangers

They were the glory of the race of rangers, Matchless with horse, rifle, song, supper, courtship, Large, turbulent, generous, handsome, proud, and affectionate, Bearded, sunburnt, drest in the free costume of hunters ...

Retreating they form'd in a hollow square with their baggage for breastworks, Nine hundred lives out of the surrounding enemy's, nine times Their number, was the price they took in advance ...

"Song of Myself" Walt Whitman

"What does that boy think he's doing?" muttered Lieutenant Thomas Melville. He sat on the Pier in the oppressive heat of mid-afternoon. He'd received only one wound in their recent battle, an ignominious clawing of his right buttock. Not too deep, but sufficient to make him sit carefully. Spread before him was the emerald shade of the copse of huge trees they'd fought so hard to defend. Exhausted and spent from desperate battle, he watched little Midshipman Aquinar as he crawled into the white bones of their beached cutter.

He looked out on the vast expanse of forest that encompassed their hill. Reaching up and behind him he put a hand on the Keel of his Ship, which now formed the Pier. <>

<> Answered Swish-tail, <>

Through this strange, telepathic link with his faithful Ship, Melville "heard" these words, but they came with a great weight of context and additional information that was subtly communicated, so that Melville knew exactly what Swish-tail meant. The Keel of his little ship now disappeared up into two-space, into Flatland, forming a link between the two realms. It was here, and there.

<Flatland. A book called Flatland was one of the very earliest science fiction novels, dating all the way back to the nineteenth century. It seems so simple, really. Just pop into two-space where things are so much closer together, sail to where you want to go, and pop back out. The problem is that instead of orbiting around a world, looking at it from outer space, in Flatland all you see is this big green and blue blob that you sail into. Just like seeing green shores on the other side of the reef. Unfortunately, you have to crash your ship to get across the reef, and you have no idea what's waiting for you.>>


Melville thought back, <Kestrel would come back for us. Do you really think she's still out there?>>


<> Melville added, looking sadly at his old command, his little cutter, lying on its side next to the copse of trees that topped this hill. <>


Still, it was sad. Was there anything in the universe quite so sad as a beached sailing ship? Especially a Ship of two-space, looking like two old-time wooden sailing ships joined at the waterline, with masts protruding out from both top and bottom. They were majestic and grand, with their sails spread as they sped from star to star, across the shoreless seas of Flatland. But even a one-masted cutter like his lively little Swish-tail was pathetic and sad the instant you cut the contacts to the Keel and beached it in three-space.

Immediately after their crash landing, Melville and his small crew pulled out the precious Keel and lovingly planted it in the living earth like a mast, or a flagpole at the top of the hill. The rest of Melville's company came down the Keel from the Kestrel and their mothership left them, never to return. Or at least not yet.

Many of the pure white Nimbrell timbers were stripped from Swish-tail's hull to form a platform around the Keel, which now became a Pier. Melville was here to "talk" with Swish-tail after their battle. She was his friend, and a commander needed someone outside the chain of command to visit with. She seemed to be happy there, planted in the living earth. A Ship died and a world was born. Soon, she would merge with this world, becoming its gateway to Two-Space.

They paused in companionable silence as Melville leaned back against the Keel and watched little Midshipman Aquinar make another trip from the bowels of the old cutter. Again he reached lovingly up and put a hand on the white Moss coating the Keel and asked, <does that boy think he's doing? Usually our midshipmen and ship's boys are only interested in food and sleep. "Nasty, brutish, and short," that's them. So what's this all about?>>

Early in their forays into Flatland, humans had discovered the remarkable white fungus they'd named Lady Elbereth's Gift or Elbereth Moss. Like everything in Two-Space, Elbereth Moss existed only in two dimensions. But it was also capable of growing on the portion of a Pier that extended into normal, three-dimensional space, like the encrusted sea creatures on the pilings of a dock at low tide.

In two-space it just appeared, like a fungus, adhering to and eventually coating Nimbrell wood and Keels in two-space. It was white and impossibly thin. It also provided oxygen and light. Most of all, across time, it became sentient, giving life to the white Ships of two-space. The men of Westerness communicated their awe and respect by making proper nouns out of terms like Keel, Pier, and Ship, when referring to a sentient life-form.

Melville felt the Ship respond to his idle question. <>

But he wasn't really thinking about the boy. Melville was thinking about Kestrel, their mothership. Wondering if it would ever return to take them home to Westerness and Evereven, where "softly silver fountains fall." Most of all, at this moment, Melville wondered if he would ever again take a long cold drink of water. To distract himself from his thirst and exhaustion, he watched the boy's trips with detached bemusement. The little barefoot midshipman had taken off his blue jacket, and was dressed now in a dirty white shirt and sailcloth trousers, like some crawling worm or moth flitting back and forth.

This was the boy's fourth journey. He couldn't be after the water barrel; the tap to the barrel was on the other end, and the area where the little midshipman was crawling was considerably lower than that.

Each time, Aquinar crawled over the bodies of the creatures they had just killed, cut down in windrows, with rifled musket, pistol and sword, as their little company defended the tiny perimeter. This was Melville's miniature world. A grove of trees with their precious shade atop a grassy hill, the bones of their cutter with its precious water barrel, and the Pier where he sat.

Within the bowels of the cutter, and spread out on the west side, the far side from the little midshipman's approach, was the aid station. Here, under the shade of sailcloth tarps, were many marines and sailors, and one dog, all seriously wounded in their recent battle. They were tended by Lady Elphinstone, their Sylvan surgeon. She'd been attached to their ship as a part of this cooperative effort between Westerness and Osgil. She was fair of face, with her golden hair pulled back behind her head in a bun. She wore a buttercup yellow gown, with a grass green sash about her waist. Both were now stained and smeared with the leaking lifeblood of many men. The surgeon was assisted by Petreckski, their monkish purser, his brown robe well concealing the blood of their wounded. Their two buckskin-clad rangers, bone weary after their long chase and fierce battle, were also contributing their extensive healing skills.

Deep in the shade of the trees were their dead. Six men, two ship's dogs, and one cat were lovingly laid out under careful guard, lest their bodies be defiled by local creatures. They rested amidst the trees they'd died to defend. Soon they would be buried there.

Melville had no idea what the boy thought he was doing, going back and forth from the bowels of their cutter to the depths of the woods. But he knew just exactly what these dead aliens were doing here.

Several of the strange, six-legged, dingy white "apes" had died up here on the Pier as they tried to work their way around the left flank. There was one close to him. Close enough to prod with his foot.

In books, the writers often talk of people voiding their bowels when they die. You could get the impression from these gritty, realistic writers that this always happened. But the truth was that it only happened if you had a "load" in the lower intestines. Thus, Melville could tell which creatures had fed well last night, and which hadn't. This fellow, with the local equivalent of flies crawling in and out of his mouth and across the facets of his compound eyes, had eaten very well last night.

The mouth was located at the top of the creature's skull, the vertical nose slits below that, and the compound eyes were low in the skull. Except for when the head launched forward on its accordion neck (mouth first, teeth first, in violent attack), it remained nestled back into the creature's ... chest? ... thorax? The end result was that the mouth (a very respectable mouth, full of very nasty and creditable teeth) was at the top of the skull, with the compound eyes protected, barely peeking out from where they crouched in the chest cavity. Now, relaxed in death, the head protruded from the body and the ape's eyes seemed to look reproachfully up at him, ignoring the intruding flies.

An orphan's curse would drag to hell A spirit from on high; But oh! more horrible than that Is the curse in a dead man's eye!

Well, this was no "man" thought Melville, it probably wasn't even sentient, but it was a living creature that he'd helped to kill. "Your fault," he muttered, looking his accuser in the eye. "Don't blame me. You were the ones that had to go and attack us, with all that howling and screeching. What did you expect?"

<> added Swish-tail, <>

<> replied Melville, jokingly, prodding it again with his foot.

<> replied the little Ship, getting into the spirit of their grim little jest. <>

The thing that the "realistic, gritty" genre of writers generally didn't write about was the fact that, in the intensity of battle, many of the living combatants also voided their bowels. Again, it generally happened to those with a "load" in the lower intestines.

All energy was redirected toward survival. "We need more power, Captain! Bladder control? I don't think so. Sphincter control? We don't need no stinking sphincter control! Ye laddies get that energy down in the legs where we need it!"

And, as usual after battle, when the normal postcombat nausea set in, several of the young ones lost their breakfast as well.

It was going to be hard to clean up the mess, living and dead, with barely enough water to keep them alive for another few weeks. There was plenty of ships biscuit, salt pork and dried peas, but precious, precious little water.

They had been digging a well into the hill ever since their arrival. After all, if the trees were alive, they must be getting water from somewhere. They were down a hundred feet and still going through dry dirt, the walls shored up with logs.

Melville smelled the reek from his own troops and looked out at the stinking heaps of their dead attackers. How were they going to clean up this filth, and return things to shipshape navy fashion? Somehow the books never talked about this. Did I miss a class at the academy?

Actually, on his first day at the academy they told him this might happen. "Adventure," they called it. "A rendezvous with destiny."

* * *

Captain (retired) Ben James, Dean of the Department of History had lectured them on their first day. Five foot, eight inches tall, well over two hundred pounds, he looked like he would tire just combing his hair, deadly only with a red pencil ... until you got a look at the ribbons on his dress uniform, and then you learned to pay attention to him. He was indeed a history professor full of surprises.

"Cadets," he began, looking at them with steely intensity, "you are on the first day of an adventure that, if you stick with it, will ultimately see you in command of ships sailing the shoreless seas of two-space. When you enter into two-space, you'll truly understand why our culture and society is the way it is.

"Most of you are from here on Westerness, and have never even traveled in two-space, or 'Flatland' as it's often called." Young cadet Melville puffed up his chest and felt very superior upon hearing this. He had served for several years as a ship's boy before being selected for the academy. On his first day at the academy he was happy to embrace any comforting source of superiority.

"In this strange environment any complex or advanced technology can't exist. What builds and prospers our empire are wooden ships ... and iron men. We depend on the relatively crude technology of our ships, similar to eighteenth-century Napoleonic-era sailing ships. Even simple block-and-tackle pulleys tend to decay quickly, and there is no need for jibs or stay sails, so the rigging is very simple.

"Even simple weapons technology, such as muzzle-loading muskets, require daily maintenance in this environment. Thus we are back to Napoleonic-era weapons. Namely cannons, swords, rifled muskets, and bayonets.

"But never forget that you are warriors, and the most formidable weapon in two-space lies between one's ears! 'This is the law: The purpose of fighting is to win.


Excerpted from Two Space War by Dave Grossman Leo Frankowski Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Leo Frankowski is widely known for the popular "Cross-Time Engineer" series, which has gone through six novels to date, with translated editions in Italy, Spain, and Poland. Frankowski was nominated for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer. He has held more than a hundred different positions, ranging from scientist in an electro-optical research lab to chief engineer to company president. His work in chemical and optical instrumentation has earned him several patents. Currently a writer and consulting engineer, he lives with his new Russian wife and teenage daughter in Tver, Russia.

Dave Grossman is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel, West Point Psychology Professor, Professor of Military Science, Army Ranger, and lifelong SF fan. He started his military career as a paratrooper and a sergeant before attending OCS. Colonel Grossman is the author of the Pulitzer nominated book, On Killing, which is used as required reading in courses at military academies, police academies, and colleges worldwide. He has written many other scholarly and popular works, and since his retirement from the military in 1998, he now travels the world almost 300 days a year, training elite military and law enforcement organizations.

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Two-Space War 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's centuries in the future, but because interstellar travel destroys advanced technology humanity is limited to pre-industrial tech on most worlds. The alien races and low technology give the book a Fantasy feel that is somewhat similar to John Ringo's Council Wars series. However, in contrast to the Council Wars, the heroes here are not super-human. Instead, they are realistic people, trying to adapt to whatever life throws at them. Since life in this case involves a sneak attack by an enemy followed by the beginnings of a war, that's not easy, even for trained fighters. The characters are lovingly crafted by a Dave Grossman, a combat psychologist. They 'feel' very real, ready to just off the page. The one problem I have with this book is the sequel, or rather lack thereof. It's too good a book not to have a sequel to it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is a perfect example on how to totally mess up what promised to be a good story line. The attempt to make this a good fantasy fiction novel simply failed by all the 'distractions' that one come across while reading. One or both of the authors try to give a 'deep' meaning by almost continuosly quoting the poetry of others in what must be an effort to try and explain the feelings of their characters at that time. If it is of value to clearly indicate the emotional state of the principal subject or of others then it is a simple matter to indicate anger, jubilation or whatever by a basic indication. The authors revert to poems written by someone else to try and set the stage for the emotions in play at that time. It seems as if at least 40% of the book is taken up by quoting the poetry of others. Frankly, if I want to read a lot of poetry then I will buy a slim volume of that type of reading. Then, when nearing the end, the story gets wrapped up in a hurry just as if the authors had counted the number of pages needed to come up with something beyond a pamphlet. All in all, a very disappointing effort. Learn from my mistake - pass this one by!