Better than Moby Dick?: Yes
Mass, a young man from the heavy world of Streinveldt, is on a quest to find out what happened to the Empire. Once it had spanned thousands of planets. Then one day, centuries ago, the Empire simply disappeared. Nobody knows what happened to it.
Mass leaves from Streinveldt, which no one has done for hundreds of years. He quickly uncovers a link between the Empire's collapse and the invention of a new kind of super-fast spaceship: the Space Skimmers. Naturally, Mass tracks down a Space Skimmer. It is a pure energy construct, controlled via the mind. Along the way, Mass picks up some unwelcome friends, including an unlucky young prince named Tapper. Tapper, although his royal line has been bred for luck, is extraordinarily unlucky. He appeals to Mass to transport him to Liadne, where he can be treated for his unluckiness.
Mass reluctantly agrees to help Tapper. In their adventures together, Mass learns more about the Empire's collapse.
The plot of Space Skimmer is good enough, and Gerrold acknowledges his debt to Niven for the whole "breeding for luckiness" idea. But the best part is the poetry. Gerrold sprinkles the book with poems and songs, and for once, I read and enjoyed the poetry. Good stuff.
I don't want their crimson skies, nor their weeping, bleeding suns,
Nor their haunted glowing auras, nor their atmospheres that run,
I won't breathe their rusty airs of colors not like blue,
The sky of home has a yellow sun; the yellow sun is you.
I'll stand erect on a cloudless day beneath your yellow light,
I'll bare my head and breathe deep breaths; the colors will be bright,
No goggles dim, no breathing mask, no pressure suit to bind,
I'll take my home-filled sky with me, for I can't leave it behind.
But ere I go, I'll pledge to you this timeless bright blue dream,
Home is for the wanderer an ever-changing stream,
He never drinks from it so sweet a draft as sweet as this--
As sweet and tumbling easy as love's first tender kiss.
The memory so sweet and clear, it must be taken with,
And kindled into life again, by sunlight and by myth.
On hills so far from you that your light has not yet roamed,
I'll keep your bright blue sky, for the bright blue sky is home.