Creator: Sergey Lukyanenko
Sergey Lukyanenko (born in 1968) is one of the most famous and prolific modern Russian Science Fiction
writers who has been publishing up to three novels yearly since his debut in 1990 until 2002 when new releases became annual. Unlike many other authors, Lukyanenko has, for a long time, eschewed writing long novel series in favor of duologies and trilogies, in which he develops a particular storyline or setting and then moves on to the next one. Although most of his works fall into "hard" Space Opera
(as hard as it gets, in any case
), he has also worked in such diverse genres as Urban Fantasy
(the Night Watch
series, probably the most famous of his books), Cyberspace
(Labyrinth of Reflections
trilogy), and Steam Punk Alternate History
(Seekers of the Sky
- Knights Of The Forty Islands (1990) was Lukyanenko's first published novel. The story goes as follows: A large number of children is kidnapped and put into an artificial environment, where they, armed with just swords, must fight each other in teams to take control over the forty eponymous islands scattered across an unnamed sea. Although the rules of engagement, enforced by the twisted laws of physics, prevent them from controlling even a few islands for long, their mysterious captors promise to send those who conquer all 40 back home.
- Lukyanenko started writing a sequel, titled Wars of the Forty Islands, in 1993 but has never finished it (though the first chapters are still available on his website). It was to be set 200 years after the original's ending.
- Nuclear Dream (1990). A Post Apocalyptic novel set in WW 3-ravaged US. Was re-released in 2001 along with a number of short stories in a bound collection under the same title.
- A Lord from Planet Earth (1991-92). The first full-blown Space Opera trilogy by Lukyanenko, consisting of three novels that were written in the same year(s):
- Island Rus (1993-94). A humorous trilogy of novels playing with Russian stereotypes, co-authored with Yuliy Burkin.
- Today, Mom! sees two brothers from modern Moscow accidentally stumbling into a Time Machine and travelling to the future (where the machine came from in the first place). From there on, they wander all across history, having wacky adventures before finally returning home. This novel was adapted into a Film of the Book titled Asiris Nuna.
- Island Rus seems to be set in the world of Russian Mythology and Tales, but it is eventually revealed to be an in-universe Reconstruction of it for recreational purposes (the eponymous island is like Disney Land, only Russian) in the future world first seen in the previous novel. The plot follows the premise of The Three Musketeers, but substitutes the eponymous trio with famous Bogatyrs, etc., and the main character is black.
- Tsar, Tsarevich, King, Crown Prince sees the return of the two brothers, as they help Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson in solving a mysterious case on the abovementioned island with the suspects and witnesses being the characters from the preceding novel.
- The Boy and the Darkness (1993-94, first published in 1997). A philosophical and deeply symbolic novel that should be more aptly titled A Boy and his Wings. An Ordinary High-School Student is Trapped in Another World whose population sold their sun to enigmatic aliens in return for wings. In a World of total darkness, the hero must learn to fly using a symbiotic winged suit and participate in the eternal war between local humans and an alien race attracted by the dark. The two protagonists would later make a cameo appearance in Wrong Time For The Dragons, the central character also plays an important role in The Planet That Doesn't Exist.
- Line of Delirium (1996). The second Space Opera trilogy, set in a Crapsack World heavily inspired by the Master of Orion series, where resurrection is a reliable (?) technology and Death Is Cheapnote . The brutal interstellar wars seem to have ended for good, yet life on human worlds is anything but peaceful: assassin is a respected profession and mob clans are stronger than some planetary governments.
- In Line of Delirium, a professional bodyguard/assassin Kay Dutch is hired by the head of the galactic Mega Corp. that holds the patent on the resurrection technology to escort his son and heir to a backwater planet. A lot of factions in the galaxy would do anything to get their hands on the boy, but failure to protect him means a Fate Worse than Death for Dutch, and he will even fight fate if that's what it takes.
- In Emperors of Illusions, Dutch realizes that their Crapsack World is just a playground created for God Emperor of Mankind and attempts to assassinate him. The attempt fails and he finds himself on the run from the whole of The Empire and a couple alien races.
- Shadows of Dreams (1998) is a short prequel to the first novel, describing a previous (botched) attempt by another bodyguard to escort the boy to his destination.
- The Stars Are Cold Toys (1996-97). The third Space Opera trilogy, inspired in many aspects by the Strugatsky Brothers' Noon Universe. About Next Sunday A.D., humanity has discovered FTL Travel and thus made contact with the galaxy-ruling Conclave of alien races. The conclave is reigned by the ancient Strong races, while Weak ones (humanity included) are either pidgeonholed into a particular service (humans are FTL taxi drivers) or exterminated.
- The Stars Are Cold Toys. Pyotr Khrumov, an astronaut from Earth, is recruited by a conspiracy of Weak races that has discovered a new race, genetically identical to humans. This race, dubbed "Geometers", have made enormous scientific advancements (and appear to be a thorough Deconstruction of the Noon Universe), and Pyotr is chosen to be sent to their planet as a Manchurian Agent.
- Star Shadow. Pyotr discovers the ancient enemies of the Geometers, the Star Shadow, a conglomeration of worlds where anyone can travel to wherever their deepest desires lie. He must then make a decision whether Earth should join the Shadow or not.
- Wrong Time For The Dragons (1997), co-authored with Nick Perumov. An everyman hero is summoned to a parallel world, for a long time protected from extradimensional invaders by the mighty Dragons, until their extermination by humans. With a new attack looming, the Elemental and Totem Mage Clans are divided: one faction strives to bring the Dragons back, while the other is opposed to it and seeks the Dragon Slayer, the man who was summoned from another world to kill them.
- Autumn Visits (1997). Six completely unrelated individuals ("Prototypes") are visited by their body doubles ("Visitors"), who claim they now have to fight each other. The last surviving Visitor will determine the course of world history until their next fight. Each Visitor represents a primal force of nature (Creativity, Power, Evolution, Humanism, Strength, and Knowledge), but there is also a thirteenth player in this game...
- Labyrinth Of Reflections trilogy is set in an Alternate History where, in the early days of the Internet, a Russian hacker stumbled across a hypnotic pattern that made human brain perceive crude 3D-graphics on a computer display as a full-blown virtual reality. This Cyberspace, called "the Deep", has since become omnipresent. The first novel has been referred to as "Russian answer to Serial Experiments Lain and The Matrix", despite predating them by a year or two.
- In the original novel, Labyrinth of Reflections (1997), a Diver (a rare human who can escape the hypnosis of the Deep without a "counter-hypnosis") named Leonid is hired to help a certain Jinx, who has been stuck in a Doom-inspired MMORPG for days. Leonid is an expert at bailing people who get stuck out of the Deep, but this time, the virtual reality itself seems to conspire against him.
- False Mirrors (1999) reveals that the Divers disappeared from the Deep because they were no longer needed. However, when a friend of Leonid is killed in Real Life after getting hit by a virtual reality weapon, he reassembles his old crew to find out just what exactly is going on in the Deep.
- Transparent Stained-Glass Windows (2002) is a short story set some time after False Mirrors. It follows a policewoman investigating a virtual reality prison that turns out to be a secret research project to create new Divers.
- Night Watch. Likely the most well-known works by Lukyanenko (especially outside Russia) and his only series to have more than three entries. The series is set in our familiar reality with a few key differences: supernatural exists but is hidden from the Normal People by the supernatural beings (dubbed "Others"). The Others are split between the humanist faction of Light and the individualistic Darkness. To avoid both Mutual Extermination and worldwide Witch Hunts, neither side can be allowed to prevail, and so the system of the Watches has been put into place for the counterparts to monitor each other.
- Night Watch (1998). The first novel mainly follows Anton Gorodetsky, a Light Other serving the Moscow Night Watch (called so because they patrol the night, when the Dark Others are active), who gets entangled in three interconnected supernatural cases. As it turns out, all of them are part of a grander scheme to rewrite destiny... concocted by Anton's own superiors. The first novel is the most philosophical of the series, exploring the nature of good, evil, idealism, cynicism, and free will,—something that has been declining as the series progressed.
- Day Watch (2000), co-written with Vladimir Vasilyev, who went on to write a Spin-Off novel The Face of Black Palmira. In contrast to the first novel, which explored the Light Others philosophy, the second one centers on the Dark Others. The events of Night Watch left them at a disadvantage and the Day Watch sets out to correct that. In fact, even nature itself seems to be on their side this time...
- Twilight Watch (2003). The third novel reveals the existence of a powerful artifact that can turn Muggles into Others. Since its use can upset the scales and lead to a worldwide Witch Hunt, the Night Watch (represented by Gorodetsky), the Day Watch, and even the Inquisition join forces to find the artifact before it's too late.
- Last Watch (2006). Gorodetsky, involuntarily propelled to the top magic power rung in the last novel, is sent to England to discover traces of a renegade group of Others calling themselves "the Final Watch". They seek an ancient artifact of Merlin, which can allegedly resurrect the dead, and will stop at nothing to obtain it.
- New Watch (2011). Gorodetsky learns about the prophets (Others with a prophetic gift) and the entity codenamed "the Tiger" that hunts them and all Others who hear their prophecies.
- School Supervision (2014), co-written with Arkadiy Shushpanov. There is a secret boarding school for teenage Others who are too bad for the Light and too good for the Darkness. These kids don't obey the Grand Treaty, don't respect the Great ones, and don't believe in prophecies. They are taught by teachers-Inquisitors to be ready to enter the world of the Others.
- "H" Stands For "Human" (1999). A short story collection named after one of the stories in it. Some notable entries in it include:
- The Beautiful Farawaynote cycle is set in a Utopian world where humanity has learned to live (relatively) at peace, mastered deceases and natural disasters, but this very peacefulness and lack of pain and struggle leads young people to rebel. At the same time, the adults are confronted by the legacy of our civilization's crappy past. Very probably set on the same future Earth as in ''Sea of Glass".
- Train to the Warm Land is by far the most depressive of Lukyanenko's works. A global catastrophe makes temperature fall all over the planet but only a select few get the coveted tickets to the Train to the Warm Land, where they will be safe. The rest have to resort to cannibalism (especially of children) to survive.
- Duralumin Sky is a Stylistic Self-Parody of Lukyanenko's own works, notable for playing straight every trope he used more than once in just 10 pages. For those familiar with his works, it is side-splitting.
- Genome. Yet another (fourth, to be precise) Space Opera series. While not exactly a Crapsack World, it is one of Lukyanenko's more cynical works, a fact he admitted himself in the first novel's dedication. In this world, all humans undergo specialization in a certain profession (be it a starship navigator, a soldier, or a High-Class Call Girl) on a genetic level. Needless to say, these specialists love their jobs and don't care much about anything else.
- Genome (2000). The first novel follows a specialist starship captain, who gets hired to bring a pair of aliens from point A to point B. He doesn't like how that sounds, but accepts, gets a ship, puts together a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits for a crew... and then one of his passengers is murdered, and it falls to a genetically engineered pilot to play the detective, lest an interplanetary war breaks out.
- Dances on the Snow (2001). Prequel to Genome, set in the same universe but before the genetic specialization was invented. A young orphan runs into a
Jedi Knight Phage, just as the whole planet is mass-brainwashed into joining an expansionist planet union.
- Cripples (2004). Sequel to Genome, set twenty years later. Alex Romanov is a starship captain in charge of a small team that specializes in "taming" ships that go out of control. The team receives an unusual task, involving a new ship commissioned for the Halflings. The shipbuilding company finds a loophole in their contract and programs the ship's computer to require each crew to pass a deadly test before accepting their commands. This test is specifically designed to be an Unwinnable Training Simulation.
- Seekers of the Sky (2001). An Alternate History Steam Punk duology, which, unlike Lukyanenko's other duologies, is actually a single novel split in two for publishing reasons. In this setting, Jesus Christ was killed by Herod's troops, but God took pity on humanity and saved another boy who became known as the Redeemer, the Step-Son of God. Two millenia later, the Roman Empire has never collapsed, almost all iron in the world is gone, and limited magic, based off the Redeemer's miracles, is possible. Saying more would spoil a lot, since the Back Story is revealed slowly over the course of the novels. They are also an impressive study of religion and faith, wrapped into a thriller narrative. It can be also noted that the author decided to receive baptism after finishing them.
- Cold Shores. A convicted thief Ilmar escapes from iron mines with the help of a young boy named Marcus. It turns out Marcus is a runaway prince, who is being chased by pretty much every authority in Europe (including Arnold Schwarzenegger). In order to obtain pardon, Ilmar sets out to find Marcus and hand him over, but that plan turns out to be too optimistic.
- Morning Nears. Ilmar, Marcus, and their precious few True Companions try to flee from the State first to the Ottoman Empire, then to Judea. As Marcus' powers grow, however, Ilmar is overcome with doubt: just who exactly is he following, the second coming of the Redeemer or the Tempter? The second novel features Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Gérard Depardieu, and Satan.
- Spectrum (2002). Next Sunday A.D., aliens came to Earth and grew interstellar gates in several dozen cities. Anybody can go through for a story the keepers haven't heard yet; autobiographies are OK only once. A literature major-cum-Private Detective from Earth is hired by a rich magnate to track down his runaway teenage daughter. The detective locates the girl on an uninhabited planet, but witnesses her die in a freak accident. Her last words lead to another remote planet with the same girl (or her body double), another accident, and another cryptic message. And a wild goose chase begins.
- Rough Draft. In this duology, Earth (as well as a number of other parallel worlds) is home not only to Muggles but also "functionals", formerly humans who have been Erased From Existence and turned into super-powered individuals maintaining The Masquerade. Each functional is specialized in a particular area of expertise, which usually correlates with their former job as a Muggle and wherein they know no rivals (except other functionals).
- Rough Draft (2005). In the first novel Kirill, a university dropout working as a computer salesman, gets turned into a functional of Customs Official type. For a time, he is at peace with his new function as a guardian of portals to other worlds, but the more he learns about the secret society of the functionals and the universe organization, the more he feels inclined to rebel against it.
- Final Draft (2007). Disillusioned Kirill continues his search for the truth behind the functionals and their creators who have turned his native Earth into a "rough draft" for their own civilization.
- Competitors (2008). A Moscow freelance journalist finds an ad for an agency recruiting people to pilot a Star Fighter. Believing it to be just an ad for a computer game, he decides to see if there's a story here. At the agency, an attractive woman explains that everything is real and that by stepping through the back door, his double will be created on a faraway space station. She also points him to the website www.starquake.ru, explaining that it allows him to track his alter-ego's progress. The story then splits, with the chapters alternating between the original journalist and his double in space, as they both try to figure out what is going on and how any of this is possible.
- Trix series about the adventures of teenage magician Trix Solier. The setting is vaguely Medieval European Fantasy oddly paralleling our world. Functional Magic runs on laws of literature and magicians have to stay creative and not too repetitive.
- Simpleton (2009). A coup by Co-Duke Sanator Griz kills the family of Co-Duke Raht Solier. Trix, the only survivor, becomes a magician to avenge his family and return his rightful title.
- Gadabout (2010). Trix travels East (or South) to help stop an army of a self-proclaimed prophet. Dragons wanted his teacher's help, but he wasn't home.
- Outpost series about adventures on an alien world called Centrum.
- Borderlands (2013). Centrum. The central world of the universe, surrounded by petals of other worlds with our Earth among them. Once, Centrum was great and powerful, but a catastrophe has thrown it back into the past. Here, on the intersection of thousands upon thousands of civilizations, the Border Guard Corps keeps its watch, protecting the borders between worlds. An Earthling who suddenly finds himself on Centrum doesn't have a lot of choices: become a smuggler or a border guard. Sometimes, though, the difference between the two isn't that great. But sooner or later, a choice has to be made - what does the border service mean to you? Because Earth is being threatened by the same catastrophe that once hit Centrum.