Damned by Destiny

Damned by Destiny (David Williams and Richard P. De Kerbrech, Teredo Books, 1982, 350pp) is a fascinating and long out-of-print book about the surprisingly large number of major passenger liners (20,000 tonnes and up) that never made it to their intended purpose, or at least didn't last long in it:
A complete account of all the World's projects for larger passenger ships, which, for one reason or another, never entered service. Some were still-born, some met with disaster after launching, and some were diverted to other purposes during war. Potentially, some were the greatest liners ever conceived and would have surpassed the most famous, not only in speed and splendour, but in their very size and appearance. They were victims of circumstances.
The examples range from the 19th century to the late 20th century, starting with Victorian mega-liners: the ill-fated SS Great Eastern (aka Leviathan), the planned Spirit of the Age, and a number of examples of off-the-wall ship designs, such as Knapp's Roller Boat and Darius Davison's experimental cigar-shaped steamer, that started off the technological race for ever-larger passenger ships.

Some of the nearly 200 featured ships include the unfinished White Star Oceanic III; the SS Justicia (built as a replacement for the Lusitania, but immediately requisitioned as a troopship and torpedoed after a few trips); the Principessa Jolanda, that sank at launch; the Kashiwara Maru and Izumo Maru, that became the Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers Jun'yō and Hiyō; the never-built President Washington and Cunard "Q3"; and many more. Though the book ends in the 1980s, the story looks likely to continue; there's an addendum about a planned 'floating city' catamaran built by the Finnish shipbuilders Wärtsilä to its SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) design.

This is a superb book, exhaustively researched, well-illustrated, and well-regarded by the cognoscenti of maritime history; if you're interested, there's a good-condition copy currently (18th April 2012) in the window of The Topsham Bookshop, priced at £12.