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Old 21st September 2017, 04:24 PM   #1
Seismosaurus
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Another identify the Sci fi book request

Okay, this is an odd one, because I've been trying to find a book I read as a kid... and I actually know exactly what this book is called. But it doesn't help!

The book was a sci-fi novel called "His Master's Voice". The problem is that is was most emphatically NOT the one written by Stanisław Lem. And by god, google will not accept the idea of searching for a sci fi novel of that name that isn't Lem's one. No matter what I put in the search box, even specifically excluding returns with "Stanislaw" or "Lem" in it, I get nothing but his book.

But the one I have in mind was a very pulpy, juvenile-type sci fi action story. It starts with a bunch of humans living a primitive, Native American style life. But then a bunch of aliens show up to "harvest" the humans. And you find that the aliens do this every few generations, taking the natives and turning them into soldiers in a vast alien war. In fact, this is what the planet is - it's not Earth of the past, but a planet somewhere in space, one of many that have essentially been set up as free-range human farms.

We follow the hero through various war adventures, until finally he gets involved in a rebellion and an attempt to escape the war.

Can anybody help me find out who wrote this book? I'd love to indulge my nostalgia and re-buy it.
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Old 21st September 2017, 05:00 PM   #2
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Randall Garrett wrote a story by that name. The style sounds right, but not the story.
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Old 21st September 2017, 05:44 PM   #3
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This doesn't appear to be it, either.
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Old 21st September 2017, 05:48 PM   #4
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Nor this.
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Old 21st September 2017, 05:57 PM   #5
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Nope, neither of those.

I even remember the first line, which was "There was madness in the air."

And no, they weren't playing "Baggy Trousers" over and over again.
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Old 21st September 2017, 09:17 PM   #6
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The plot sounds a lot like "A Call to Arms" by Alan Dean Foster... but his humans are oin earth. Its the first book in his "The Damned" trilogy
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Old 22nd September 2017, 04:47 AM   #7
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Yeah, I've read that and there are only vague similarities.

In the book, the humans are essentially slaves. Their culture has been completely manipulated to ensure that they grow up to be soldiers, and once enlisted into the army their only way out is death.

Other aspects of the book that I remember...

The FTL drive used by the aliens is especially nasty, since whilst it is in use it causes any human on the ship to experience horrifically unpleasant and painful hallucinations. The aliens have a drug that can counteract this, but they don't use it as it's not considered worthwhile to make things better for the humans.

The humans main spacesuit/armour is a kind of weird blobby black living creature which flows over your skin to cover it. Some soldiers find that kind of horrific - but if you are too disgusted or frightened of your suit it can sense it, and has a nasty habit of abandoning you when you're in space or something.

The war is fought almost entirely by proxies. We never find out what the enemy aliens even look like, and never even see one of the alien leaders on "our" side until the end of the book.

And so on. It's really quite an unpleasant world the book creates.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 07:14 AM   #8
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Try asking here https://scifi.stackexchange.com/ques...identification maybe? If you can't be bothered creating an account I can ask for you.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 07:19 AM   #9
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You mentioned google, but have you checked on goodreads?
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Old 22nd September 2017, 08:04 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Seismosaurus View Post
Okay, this is an odd one, because I've been trying to find a book I read as a kid... and I actually know exactly what this book is called. But it doesn't help!

The book was a sci-fi novel called "His Master's Voice". The problem is that is was most emphatically NOT the one written by Stanisław Lem. And by god, google will not accept the idea of searching for a sci fi novel of that name that isn't Lem's one. No matter what I put in the search box, even specifically excluding returns with "Stanislaw" or "Lem" in it, I get nothing but his book.

But the one I have in mind was a very pulpy, juvenile-type sci fi action story. It starts with a bunch of humans living a primitive, Native American style life. But then a bunch of aliens show up to "harvest" the humans. And you find that the aliens do this every few generations, taking the natives and turning them into soldiers in a vast alien war. In fact, this is what the planet is - it's not Earth of the past, but a planet somewhere in space, one of many that have essentially been set up as free-range human farms.

We follow the hero through various war adventures, until finally he gets involved in a rebellion and an attempt to escape the war.

Can anybody help me find out who wrote this book? I'd love to indulge my nostalgia and re-buy it.
It would be strange for someone to publish a sci-fi book with precisely the same title as Lems, sure it wasn't 'their' rather than 'his' or some other variant?
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Old 22nd September 2017, 08:21 AM   #11
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- When you say "read as a child" what's the latest you feel the book could have been published? Did it already seem like an "old" book at the time? Can you narrow it down to a likely decade for date of publishing?

- How sure on are you on the title? Could it be something similar like "Our Master's Voice" or "His Master's Speech" or something?

I've tried Google (and I'm fairly good at this kind of data mining), Amazon's advanced book search, Abebooks, and Goodreads and getting nowhere.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 09:06 AM   #12
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One thing that usually tends to happen with me is that I think I've got the name for something right, but it's usually a case of me not remembering it properly and confusing bits of various names as one.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 09:29 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Gilbert Syndrome View Post
One thing that usually tends to happen with me is that I think I've got the name for something right, but it's usually a case of me not remembering it properly and confusing bits of various names as one.
Ditto.

If you enjoy the idea perhaps you'd like Weber's The Excalibur Alternative or Poul Anderson's The High Crusade.

eta: Genuinely free copy of the former can be found on the Baen cd library at the Fifth Imperium

Select the Mission of Honor cd.zip and it's in the Mission folder.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 09:50 AM   #14
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Sounds similar to but is not:

Ranks of Bronze, Romans are kidnapped by aliens and used in an interstellar proxy war.
Janissaries, US Mercenaries are kidnapped by aliens and used to conquer a primitive planet to harvest drug.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 10:08 AM   #15
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It sounds familiar to me, but I've read many of the other suggestions people have posted.

Specifically, the part about the living armor sounds very familiar.

Any other details? What were the aliens like? You mention one being seen near the end of the book.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 10:15 AM   #16
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The living armor plus kidnapped humans sounds like the comic book, X-A Manowar.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 11:25 AM   #17
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I can't help but think this is a mash up of a couple of different books from the Hardy Boys.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 12:16 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by JoeBentley View Post
- When you say "read as a child" what's the latest you feel the book could have been published? Did it already seem like an "old" book at the time? Can you narrow it down to a likely decade for date of publishing?
I would have read it in about the mid 90s. I bought it as a brand new book not second hand. I think it was a relatively recently published one. I'd be surprised if it was published before 1990, though it's possible.

Quote:
- How sure on are you on the title? Could it be something similar like "Our Master's Voice" or "His Master's Speech" or something?
I'm sure as I can be; memory isn't perfect, and I may be remembering it wrong, but

Quote:
I've tried Google (and I'm fairly good at this kind of data mining), Amazon's advanced book search, Abebooks, and Goodreads and getting nowhere.
Thanks for the effort.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 02:26 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Hellbound View Post
It sounds familiar to me, but I've read many of the other suggestions people have posted.

Specifically, the part about the living armor sounds very familiar.
Oh, another thing about that. There's a way to get your suit to pleasure you sexually. The hero is disgusted, but it's generally regarded as being a step up from masturbation, if a step down from having a woman around. Lonely soldiers and all that.

Quote:
Any other details? What were the aliens like? You mention one being seen near the end of the book.
The aliens they are fighting against are never seen. At one point somebody says he's heard rumours that they are some sort of weird beings who are kind of half in and out of our dimension.

In the end of the book the ship the hero is on is damaged somehow, and it seems that all the alien overlords are killed. The humans and other client species on board decide they should take the ship and try to escape. But one of the aliens turns up somehow - either survived whatever killed the rest or came later, I don't know. They turn out to be tiny - small enough to fit in your hand. I don't remember their appearance outside of that. They had very strong telepathic powers, and the alien used these to paralyse everyone. But the hero managed to break the hold by sheer willpower and fired at the alien, and everyone else followed suit and it was killed. So they got away.

Other things I remember... the aliens abduct women as well, who are used as "comfort women" for the men. The hero meets a girl he used to know who is forced into this. Plus there's a wrinkle to the FTL system they use, time passes more slowly when you are in FTL. So every time he comes back to base and looks up this woman she has aged years whilst he's much the same.

There's also a scene where they find that the opposition are now using human soldiers too, only they're different, somehow... can't remember the details. But the soldiers are all very upset that now they can't even have an "us vs them" attitude to the war since there are humans on both sides.

Oh, another aspect. When they first harvest the primitive societies for soldiers, they subject them to a "datashot" which loads their memories with everything they need to know for soldiering. It's an immensely painful process, so much so that people still don't like thinking about it decades later.

The book really does make life completely miserable for the soldiers. Which of makes you root all the more for them to escape it all at the end.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 04:21 PM   #20
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Their Master's War by Mick Farren.
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Old 22nd September 2017, 07:39 PM   #21
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That looks like it!

I had the title wrong after all... many blushes and apologies.

But thank you so much jrhowell!
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Old 22nd September 2017, 07:46 PM   #22
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You’re welcome. The same thing has happened to me many times. I have been sure of a book or song title from my past only to be proven wrong. Memory is unreliable.
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Old 23rd September 2017, 04:43 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by jrhowell View Post
You’re welcome. The same thing has happened to me many times. I have been sure of a book or song title from my past only to be proven wrong. Memory is unreliable.
Guess there's a lesson in skepticism there for all of us...
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Old 25th September 2017, 06:39 AM   #24
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Huh.

I swear that plot sounds so familiar, but I can also say I haven't read that book. I must have read a remarkably similar story somewhere, though.

Glad you found the title
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Old 25th September 2017, 06:54 AM   #25
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In the In Death Ground bilogy, the humans manage to start pushing back into the bug territory, and discover a planet of centaurs being raised as food animals, and had been for many centuries. They had managed to keep up a knowledge of writing and a little history, but they also knew they were being raised as food.
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Old 25th September 2017, 10:47 AM   #26
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Yeah, I read that one (it was based on an old tactical game called StarFire, which I used to play back in the day. Read the whole series).
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Old 1st October 2017, 04:00 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Beerina View Post
In the In Death Ground bilogy, the humans manage to start pushing back into the bug territory, and discover a planet of centaurs being raised as food animals, and had been for many centuries. They had managed to keep up a knowledge of writing and a little history, but they also knew they were being raised as food.
Note: Starfire book series is now 7 books long... (and looks like I got only half of it)
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