Dirk Loechel’s highly entertaining Science Fiction Spaceships comparison chart is worth a look:
Loeschel included as many ships that he could think of that are listed at between 100 meters and 24,000 meters, and here’s what I see when look for some of my favorite ships from books:
There aren’t many portrayed.
The most numerous representatives are from the Honorverse (right hand side, upper quadrant), and frankly, all those ships look the same – like they belong on a rollergrill at an android 7-11. To be fair, books tend to be more realistic than comics, videogames, or movies, and certainly are far less concerned with literal visual aesthetics, as novels are the only one of the media that is exclusively text-based.
However, as realistic as the ships in Honorverse may be, they also indicate something else: that sometimes novels think too small with their ships. As vivid as the visual media can be, some of my favorite spaceship experiences did not occur on the Nostromo, a Republican Dreadnaught or even the Zerg Leviathan. I recall running the corridors of an Anacreonian naval fleet cruiser with a priest-attendant of Scientism to avert yet another disaster for the Foundation. The cramped dread of the men aboard The Beagle in The Black Destroyer is something any reader of van Vogt’s classic can’t miss. I never saw the Ender’s Game movie, but the clips I caught of the battle simulator paled against the ones of my imagination spurred by the book. Probably my favorite ship in books is one of the smaller…and least likely ones: The Heart of Gold (bottom right quadrant) from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Freeground Station from Spinward Fringe is not shown in this diagram, so it is possible that the poster simply overlooked massive ships from books. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that the megaship – a staple in videogames, comics and movies (and the above poster!) is relatively uncharted territory in novels.