The Enemy Stars (1959, rev. 1987)
Learning of Poul Anderson's recent passing away, I realized that I had read piteously few books by this SF Grandmaster, so I picked up this slim novel, one of his older works.
Matter broadcasting allows instantaneous transport over interstellar distances. The catch? You need a receiver at the end. And so Earth has been sending out ships crawling at half the speed of light to distant solar systems, to open the gates for exploration and colonization. The instruments on one of those vessels have detected a peculiar burned out star, the ship is diverted and a crew sent to investigate. When an explosion takes out their drive and matter transmitter, four men are marooned in space, desperately struggling to survive and to rebuild their equipment in order to be able to return before starvation will kill them.
The (pseudo)science isn't particularly interesting. In part the story is about human resolve, tenacity, sacrifice, and ingenuity. As such it is reminiscent of John W. Campbell Jr.'s survival tale The Moon Is Hell! (1951). Meanwhile the spacefarers also contemplate the meaning of life, or the lack thereof. Anderson makes much of the parallels between space and the sea. Both are hostile to human life, uncaring about human endeavor. And despite a fearful toll of lifes taken, men return to travel the wide emptiness because it is in their nature.
The 1987 Baen paperback edition also contains the story "The Ways of Love" (1979), which is a sequel of sorts. The title says it all.
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