Another book title mystery!


Well-Known Member
Feb 15, 2006
A friend of mine reread a SF novel about five years ago (having originally read it some ten years back), but he cannot remember the title or author.

He is fairly certain this was a British male author. The book was published by Gollancz, and has a cover painting of a hydrogen ramjet (white hull) headed for a giant orange star.

The basic plot: Mysterious high-energy bolts from Altair bombard Earth. A fleet of six FTL ships is dispatched to deal with this. After the fleet is enroute Earth scientists realize these destructive bolts are originating in a ring of small self-replicating asteroids orbiting Altair. As the voyage progresses, the crew realizes that they are virtual constructs of the ships' computers -- and that their programs are being altered ... Sumerian deities are appearing, most significantly the God of Pestilence, Pazuzu. As the trip nears its end, the crew realizes they are unable to carry out their assigned task of destroying the sun Altair, as the alien entity has caused the computer degradation.

The characters: The captain of one ship, Kunio, is Japanese and has studied at one of the old-style militant Buddist monasteries. To accomplish his directive of controlling the expediton, he destroys the other five ships in the expedition. Another character, Allaedyce, is an Australian aboriginal and the only non-virtual member of Kunio's crew. Allaedyce seems to have forgotten his training, has reverted to his childhood mentality and is terrified by all the strange virtual events. Another virtual presence, Dr. Rullkotter, is a genius who copied his personality into the computer and may have been Kunio's father.