Primarily from prose this time, with an exception or two (which by coincidence are from video games).
5. The Edison fleet. (Edison's Conquest of Mars, by Garrett P. Serviss.) I've talked about them in the past. What can be said? They're the first actual space warships in fiction that I can think of. That alone deserves mention.
4. Arc Hammer. (Dark Forces [Star Wars FPS game].) Sure, all it does is build stuff and then drop it on people, but don't tell me that's lame when the stuff it builds and drops is flying robot assault soldiers.
3. Nemesis. (Space Viking, by H. Beam Piper.) For reasons detailed in yesterday's post, the Nemesis (boy, a lot of cool ships get named that, huh?) is pretty cool, since it's armed with hellburners and planetbusters. But it was also the ship built by the central character in order to hunt down his mortal enemy (the guy who killed his wife), who had stolen a ship which, in the science fiction coincidence of the '60s, was named the Enterprise.
2. Liberator (Star Crusader [old PC game], Take 2 Interactive.) A bit of background: This was one of the first PC games I ever played. (I also played Earthsiege and Dark Forces, but this game came with my first computer. I suppose I played a few others, but this is the only one I remember well from back then.) Star Crusader was a primitive space simulator, far inferior to the later X-Wing/TIE Fighter titles in terms of graphics and such. But there was something about the gameplay that was appealing. Perhaps I'll review it sometime. But I digress.
The Liberator was the hands-down best pilotable ship in that game. Why? Because it was Star Crusader's answer to the Y-Wing, but unlike the Y-Wing, its advantages were real. (The Y-Wing, relative to the X-Wing, had less laser firepower, but with its ion cannons had a more flexible armament; it also was supposed to carry a bigger supply of proton torpedoes. But it was a slow-moving, vulnerable spud, so it died a lot.) The Liberator's thick shields, decent lasers, disruptors (i.e. ion cannons), and torpedo complement made it a winner. Its slowness wasn't that big a deal. And it carried more than twice as many torpedoes as the Star Crusader analogue to the X-Wing, the Scorpion. In fact, because capital ships were weirdly small in that game, a Liberator could alpha strike almost anything in the game to kill it by emptying out its torpedo supply. Only a couple of big space stations could stand up to that kind of abuse, and they usually were badly hurt enough to safely finish them off with the lasers or disruptors.
One can only speculate why they made the Liberator so tough; it could merely be because they only had one movie-quality model for the Gorene ("good guy") fighters, and didn't want to spend the money on making one for the Scorpion too-and wanted to make their "hero ship" as impressive as possible.
1. Guardships. (The Dragon Never Sleeps, by Glen Cook.) This book is in my review pile, waiting for me to type it up. The Guardships are really something else. They're named after Roman legions, and themselves are essentially legions-crewed by endless clones, replaced over and over again, the Guardship's central Core computer gradually becoming smarter and smarter as it learns from its enemies and adapts. For four thousand years the Guardships-which themselves are backed up by the Guardship starbases so that they can be rebuilt at the drop of a hat (one Guardship that was completely wiped out in a battle returned to full service faster than another that was merely badly damaged, thanks to a completed ship in drydock being imprinted with its backups)-have protected their region of space, and bringing the law to bear even against their own creators, who at this point rather regret what they did and are probably wondering what the heck their ancestors were thinking. The Guardships were each bigger than some gas giant moons (darned big, for reference-these things would give the ol' Death Star the shakes), and even one was usually too much for entire fleets of other craft. It was remarked that the Guardships weren't invincible yet.
And that's a list.