The CoDominium series is the brain child of Sci-Fi author Jerry Pournelle. The first books were written in the Seventies and set Twenty Minutes into the Future, now Science and Time have marched on rendering the setting Alternate History. The premise of the series is that the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics join together to form the CoDominium (CD), dominate the planet, and colonize space. The stories follow the events afterwards.
After the CD's fall, the planet of Sparta forms the nucleus of the Empire of Man. It leads to centuries of "peace" (not counting the initial conquest, putting down rebellions, and "Outies" who don't count), until a massive civil war is begun by the genetically-engineered Super Soldiers of Sauron (the planet, NOT the Lord of the Rings character). The Sauron Supermen are defeated (and their home world slagged by Spartan space battleships in orbit), but the Empire collapses into barbarism. Centuries pass, and Sparta becomes strong enough to form the Second Empire of Man. To make sure another civilization destroying war doesn't happen again, the Empire decides to take over every human held planet, through diplomacy, but through force if necessary.Things get even more complicated when humanity actually makes First Contact with an alien race...
Works within the Series
Falkenberg's Legion, tales focusing on mercenaries during the decline of the CoDominium.
Prince of Mercenaries, Go Tell the Spartans, and Prince of Sparta, co-written with S.M. Stirling. Written some decades after the original Falkenberg's Legion stories, but still involve the Legion and intertwine with the earlier novel. It tells of the story of planet Sparta dealing with a violent revolution.
The two sets of stories were published together as the omnibus The Prince: The Complete Saga of Falkenberg's Legion. Available for free online onCD #1 under 'Friends of Honor'.
The Mote In Gods Eye, and The Gripping Hand, set centuries after Falkenberg's Legion, co-written with Larry Niven. The stories involve humanity's dealings with the alien Moties.
King David's Spaceship, set in the same time as Mote, tells the story of Nathan MacKinnie and his secret mission to Makassar. Expanded (roughly doubling its size) from A Spaceship for the King.
War World: series of anthologies that deal with the prison moon Haven, stretching from the Co Dominium era to after the collapse of the First Empire of Man.
The CoDominium setting provides examples of:
Abduction Is Love: The War World Story Tribute Maidens by Harry Turtledove deals with the consequence of the fact that Sauron needs women. A Sauron soldier abducts a steppe woman, and eventually Stockholm Syndrome forms an intimate bond between the two of them as they have children.
Absent Aliens: Largely in the Falkenberg's Legion series. Aliens eventually show up, and become the focus in latter books.
Absentminded Professor: Dr. Buckman in The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand. Not a terribly important character, but an excellent example.
Action Girl: Glenda Ruth Horton in Falkenberg's Legions, a Patriot leader. Even more notable is that she actually does some combat.
The Alliance: What the CoDominium was supposed to technically be.
The Empire: What the CoDominium was in reality, later played straight with the Empire of Man.
All There in the Manual: The essay "Building the Mote in God's Eye" by Pournelle and Niven. Among other things, it discusses the history of the setting, as well as more details into the Alderson Drive and the Langston Field.
Aristocrats Are Evil: Subverted in Mote, in which Captain Blaine is eldest living son of a marquis, and is a decent guy. Word of God is that Mote is set in a dynamic, expanding period of the Second Empire when the aristocracy are devoted to their duty to unite humanity under the Empire and to serve it — or, as the authors put it, when they're more concerned with duty than privileges. The Gripping Hand includes one scene with a couple of Spartan gentry arguing over fishing rights, implying that decadence is creeping in.
Artistic License - Economics, the "Welfare Islands" - huge prefab communities where "Citizens" are kept apathetic with foodstamps and free drugs. Actually an Invoked Trope; eventually there are more people in the islands getting stoned than there are "Taxpayers"; people who actually work and pay taxes in exchange for voting privileges - Pournelle's Author Tract about how welfare will "ruin the economy". The "Taxpayers" slowly realized that their votes were worthless, as The Government started fixing elections by framing the well intentioned extremists for nuclear terrorism.
Attack! Attack! Attack!: Sauron's supersoldiers are trained to attack at all costs; the result is that they attack until they have nothing left. Latter, the tropes applies to the Empire as well.
Several characters in King David's Spaceship are badasses who literally get medieval on their enemies.
Badass Army: The Sauron Supermen and Motie Warrior class.
In KDS, MacKinnie builds one on Makassar, from a bunch of starving citizens and knights.
Big Bad: Grand Senator Adrian Bronson in the Falkenberg's Legion series.
Big Eater: The Sauron Super Soldiers. They're much faster and stronger than baseline humans, so they eat a lot very fast. Can prove to be a logistical concern, or a means of impressing tribal humans who find such feats laudable.
Upon arriving at Hedley, Falkenberg is told about a sports stadium. It becomes the setting for the climax of the campaign, with Falkenberg using the structure to trap and end the populist revolt.
Halfway through King David's Spaceship, Mary Graham makes a throwaway reference to the Makassar natives' inferior horse harnesses and how she dealt with the situation. At the end of the story, when the Imperial Navy are looking for an excuse to nail her hide and MacKinnie's to the wall, they seize on this: rigid horse collars, by making a horse twice as fuel-efficient as a man, were instrumental in ending slavery in the Middle Ages and will cause huge social change on a primitive world, which was flagged as a no-no before they ever went there.
Church Militant: In KDS, the Temple controls the city of Batav and its Christian soldiers. MacKinnie has to deal with their internal politics before completing his mission.
Christianity Is Catholic: Justified, as there was a reunification of Christianity under the Pope. However, not all Christian denominations joined, and some conservative Catholics were displeased with the reunification. The later Empire imposes this religion on all Colonials, which isn't popular with, say, the Muslim offshoots on Makassar or Levant, or the followers of a Christianity off-shoot on New Scotland called "The Church of Him."
Citadel City: Harmony-Garrison in Falkenberg's Legions, and Batav in King David's Spaceship.
Colony Drop: the Moties got this one covered by virtue of there being no fissionables left in their star system. Luckily, there were plenty of asteroids around.
Corrupt Corporate Executive, subverted: Horace Bury funds a war in The Mote In God's Eye. But in The Gripping Hand it's retconned that he was only doing so because he wanted his planet to have religious freedom. He still has shades of being a greedy bastard, however. The whole tone of the character is different in the second book. The first gives no hint that he's anything but a villain who, among other things, had the man who suggested his name tortured to death.
Cultured Warrior: John Christian Falkenberg III. Helps that his father was a history professor.
The Cycle of Empires: Humanity goes through at least three after the discovery of Alderson drive. The Moties experience it often due to their rapid population growth and confinement to one system.
Dark Action Girl: Skida "Skilly" Thibodeau. Think Mayday from James Bond, but even more evil.
Death from Above: An Imperial warship can slag a planet's entire surface into a lava field.
Death World: To varying degrees; Haven, Tanith, Fulson's World, Frystaat
Decade Dissonance: Let's face it, the CoDominium has some cool toys (like regeneration technology, Nemourlon body armor, etc...) while certain planets are lucky to field infantry armed with bolt-action rifles. There are long parenthetical asides and quotes from Encyclopedia Galactica-style articles about things like the New Aberdeen 7mm semiauto combat rifle, which from the specifications in the description would not have raised any eyebrows had it been introduced on Earth around 1955, to terrifyingly efficient and effective smart bombs, orbital artillery, space battleships that can sit in high orbit and nuke entire continents down to the bedrock, antimatter bombs small enough to conceal in a tooth, etc. Some characters in one of the Haven stories set long after the fall of the CoDo find an imperishable, indestructible ceramic CoDo Marine dress uniform belt buckle that no one in the galaxy can analyze or duplicate and whose colors are as bright as they were the day it was made, seven hundred years before.
The Mote in God's Eye features the INSS Lenin, a massive battleship with a reputation of being a nigh-invincible mobile Depopulation Bomb (see immediately below). In the sequel, The Gripping Hand, 25 years later, the main character tools around in an aircraft described as if it was found and restored from the Alaskan bush.
Demonization: Surprisingly avoided in Mote and more so in KDS. Every side tends to be painted fairly. No one is presented as a total monster, including Makassar's Islamic "barbarians", some of the New Chicago rebels, Haven's ruthless secret police, and the Moties. The closest characters that come across as villainous are the Traders.
Depopulation Bomb: Admiral Kutuzov does this to one rebel planet. Thanks to that, The Empire Of Man now considers him the go-to guy when they have to Shoot the Dog. He should have realized that once he did it he'd either be executed or be forced to make a career out of it.
Encyclopedia Exposita: Usually in the form of essays or articles written in the books' present or recent past, as well as histories written in their future.
Fantastic Racism: Horace Bury after a traumatizing encounter with the Moties caused him to very quickly go from thinking the Moties represented a lucrative commercial venture to being a threat to the entire human race that must be exterminated.
Fantasy World Map: Typically included in the front of the Falkenberg books is a map of the relevant planet or city. This presumably allows the reader to have a clear idea where everything is, and follow the strategy the characters use in their works.
General Ripper: Admiral Lavrenti Kutuzov, you do not want to be on a rebellious colony when he is around. Subverted in that he is right, right, right! in every possible way.
Giving Radio to the Romans: Occurs in King David's Spaceship, where the Kingdom of Haven sends a secret expedition to Makassar. Despite Haven having the technology of the early industrial era (they hire an Imperial trading ship to transport them), Makassar is even far more primitive. As a result, the expedition's seemingly outdated technology and tactics (compared to the Empire's) actually gives them a huge advantage on Makassar.
Good Republic, Evil Empire: Inverted. Some rebel groups that support republican governments are either hypocrites, or use extremely unethical, violent methods to achieve their goals. The constitutional monarchy of the Spartan Hegemony/Empire of Mankind is portrayed positively, even though its default position is "Accept our rule or be bombed into extinction".
One of the few exceptions of this is the New Washington rebels, who are genuinely fighting for Independence and not an ideology. Still, there are elements of the rebellion who are willing to commit atrocities on the loyalists.
Government Agency of Fiction: The CoDominium has a ton of Bureaus, including BuCorrect (Prisons), BuReloc (Forced Relocation), BuTech (Bureau of Technology— prevents all advancement), Intercontinental Bureau of Investigation ("Eyes"), and the CD Intelligence Agencies. BuReloc is notably one of the largest and least liked since it's responsible for many of the problems of the Colonies.
Heal It With Booze: In West of Honor, the main character gets a minor wound, but due to an alien fungus has to get sent back to base to receive weeks of treatment. He later meets with a Private who was also wounded in the same battle, but got out earlier. It turns out the soldier used Brandy to disinfect the wound.
I Did What I Had to Do: Admiral Lavrenti Kutuzov, in regards to the one planet he sterilized. Despite his reputation for ruthlessness, Kutuzov actually does feel bad for what he did. Falkenberg on Hadly perpetrated a massacre and felt badly about it, but it was the only way to avert collapse and general starvation.
It's Quiet... Too Quiet: Col. Falkenberg: "Things are going well. When that happens I wonder what I've overlooked."
The Kingdom: played with in King David's Spaceship. The Kingdom of Haven is conquering its neighbors, and a ruthless secret police. However, they are still trying to keep their freedom from The Empire.
Subverted, in which the supposedly pro-democracy insurgents are often far worse than the governments they're trying to overthrow. New Washington and Prince Samual's World, which are fighting for independence and not a political ideology, are the exceptions to this. Pournelle wrote some of these stories in the late 1960s and may have done this as a Take That to campus revolutionaries.
King David's Spaceship plays it straight; the Empire are earnest fanatics who believe Utopia Justifies the Means and have no trouble sterilizing continents for the Greater Good, but Dougal and his anti-Imperial Secret Police are just as nasty customers as you'd expect. This story is told from their point of view.
The Gripping Hand; The Medina Traders are effectively the La Résistance against the much larger Khanate. There's also passing mention of a potential Mormon uprising.
Legion of Lost Souls: The CD Line Marines were formed from the French Foreign Legion, and thus continue their traditions.
Lightning Bruiser: The Sauron Soldier Class. Can casually break human bones with their bare hands, and move so fast that it seems like they blur. Also have the running speed/stamina to make using horses in most circumstances superfluous.
Mars Needs Women: The Sauron need local Haven women (who are of hardy enough genetic stock to produce Sauron children) to keep their numbers up. The Sauron acquire women through spontaneous bridal capture, as well as tribute from clans and towns.
Mate or Die: The Moties (technically, theirs is "get pregnant or die")
Mega Corp.: Imperial Traders Association has elements of this. While not outright evil as in other sf works, the Association has no qualms about manipulating others to achieve a profit.
MST: Done in-story in one of the Warworld collections. In one of the framing interludes, a CoDo bureaucrat and a group of ad execs are watching a new commercial promoting BuReloc. The ad execs begin to riff into the very propaganda they help create, bursting out in laughter.
Naming Your Colony World: Since a lot of the major colonies are supported by nationalists, its no surprise that there a lot of planets named after people (Churchill, Meiji, Dyan). Other colonies seem to reflect their cultural or religious influences (New Scotland, Haven, Ararat, Covenant). Larry Niven added his typical whimsical naming by having one world named Tabletop, a world of plains. And then there's Sauron.
Naval Blockade: In King David's Spaceship, the port city of Jikar was blockaded by patrols of pirate ships. The pirates demanded not only tribute but also the heads of the Masters of each Guild in the city.
New Neo City: Overkilled in Mote, with almost every other setting mentioned is "New [Insert Nation or City Here]" Averted in later books.
One-Product Planet: Certain worlds are known for the commodities or services they provide: Tanith (Important Drug Slave Planet/ Death World), Sauron (Super Soldier planet), Sparta (Tough but free, and later Imperial Capital), Fulson's world (Very cold prison planet that everyone wants to avoid getting sent to), New Aberdeen (Producer of weapons), Meiji and Xanadu (Japanese and Chinese Mercenary Techs), Friedland (German Tanker Mercs), Covenant (Scottish Infantry mercs), and Motie Prime (The Only Aliens Around Planet).
Only Smart People May Pass: The Motie museums are sealed with a lock that requires a certain level of scientific knowledge to open. It's done so the surviving Moties after their civilization falls don't gain access to technology they're not ready for.
Passing the Torch: Occurs in Prince of Mercenaries, where Prince Lysander briefly joins Falkenberg's Legion on Tanith. It's at this point that the latter books begin focusing on the events on Sparta than on Falkenberg himself. The clear moment of torch passing is before the climatic mission: Falkenberg comes up with a daring plan to hijack a cargo shuttle by swimming through monster infested swamps and sneaking on board. When Falkenberg says he'll carry out the plan himself, Lysander points out that the Colonel isn't in the best shape or age for doing something this dangerous. So Lysander gets the mission instead.
Penal Colony: The CD treats most poor or undeveloped worlds as dumping grounds for criminals, ethnic minorities, and other "undesirables". In universe, Tanith and Fulson's World are considered the epitome of the trope.
Many of the human worlds seem to be defined by a single culture. It's justified, since the colonies were founded by nations, religious motivations, nationalist separatists, and idealists. Though BuReloc did toward the end like to go to small backwater colonies and drop ten million violent convicts from Earth's prisons on them to deal with, too (along with nonviolent protesters, wrong-place-wrong-time "dissidents", homeless, and anyone else they could grab to reach their quota).
And Moties are a species of hat-wearers, with different castes in which all caste members are bred to perform the same function (engineering castes, warrior castes, even a caste that was, umm...bred as a food source.
Pointless Civic Project: So Hadley is in desperate need of infrastructure and industry. So what does the CoDominium build for the colony? A giant sports stadium. No surprise that the company that got the contract was owned by Senator Bronson. It's hinted this sort of thing happens all the time with the CoDo Grand Senate.
Population Control: The corrupt future United States implements this, through contraceptives and releasing infertility viruses among the welfare-supported "Citizens".
Praetorian Guard: During the events on Hadley, Vice President Bradford attempts this. He orders Falkenberg to create a brigade composed of trusted party members, and led by officers loyal to Bradford. It comes to naught, as Falkenberg (being the savvy fellow he is) decides to stop the coup, and uses Bradford's men to take the blunt of fighting.
Likewise, Hadley's government has a force of Presidential Guards. However, their loyalty is rather questionable.
The Republican volunteers during the Santiago Civil War is lead by one who follows the Western stereotype. The Commissar is more interested in propagating Communism than the well being of his men. Worse, the Officer prevents the volunteers from receiving any proper training.
Also seen in Reflex, the story of the battle between the INSS MacArthur and the Union war cruiser Defiant that was cut from Mote for size reasons: the Defiant has a classic, though non-Communist, Commissar type who second-guesses Captain Colvin's decision at every turn and orders his arrest when he surrenders to the MacArthur. Then, when a boarding party comes aboard, he steals their nuke (used to ensure the crew's compliance with the surrender) and demands that the crew resume the battle. They hit him.
Falkenberg's Legion, and the dozen or so mercenary groups and hired out planetary armies.
All Motie armies are in effect PMCs ruled by a single Master, and are usually employed to achieve some sort of financial gain.
Retcon: The CoDominium was supposed to be founded in 1991, the year the Soviet Union collapsed in Real Life. Jerry Pournelle later moved the founding date to the year 2000 and had a military coup reestablish the Soviet Union. Likely done so the author could continue writing sequels to the work which he was working on at the time.
Secret Police: The CD Intelligence agencies regulates and suppresses research and development to maintain the status quo. The Kingdom of Haven also has a Secret Police that fits the trope more closely.
Sex God: Sauron aren't universally good lovers. But they never get tired in bed thanks to their superhuman stamina.
Sparta shares many similarities with Starship Troopers, namely citizenship with the right to vote as an earned privilege.
Then there was the little reenactment of the Odessa Steps sequence in The Mercenary, and of the suppression of the Nika ('Victory') riots in Constantinople under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 532. David Drake used that same incident in a sci-fi novella, and in an alternate history of that time period.
The defensive energy shields for spaceships that start radiating under fire, going through the colors of the spectrum before failing at ultra-violet has to be a Shout-Out to E. E. “Doc” Smith's space operas.
The Gripping Hand features references to Pre-Civil War Mormons, who were considered dangerous radicals by the U.S. Government. How dangerous? The government had a third of the U.S. Army watching them, making sure they didn't create a separate nation.
Similar Squad: In KDS, MacKinnie and his sergeant Hal Stark are two unemployed mercenaries when the book starts. On Makassar, they meet up a similar pair of mercs, a Knight and his trusted sergeant. Going meta, this is how Pournelle first introduced Col. Falkenberg and Sergeant Calvin: as out-of-work mercs.
Space Marine: The CD Marines and later the Imperial Marines. The CD Marines subvert the trope, as they're often under-equipped, lack power armor, and are armed with bolt-action rifles or whatever local industry can support.
Staged Populist Uprising: Go Tell The Spartans, Senator Bronson of Earth tries to undermine the too-independent government of Sparta by sending in supplies and advisers to organize the convict underclass into an army. It backfires, as in the process of cracking down on the rebellions the Spartan government expels the CoDominium garrison and starts on the path to becoming the Empire.
Stay in the Kitchen: Especially in the Falkenberg's Legion books, but the standard position in Pournelle's work. It gets a little better in later books, but not much.
During the CD period, the technological stasis leave aircraft unable to cope with Anti-air weapons or Electronic countermeasures. As a result, Aircraft are gone from the battlefield. The lack of industry on Colony worlds results in difficultly of building tanks or artillery. As a result, colonial warfare is dominated by Infantry, artillery is rare and valuable, and a dozen or so tanks can win a war.
The CoDominium Marines are divided into three branches: Fleet (Elites), Garrison (Security), and Line infantry. Indigenous partisans also play a vital role in several of the books.
Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: In the essay ''Building the Mote in God's Eye", Niven and Pournelle actually choose the ship type of the INSS MacArthur. It was too big to be a Destroyer (which would be expendable and deployed only in a flotilla), and too small to be a Battleship. It had wings and scoops (good for getting fuel from gas giants), and thus can go on independent missions, which Cruisers and Battlecruisers are designed for.
Follows the template closely, except alien contact occurs during the Second Empire stage. In most SF works, Alien Contact typically occurs relatively early or not at all.
Pournelle had another collection High Justice, set during the Exploration of Colonization of Space. Likely thinking of this trope, the publishers billed it as a prequel to the CoDominium series. Pournelle disagreed.
Super Soldier: Sauron's hat. Their soldiers are genetically engineered to be super soldiers, who easily outmatch most non-Sauron infantry, though Frystaaters are said to be sufficiently tough and crazy to be able to give them a run for their money. Sauron Cyborgs are considered to be even more powerful than regular Sauron forces. The Motie Warrior caste also fit the trope.
10-Minute Retirement: Happens to MacKinnie, who after being defeated by the Imperials is allowed to go into retirement and keep his pension. However, he's immediately press ganged into service after accidentally overhearing a vital piece of information that starts the plot.
Terraform: Generally limited to altering pre-existing ecologies, with varying degrees of success. New Cal is an example of a world needing full Terraforming.
Technology Levels: Plays a major plot point in King David's Spaceship. It turns out the Second Empire of Man admits planets with different levels of autonomy. Those who have developed Space Flight technology are allowed some say in their affairs, while more primitive worlds become colonies.
Utopia Justifies the Means: The basic attitude of the restored Empire Of Man: Mankind will be united and at peace under our rule, through diplomacy if possible, by conquest where necessary, and the only alternative to subjugation is extermination.
The basis of the original Empire of Man as well, though not as strongly (or nastily) enforced.
To keep the status quo, the CD restricts most research. As a result, 21st Century warfare resembles early 20th century combat. Improvements to computer countermeasures, railguns, and man-portable missiles have made aircraft obsolete. Improvements to body armor has limited effective sizes of ammunition. In addition, newly settled worlds lack any industry - artillery rare, and tanks can easily win a coloinal war.
Happens on Haven in the War World series. The Sauron bombed every settlement with technology (even sources of radio transmissions) in order to make the planet easier to conquer, leaving most people as steppe nomads. Even the Sauron degenerate, going from advanced space age weapons to simple bolt and semi-automatic rifles.
Grand Senator Bronson. Determined to dominate the CoDominium and whatever arises after it tears itself apart as well as to utterly destroy all he regards as his enemies, and a very evil man. Nevertheless, he is shown to hate the hell that the CoDominium has created, and is working towards the same end as his enemies: the survival of human civilization. Pournelle's Author Avatarspells this out in Prince of Sparta.
On the heroic side, there is John Grant, Director of the CIA who, in Mercenary, to keep the CoDominium (and with it, human civilization) alive as long as possible, destroys the campaign of presidential candidate Harvey Bertram (whose victory would, he believes, lead to World War III), by framing some of his supporters for giving nuclear weapons to Japanese nationalists. He then exiles his daughter offworld to cover up his actions.
From the same book, U.S. presidential candidates Harmon and Harvery Bertram. Harmon is a rabid right-winger who sees the CoDominium as making the United States a partner in Communist oppression and wants to pull the U.S. out, risk of nuclear war be damned, emphasizes the "extremist" part. Harvey Bertram, a libertarian idealist who wants to restore the liberties that participation in the CoDominium cost the United States, meanwhile, emphasizes the "well intentioned" part. Victory by either man would lead to World War III.
In "King David's Spaceship", the whole Second Empire is viewed this way, from the POV of a conquered planet.
Likewise, the Runner, Farmer and Engineer caste on Mote Prime. Engineers in particular are treated like portable autopilots. Justified in that the Moties bomb themselves back to the Stone Age every five generations or so, are aware of the fact, and keep the old methods around as preparation for the next time.