The Abh have a very strong Bushido ethic - never surrender, etc. Yet Jinto's dad was elevated to the rank of Abh because he surrendered his planet to them without firing a shot. He may be labeled as Abh, but I bet he doesn't get invited to many parties.
The Abh really aren't into telling others that they're violating Abh ethics, though. Jinto's dad was a lander; when he got Abh-ified, he was still more or less the guy running the planet.
The Abh also more or less don't give a damn what the grounders do, so long as they're not setting themselves up as a threat to the Abh way of life by building their own space navies. Keeping Jinto's father in charge of the planet was probably the easiest option and much preferred to having an Abh viceroy take charge directly. Jinto himself, meanwhile, is taken as a hostage to secure his father's loyalty, and to expose him to the Abh way of life and turn him and his descendants into loyal vassals. (This exact process has been standard operating procedure for any number of historical empires on Earth.)
How can the Abh have any kind of effective intelligence service if they are unwilling to do so much as broadcast a fake identity to fool enemy ships that would otherwise fire on them?
(Genetic) Landers loyal to the Empire but who 1) would be far less conspicuous in their appearance (no blue hair and no third eye to hide) and 2) Probably don't feel as constrained by the Abh honour code.
Why are the Abh seen as Designated Heros - for all their non-interference after the fact, the Abh Empire is conquering all other space colonies to maintain their monopoly over interstellar travel, and the benefits that come with it. Not to mention the fact that the rulers of half of mankind were created by humans and murdered their creators in a fit of genocidal fear. So now these traitors want to 'protect' mankind and end war? And reason they aren't like war-loving humans because of their 'genetic superiority' that leads to mass murder? So the main character just follows along with these aliens just because he meets a pretty one? (I have no problem with this but that second part seems more in fitting with a just bugs me page).
First of all, doesn't all that fit pretty well with the Designated Hero trope? The Abh certainly aren't perfect, but their opponents (i.e. the United Mankind) are a lot nastier. Secondly, the Abh are deeply ashamed of their destruction of their creators. Finally, how exactly does their 'genetic superiority' lead to mass murder?
The viewer is shown practically nothing of UM apart from its military so it's not really possible to say just how much nastier (if at all) they really are.
The don't even consider themselves inherently superior to normal humans. It's more that since normal humans are best adapted to planetary surfaces they should get those while the Abh who were deliberately engineered for life in space should get the environment that they're made for.
The reason they are take over space routes is to prevent them from being used for senseless wars between worlds. This is why they also don't try to conquer planets claimed by the other interstellar empires. They won't start wars but they are willing do what it takes to finish em. This is also why the Abh let the worlds in their empire be self governing. They don't try to interfere in the cultures of the worlds they conquer because they see no point to it.
Think of the Ahb as Romans, and United Mankind as Carthaginians. Then you have The Punic WarsIN SPACE!! Personally I think the fact that Jinto seems to agree more with the United Mankind ideology, but is loyal to the Ahb based on his personal loyalties to Lafiel is actually very interesting- and Truth in Television. Most people put greater importance on personal loyalty then on philosophical purity.
Surely the better analogy would be Ahb = Spartans (aristocratic protectionists) and UM = Athenians (democratic mercantilists)? The Peloponnesian War in space.
You can read the Peloponnesian War analogy both ways - it's unclear whether ideology (Abh as Spartans) or geopolitics (Abh as Athens) are the driving factors behind the assignment of the sides to their counterparts, or if something totally different is going on. That said, this troper is one of the few people rooting for the United Mankind, since (IMHO) the Abh are thinly-veiled Japanese revanchism and that's gross. Also, from a story perspective it's much more interesting if the United Mankind eventually wins, as opposed to a continuation and expansion of Abh hegemony.
The Ahb are like Spartans in other respects, Lacedaemon was set up with autonomous cities (planets) while the Spartans owned the countryside (outer space).
What little characterisation we've seen of UM also describes them as highly interventionist and conformist along with a strong prejudice against genetic modifications, even those that aren't Abh. I believe its that enforced conformity that Samason mentioned as one of the reasons his home planet Midgrat chose to seek protection from the Empire rather than UM.
The Abh are probably overly romanticized imperialists on screen (despite various hints of being willing to kill off populations, and a Hellworld prison planet) but the UM occupation talks about re-education camps and how they'll ban smoking and talk rather too much about being "democratic". Like People's Democratic Republics. Yes, it's the military, but "re-education camps" are never a good thing.
"We're going to spread democracy and United culture at gunpoint!" actually sounds like a slam at American international politics. (Not passing judgement here.)
The Abh look like the heroes because the story is told from their perspective (one of the better definitions of Designated Hero). In actual fact, the series hews to Grey and Gray Morality.
As much as I cannot believe that this series actually has one of these (honestly, enough people have seen this show for their to be a contingent who have anything negative to say about it? And for that matter, there are negative things to say about it?), I feel I must make use of it, because this has always bothered me. Authentic Baronh spellings. What. The. Hell. Baronh has its own alphabet, right? Then why is there also an "official" spelling using latin-characters, and why do those spellings not make any phonetic sense at all? Did Morioka make up what characters should be used in the English spellings and just randomly decide to do stuff like change ph=f to mh=f (as in Lafiel's name being properly spelled "Lamhirh")? It's not like there's—as near as I can tell—any in-series basis for what Baronh should look like in latin characters, and anyway isn't the idea when crossing alphabets almost always to recreate the pronunciation of a word (I mean, I know Chinese to English gets weird with stuff like this but even it isn't that bad)? So you shouldn't -have- to make up new diphthongs, because you may as well leave it in the original language if you're going to change the rules of pronunciation that govern the target language (mind you English pronunciations make no sense anyway but...). Anyway, does anyone know where all these official English spellings came from and why they're incomprehensible?
The English spellings come from the fact that 1) Morioka has written the assorted names in Ath and that there's an official Roman Alphabet to Ath guide. And English speakers don't get to complain about ph = f.
Yes, yes, English is on crack, but still. As an English speaker, I think I can ask that transliterated names be spelled in a way such that they make some kind of sense to me—seeing as that's the whole point of transliteration. Also your response just begs further questions—if there's an Ath to Roman Alphabet guide, why does it contain weird things like mh = f? Was it written by people who even used the roman alphabet for their primary language? Or does Ath use a letter-based system instead of a syllabic system like Japanese, meaning that there is a one-one correlation between letters, and the letters pronounced individually as m and h become f when placed next to each other?
Yes Ath does use a letter based system similar to English rather than the a Japanese style syllabic system and the equivalent to letters to m and h form an f sound when combined (as to p and h). the correspondence is not quite one to one since Ath has more letters than the Roman alphabet, or at least the version English speakers use.
Baronh (the Abh language) uses an alphabet system (Ath) with nightmarish spelling rules. The official spellings are not English spellings in any way; they are how the words are spelt in their original writing system, but written using latin characters instead of Ath.
If the Ahb culture derives from East Asia, why does their politcal system seem to be patterned after Czarist Russia?
I'm not sure I'd say that it is, necessarily. Lots of cultures in the early modern era had army officer corps that were made up almost exclusively of nobles (though admittedly service may not have been compulsory in all of them). What may be strange about the Abh is that they mix in some French Revolution-type ability for commoners to advance through military service into the higher ranks of society. That also happened in a lot of countries, it just usually coincided with the loss of noble prestige, since advancement by deeds or wealth can be at odds with status determined by birth. Of course the way the Abh are set up, potential class conflict and loss of prestige aren't things they really need to worry about, since they could almost not care less what goes on on planets they control. And as has been stated elsewhere, Abh foreign policy is sort of a tweaked version of Space Romans, though admittedly I don't know enough about Russian expansionism to know if there's a similarity there.
Well, this Russian troper sees some resemblance, but only slight. Here's basically how Tsarist Russian expansionism worked: if they arrived to a land inhabited by some primitive indigenous tribe, they set up some forts manned by Cossacks, put taxation on the locals but otherwise leave the local system intact; the tribesmen were included in the inorodtsy estate (literally, "ones of other birth") and as such exempt from army service or any other service to the state, only having to pay the tax; however, the important people were converted into Orthodox Christianity and legally considered Russian after that, sometimes with nobility included in the package. The Caucasus region became infamous for the number of princely families created from local chiefs. However, the Russians usually didn't arrive uninvited in regions with already estabilished statehood, and included such territories in their borders if the local rulers specifically asked them to (that's how Georgia and the Kazakh clans were annexed). After Red October, however, every ethnicity was granted semi-autonomous nationhood and allegedly full equality with Russians; some of these semi-autonomous nations were granted the Soviet Republic status which eventually allowed them to secede from the Union, and some were merely Autonomous Republics and stay such to this day.
If advancement within the noble class depends on performance in war, wouldn't Ahb hegemony over the galaxy freeze all the ambitious nobles permanently into whatever rank they held when the war ended? Can't imagine they'd be too happy about that.
Well, military rank is sort of considered separately from noble rank, as near as I can tell, for the Abh. They're each absolute in their own spheres, hence Lafiel can be bossed around by the crew of the ship where she's a trainee, but outside of a military context she would outrank probably the whole crew put together. At any rate, it's not so much that nobles advance by military service as that they are required to serve and are expected to live up to their noble rank by their performance in the military (and high nobles probably get preference for high positions, but they seem exclusively to be suited to them, so). What the functions of the military entail during peacetime is never really discussed, so it's hard to say how it would all work if the war never started—we certainly wouldn't have a plot. Anyway, what do you do with a militarized society when war is over is one of the big questions of human society isn't it?
Also military service is generally a way for commoners (both Landers and Abh) to gain entrance into the nobility. Advancement of rank once you've made it in are entirely seperate and independent of military service once you've made it and is defined on the star system that makes up your territory. Barons are out of luck since there systems contain no habitable planets or even potentially inhabitable planets. Vicounts have a systems with at least one planet that can be terraformed and if they do undertake such a project they automatically become Earls when they do since an Earl has a habitable planet under their control. the difference between and Earl and a Marquis is planetary population, specifically 100 million. The higher noble ranks are multi-system domains all of them belong to the older noble families like the Spoor. Its only the Royal families who have a chance at the Imperial Throne who really advance their noble rank by military service with the Crown Prince(ss) serving as the highest ranked uniform officer.
There are no Abh commoners. Every Abh is a noble. It's just that the Abh nobility is two tiers and separated into Peers (landed and titled nobles) and Knights, who own no land and thus do not hold titles. If anyone obtains the ownership to a planet system — either by getting it as a gift from the Emperor (usually after a heroic deed or successful conquest), settling, or simply buying it (Abh being a Proud Merchant Race this isn't rare by any standard), they immediately become a titled Peer. That's exactly how Jinto became an Earl — he simply inherited Martine from his father, who, in turn, received it as an award for surrendering the planet to the Empire. In short, the system works pretty much exactly the same as an idealized European feudal system it was modeled after.
If the Ahb have a Dyson Sphere (equivalent to 100,000,000 Earths), shouldn't they outnumber landers by at least 1000:1?
Uh, when are they given a Dyson Sphere?
It doesn't make sense for Abh to have uniquely 200+ year lifespans. They were made 2000 years ago, so it's old tech. And that UM jerk in Crest was from a world that had used such genetic technology, but were suppressed by the UM... which seems implausibly bioconservative to me.
It was IIRC never stated that their lifespan had been 200+ years when they first emerged. A race that distinguishes itself from other humans through genetic engineering is bound to develop it further, thus increasing their lifespans with new generations through new advancements. And imposing their rigid but not necessarily completely wrong philosophy on others is basically the UM's hat.
True. OTOH, the Abh Empress says stuff like "we've stopped evolution". As a culturally conservative engineered-by-others slave race, it's not clear that the Abh are actually trying to push the transhumanist envelope; I got more an impression of bioconservatism — but their bio comes with whipping up embryos for gestation machines. And yeah, conformity is the UM hat, but foregoing life-doubling genetics is a big piece of conformity...
The technology is old hat but it was already illegal and considered unethical when the Abh were created, their creators were simply too desperate to care. The UM simply carried on the legacy and probably extended it. The Abh on the other hand have "we fear evolution" as their sole guiding principle and have kept their basic genetic structure basically stable. Still, you'd think people on at least one of the Abh controlled worlds would have made a push for genetic transhumanism.
The novel partially expands on that one. IIRC, either the Abh themselves or their creators actually aimed at immortality but hit a hurdle: after about 200 years, dementia inevitably sets in. Considering this disgraceful, the Abh engineered their bodies to quietly die of respiratory system failure before the signs of dementia show up. After that, why exactly they didn't try to solve the problem yet can be explained by them freezing their evolution, as told above. They are explicitly avoiding to become post-human and keep insisting on merely being "upgraded" with what is necessary to live better in space compared to landers, going as far as calling themselves the Humankind Empire of the Abh.
I'm wondering why the series has any sci-fi fans at all given that the most specific law the Abh enforce is "No Space Travel For Muggles." Sure, if your planet gets annexed by the Abh you get to live in Crystal Spires and Togas and stuff, but they effectively turn your home into a prison camp(albeit a nice, gilded one). The UM possibly owes 90%+ of their membership to traders and explorers who don't want to surrender their spacecraft - the racists just get the most press.
Nowhere in the whole canon it was said that Abh enforced "No Space Travel For Muggles," as you put it. Quite the contrary, being a spaceborne race that doesn't tax their subject planet, Abh are critically dependent on trade between them, as Freight fees and duties are their only source of income. It's just that they insisted that all traffic through the Empire must go on Empire-registered, and, preferably, owned vessels. Preferably, because there are a lot of cases when they didn't even require their subjects to surrender their ships. Being a Proud Merchant Race they respected vested rights, and when a newly-conquered planet turned out to have an independently-developed FTL, or was settled using it in the first place, they didn't require it to surrender its merchant fleet. They just formally transferred the ownership to the Empire, made all spacers citizens (instead of subjects), put a token observer aboard and required the previous owner to pay a (quite reasonable, mind you, given that they didn't require any direct taxes) rent. What they did take is any FTL-capable warship, and any FTL ship if the planet has bought the technology from someone else, though even in that case there were some compensations. Intra-system spaceships didn't concern them at all. Admittedly, a lot of people would resent this arrangement, but it's far less oppressive than the picture you're trying to paint.