Literature / Caliphate

2112 AD. Islamic terrorists have destroyed Los Angeles, Kansas City, Boston, and London with nuclear weapons, and several other cities avoided total destruction due to malfunctioning weapons. After being elected in a campaign whose entire focus is "we're gonna get them" (the "them" later proving to have a rather broad definition) the new president launches nuclear missiles at most of Islam's holy cities. The Islamic lands took a long time to recover under a new Caliphate. Meanwhile, the surviving Muslims, through heavy immigration and far greater reproduction rates, take over most of Western Europe save Britain and Switzerland. With a liberal Europe melting away to the Islamic threat, it submits and becomes the Caliphate of Europe and Western North Africa. A strict Sharia law was imposed, many of the boys being forcibly converted to Islam through the Janissary program, and the remaining Christians being made to pay the Jizya, a head tax on non-Muslims. In this background a German girl named Petra bint Minden was sold into slavery, her brother Hans taken to the Janissary corps for training. However browbeaten, she has always dreamed that someday she will escape this living hell through a diary passed down from her great-grandmother.

Meanwhile, the United States has mutated into an Empire, authoritarian as it gets, and it encompasses most if not all of North America, some territories in South America, and the Philippines, where John Hamilton, a US Army officer, goes to a brief breakdown after his fellow Army officer and girlfriend, Laurie Hodge, was killed in a firefight between US and Filipino forces and Muslim rebels. He accepts a transfer to the CIA, now renamed the Office of Strategic Intelligence, where he becomes an officer and he is tasked to infiltrate the European Caliphate to capture or kill renegade US scientists making a super-virus intended to kill millions and to advance the Caliphate's cause. And so Petra and Hamilton's paths cross in an effort to save the world, and to ensure Petra's freedom.

Caliphate was written by Tom Kratman, the same author of the Carrera's Legions series. As it such, it was charged with political intrigue and posits a dystopic and controversial future.

The novel is available for free from the Baen Free Library, without any DRM restrictions, here.


Caliphate provides the examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Besma's mother. Her father isn't, at least not generally, as he's for the most part really a very nice guy by Caliphate standards.
  • Action Girl: Laurie.
  • Action Survivor: Petra.
  • Agent Peacock: Chung Hsiaonote  Lee Gen of the Celestial Kingdom's People's Liberation Army Air Force Intelligence Division. Graduate degrees in the plural, speaks multiple languages, ex-military attaché, qualified pilot, spook extraordinaire and deadly Combat Pragmatist. And making him this trope, quite the vamp, too.
  • Amoral Afrikaner: Since this is a massive Crapsack World, South Africa resembles not so much the Boer era as the antebellum South—Or maybe the Draka. The Boer airship captain is a rather nasty piece of work and Straw Misogynist personally, who does not mind taking advantage of a pretty slave girl. Which, however, backfires spectacularly on him, since the girl is really Lee in disguise.
  • Balkanize Me: It is implied that the Indian subcontinent broke into many parts.
  • Bare Your Midriff: To be expected of the seraglio.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The Swiss Air Force, moments before the Caliphate airforce blasts the airship full of child slave escapees and the world infecting virus.
  • Battle Couple: Hamilton and Laurie.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Chinese Intelligence know everything and have spies everywhere.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The Imperial States of America isn't exactly a shining "white hat", but as presented in the novel it's a better option than the Caliphates (particularly the one on which the novel is focused), who are very much of the "black hat" persuasion. The other nations that get any attention aren't much better than the ISA.
  • Break the Cutie: Petra, massively.
  • Camp Gay: Lee, Ling's Chinese control officer.
  • CIA: Now called the Office of Strategic Intelligence after a reorganization and purge.
  • Colonel Badass: Not the main lead, unlike most other Kratman stories, as Hamilton is a mere captain (OF-2). Bongo is arguably one, however, as is Lee.
  • Crapsack World: Much of Continental Europe is under decay under Caliphate rule. The Middle East is a crapsack state as well, as noted by character Besma. Occasional postapocalyptic Muslim raiding parties strike out into Russian controlled territories. Russia has a socialist Tzar who holds his Muslim majority under an iron fist. South Africa has a darker Apartheid (this time with genuine black slavery) after embittered European Refugees filled it. China is a strange posthuman empire which breeds genetically engineered women to infiltrate the Caliphate. Fuel is strictly rationed and most cars run on methane engines, and stink to hell. Mass transit is the only way to move around, and the Caliphate's infrastructure is reduced to horse-drawn carts for Christian dhimmi and methane-stinking cars for rich Muslims. The United States? A new Roman Empire whose soldiers commit horrid atrocities because the enemy would do much, MUCH worse. The first combat scene we read has a group of Muslim Philipinos (Moros) raping and torturing captives to death, only to be caught, shot, their DNA analysed and everyone back in their village with matching DNA killed Einsatzgruppen-style. Some of the American soldiers actually laugh, sing and celebrate the executions, and they are "genuinely" the only stable guys in the story (even from a neutral point of view). That should give you a general idea of the setting.The rest of the world isn't much better, with everyone pretty much in a state of hostility to one another that's effectively low-level war punctuated by periods of actual armed combat. Even Switzerland is a gigantic armed camp surrounded by the Caliphate.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Lee, who, being an effeminate homosexual, is only too happy to temporarily assume the body of an attractive young woman. He makes sure to make the most of it while it lasts—Also seriously creeping various people out in the process.
  • Cruel Mercy: The Islamic justice system, at least as practiced in the Caliphate, is practically made of this. Petra is only one of its victims.
  • Culture Clash: Hamilton doesn't much like Neo-Boer culture, and he hates Caliphate culture. So much that he'll risk the mission to save a few innocents from it.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Hijacking the lightly guarded zeppelin isn't too difficult for a crew of trained intelligence agents. For another example, in the backstory, the Imperial States also made short work of the first Caliphate, once it became arrogant enough to push their enmity to the point of war. The European Caliphate is not—quite—stupid enough to ask for a repeat performance.
  • Darker and Edgier: Caliphate is probably the darkest of Kratman's books so far, what with the massively dystopian setting, the gratuitous abuse, the easy mind control and various other horror technologies, and so on. And the man doesn't exactly write sunshine and happiness for his usual oeuvre.
  • Defector from Decadence: Retief becomes one by the end of the story.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Hans. Because he died saving her escape.
  • Dirty Business: Hamilton despises having to take on the role of a child slave trader, but goes through with it anyway in spite of his detestation of the institution, due to the seriousness of the situation that caused the mission in the first place.
  • Dirty Coward: O'Meara, the utterly repulsive, sex-fiend Mad Scientist villain. Defied and averted with Lee, stereotypes notwithstanding. Bongo masquerades as one, but soon makes clear he really isn't.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In the backstory, even though only three nukes were successfully detonated, President Buckman literally razed the Middle East and North Korea with at least a hundred nuclear warheads. The US then invaded Saudi Arabia to secure the oil fields there. When said oil ran out, the US forces left and destroyed the oil field facilities with nuclear weapons, literally crippling the Middle Eastern economy for decades to come. Also, in the book, for supporting Moro rebels in Philipinnes, the Imperial American air force razes entire Malayan cities to the ground.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Mixed with some deliberate instances. Played straight with Ling, and Petra in one case. Also invoked, inverted and subverted all at once by Lee.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Mahmoud, in the secondary storyline.
  • Double Consciousness: Mandatory for undercover agents, but even more so with fantastic sci-fi technology assisting.
  • Downer Ending: The secondary storyline, which tells the backstory of the setting through Petra's ancestors. Given what the main story is like, this is sort of a foregone conclusion in itself, but there are twists that manage to make it worse.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: On the first days of his mission when he was visiting South Africa, Hamilton wishes that he could get totally trashed over his cover job of a child slave trader, but can't afford the resultant loss of control in what's effectively "enemy territory".
  • Dystopian Edict: In the secondary story arc/backstory, the ruling of the German Supreme Court to accept Sharia law as binding in Germany.
  • The Empire: The Imperial States of America, being the dominant world superpower, and rather tyrannical about it. The Chinese want to replace them eventually, but they still have a long way to go.
  • Enemy Mine: In spite of a continuing state of low-level conflict between them, the ISA and the Celestial Kingdom of the Han (China) work together to eliminate the threat posed by the Caliphate's bioweapon.
  • Epic Fail: The Islamic terrorists launching nuclear attacks on an America which is both bigger and much more militaristic than in real life. Didn't Think This Through, much? The retaliation annihilated much of the Middle East.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Retief, who transports slaves, but treats them as decently as possible while they remain in his care, and very much regrets the abuses they suffer from others.
  • Expanded States of America: The US expanded into North America and the Philippines. They even had Scotland as an Imperial Province!
  • The Fatalist:
    • Pretty much all Muslims, even those like Mahmoud al Beshay who left their homeland to get away from Islamic culture, believe that something will or won't happen depending on Allah's will. Up to and including surviving an incredibly nasty bioweapon the Caliphate is having created to wipe out their enemies.
    • One of the reasons the Caliphate relies on the Janissaries for their military forces is that the Janissaries will practice and perform regular maintenance on their equipment so that it remains functional, as not being raised from birth in Islam means "as Allah wills it" isn't a core behavioral tennet.
  • Femme Fatale: Ling. At one point, Petra tries to be one, but doesn't really succeed.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Suited Heavy Infantry Trooper. Hamilton's pointing out the acronym was enough to earn him demerits in the Academy.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: The Caliphate's VA5H virus is an engineered bug, intended for use as a Depopulation Bomb.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Hamilton suffers through this when Laurie was killed in a battle in the Philippines.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Hans, who dies helping his sister and the others escape the Caliphate.
  • Humans Are Bastards: True on the macro-scale, in this world. There's not a single "good" faction or country on the planet, or at least none are shown; the "good guys" are morally gray at best, being a moderately genocidal and moderately totalitarian empire, while the bad guys are not-at-all-moderately genocidal and utterly tyrannical slavers, rapists and religious fanatics. Averted, however, on the individual level: Hamilton keeps defying it with iron resolve, and the ambiguous and even several of the outright villainous characters are shown to have some good to them.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Hamilton having to give the order to bomb the position where an already-wounded Laurie Hodge (his girlfriend) was surrounded by Filipino Muslim rebels and about to be raped is enough to push him to leave the military.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Rustam, one of the instructors of the janissary group that included young Hans, says he hates the Greeks and Serbs, thanks to many of his fellow soldiers having been staked, castrated, and getting their eyes gouged out when fighting in the Balkans.
  • Info Dump: Several places throughout the book, but the Excursus in Chapter 9, an excerpt from a fictitious nonfiction work about how the USA became the ISA, outlines how President Buckman came into power after three US cities (Los Angeles, Kansas City, and Boston) were destroyed by nuclear weapons deployed by terrorists, and four more cities (Houston, Washington DC, Chicago, and New York) escaped a nuclear holocaust due to being targeted with defective devices.
  • Inspirational Martyr: As one of the original and greatest, Christ functions as one for several characters. A lesser but more contemporary example is a Catholic priest who suffers a comparable fate for his faith, and makes a deep impression on Hans.
  • Interservice Rivalry:
    • In the Imperial States, the Army and the Marine Corps present a reasonably friendly example: The Army thinks the Marines are primitive and retrograde, the Corps that the Army is over-teched and over-staffed, and consequently weaker where it counts.
    • In the Caliphate, the Janissaries versus everyone else. They're the pragmatic arm who just want things to work, whereas most of the other services are either fanatics, or else just lazy and corrupt. Or at least, that's the way the Janissaries see it; to the others, they're the bad ones, being serious try-hards, and/or too lukewarm on politics and religion.
    • Seemingly averted with the Celestial Kingdom, where the Ministry of State Security play nice with Air Force Intelligence, and even allow them to borrow one of their deep-cover agents in the Caliphate for an important mission.
  • Istanbul Not Constantinople: Europe has morphed into the European Caliphate in the 2100s. As a result, many places' names were corrupted if not outright changed. Like Baya for Bavaria, Grolanhei for Grosslangheim, Affrankon for Franconia, Slo for Oslo, among others.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: John Hamilton, who tries hard, and sometimes even succeeds at, being a good guy in a setting that heavily penalizes this. Besma's father, a semi-decent Caliphate character, also tries, though not as successfully.
  • Lack of Empathy: Doctor Sands. Unlike O'Meara, he derives no pleasure from seeing little children die slowly in their medical experiments: He just simply does not care, one way or the other, except for the valuable scientific results.
  • Lipstick and Load Montage: Subverted. There is a scene with Lee-as-Ling putting on his make-up before going to work vamping the Boer guards. Agent Matheson is seriously bothered, because he is so obviously enjoying himself playing the part of the wicked seductress.
  • Make an Example of Them: The Caliphate believes in this, publicly crucifying dissidents and subversives. It backfires on them in at least one notable instance.
  • Medal of Dishonor: The Martinez Award, given by West Point to the cadet with the most demerits without having been kicked out. Hamilton himself doesn't consider it something to be proud of, but the Sergeant that he reports to after leaving schooling treats it as a genuine badge of honor, figuring that nobody who doesn't have what it takes could piss off so many people without having been kicked out of the Academy.
  • The Mole: Ling, a Chinese agent sent into a brothel where Petra was working. She also becomes a big sister figure for Petra and aids her cope with living.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: Moros roasting captive Americans alive, Americans killing said Moros and their DNA-tracked families, then razing every city that send Moros arms. Boer slave farms where black kids are separated from their mothers, and crucifixion scene of every Dhimmi that commits a crime. The book bulges with every war crime imaginable, and openly states that the American side laments the destruction of liberties associated with the war.
  • Middle Eastern Coalition: While the core Middle Eastern lands do become a Caliphate, it does not take part of the story. And with good reason.
  • Never Learned to Read: Inverted; Petra did learn to read, despite this being very uncommon among women in the Caliphate, and especially lower-caste ones. This is one of the few things about herself that she feels she can be proud of... Which makes for a sad scene when she realizes that this is nothing special at all in the Imperial States.
  • Nice Guy: Relatively. John Hamilton is arguably the nicest, sweetest protagonist to feature so far in Kratman's original works. Which still makes him a cynic by most other standards, admittedly.
  • Noble Bigot: Adbul Mohsem might be a slave-owning Muslim in Germany, but he does care for dignity of life of even lowest of slaves: setting them free after their effort and labor reaches their purchase price (even then with a discount), and doing his damnedest to care for/repurchase the poor Petra who gets in legal trouble. The worst thing he did to her own daughter Besma was an impulsive, low strength slap at her boast of "she'd lay with everyone if Petra is sent away, from slaves to infidels"
  • Nuclear Option: The US President reluctantly was pressured by the Secretary of State and Defense to use nuclear weapons on Castle Honsvang in Germany, where the hideout of three rogue US scientists are hiding to make a powerful virus in case Hamilton fails.
  • The Pardon: President Buckman, in the backstory, uses the power of presidential pardon as a weapon against Americans he politically opposes, pardoning all but one person who murdered his opponents (the exception was due to the murderer having been determined to have killed purely as revenge for an affair between the victim and the killer's wife, and nothing to do with politics).
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Buckman, from the backstory, is President Insane and a President Evil who eventually became The Emperor (in name if not formal title) as the United States of America turned into the Imperial States of America.
  • People Puppet: There are chips that can be implanted in a person's head that allow the person so equipped to be operated remotely, as is done with Bernie Matheson and Zheng Ling. It used to be required that ISA agents get one implanted until the Chinese demonstrated how they could be hacked, much to the worse for the ISA. Chip security was improved, but there still remains a strong aversion to "chipping", as the implantation procedure is called, among ISA agents.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The Caliphate, with some additional religious trappings.
  • Powered Armor: Not in the traditional sense, in that the suit itself is more of an armored exoskeleton, but the ones worn by the Suited Heavy Infantry can have armor added to them to increase their protection, or reduced to enhance speed and endurance. It's explicitly pointed out when they're introduced that they do not make the wearer invulnerable, just that the user requires more effort to kill.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The Imperial States are rather restrictive with their mind-control implants, not because they object to the technology in principle, but because, back when they were more common, the Chinese hacked them, and they don't want that to happen again.
  • Sadist: Al Khalifa. Also O'Meara, to an even more horrible extent.
  • Second Love: For Hamilton, Petra, after Laurie's death. It's hinted that Ling also gets one.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Hamilton is a mild example. He is obviously scarred by his traumatic war experiences, and for a while is a straight case, but manages rather successfully to move on, so that this is not his defining character trait by the time of the main story.
  • Shout-Out: One of the historical works quoted in the series is a ficticious nonfiction work published by Baen Historical Press.
  • Slave Liberation: The Americans instigate a minor one as part of their coup to destroy the Caliphate's biowar project.
  • Slave Mooks: The janissaries are young non-Muslim boys taken from their families and brought up in Islam to serve as the Caliphate's armed forces, much like the Real Life version that served the Ottoman Empire.
  • Straw Character: Most leftists are portrayed this way.
  • Take That!:
    • Professor Montgomery Chamberlain, who justifies the Islamic terrorist attacks on America in the backstory and calls the victims "little Himmlers," is not painted as one of the more sympathetic characters. He is presumably an Expy of controversial real-life academic Ward Churchill, who justified the 9/11 attacks and called the people in the Twin Towers "little Eichmanns".
    • Similarly, bereaved ex-liberal Mark Moulas (whose family is murdered by the immigrants he has always championed) is presumably based on Markos Moulitsas, the man behind the left-wing web site Daily Kos.
  • United Europe: Subverted, it [Western Europe at least] becomes mostly Islamic. The British Isles and Switzerland are not under Islamic control. Russia is implied to control Eastern Europe.
  • The Vamp: A rare male example, enabled by futuristic technology. Lee very much enjoys the opportunity to present himself in a smoking hot female body, and is particularly delighted with the way this improves his prospects with various handsome men who probably wouldn't ordinarily go for his type. He gleefully takes full advantage of his femininity and sexiness in the service of the mission.
  • The Virus: the three renegade US scientists led by Claude Meara made a particularly potent flu virus called H5NV. It was designed to die out after two generations, but for some reason it can't, and it turned out to be more dangerous than first thought. Fortunately, Hamilton and Bernie retrieved the sample in time to make a vaccine out for it.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Laurie, who is killed by the Moros early in her military career.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction:
    • The titular Caliphate has hired several American scientists to create a bioweapon to wipe out their enemies, without any concern for who else — including themselves — that would be harmed by an engineered virus that's 97% fatal — and possibly mutilating the remaining 3%.
    • In the backstory for the book, Islamic terrorists deployed nuclear weapons against the cities of several western countries, including the US and the UK. The three that detonated in the USnote  were sufficient cause for the election of President Buckman, who later nuked almost all Islamic holy cities in retaliation for the various attacks on the US over the years.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Al Khalifa is a revolting bitch who's jealous that a girl (Besma) birthed by a slave was in line to inherit Abdul Mohsem's wealth over al Khalifa's own son. She agreed to allow her husband to purchase Petra because while al Khalifa couldn't harm Besma, as Abdul's cherished child, she could harm a slave without consequences. Eventually she is divorced and gets sold to a brothel. Laser Guided Karma indeed.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Hamilton to Petra, who is not exactly proud of her life thus far.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Given the relative scarcity of oil but plentiful energy thanks to nuclear power, hybrid lifting body airships powered by pebble bed nuclear reactors are the most common mass transportation for both civilian and military purposes in many countries.

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