, Genom) is a science fiction trilogy by the popular Russian sci-fi and fantasy author Sergey Lukyanenko
. The setting of the two novels and a short story is a faraway future, where humanity is a vast interstellar Empire
and one of the galactic superpowers. In the novels, the author addresses such issues as genetic engineering
, and free will
The first novel, Genome
, takes place in the time when genetic engineering becomes so commonplace that many parents purchase so-called specializations for their unborn children, resulting in a society where these individuals known as Specs are placed above the Naturals. In this novel, Lukyanenko explores the impact this practice has had on The Verse
. Halfway through, the novel turns into a murder mystery, when an alien dignitary is killed on-board the protagonist's ship, who only has 48 hours to find and punish the murderer before an all-out war breaks out which will result in total devastation and no clear victor.
The second novel, Dances on the Snow
, is actually a prequel to Genome
, although, according to Word of God
, it should be read after the first novel. The events take place about a century prior to Genome
and feature none of the same characters. Genetic engineering and cloning are yet to be perfected. The protagonist is a young orphan who stumbles on a plot to take over the Empire by brainwashing
entire planetary populations, one world at a time.
The short story Cripples
is a sequel to Genome
, set twenty years later. Out of all the Genome
characters, only the protagonist remains. He is now in charge of a team of experts that specialize in "taming" out-of-control ship. Their new task is highly profitable and also highly dangerous. They have to convince the most powerful warship in the galaxy to fight. However, the ship's builders have intentionally programmed the ship's AI to only take orders from a "worthy" crew, said worthiness being proven if the crew can resolve a deadly situation better than the ship.
The trilogy contains examples of the following tropes:
- Alien Among Us - Czygu females look very similar to young human girls. With some plastic surgery, they can easily pass for a human.
- Animated Tattoo - An imp that doubles as an Expressive Shirt.
- Bee People - the Czygu are insectoids with females in charge. The males have only recently been granted intelligence, as mindless drones are unable to operate complex equipment.
- Bug War - the war with the Czygu is a very real threat in Genome.
- Buxom Is Better - used in the first novel by the protagonist to figure out that Edgar is not who he claims to be. A teenage boy's virtual fantasy would not have women of normal proportions.
- Cloning Blues - in Dances on the Snow, cloning is a major plotline, as it is a fairly new technology. By Genome, however, it is so commonplace that worthy individuals are often cloned multiple times in order to preserve their skills. The clones are recognized as equal to normal humans.
- Compelling Voice - several characters in Dances on the Snow have special training that allows them to use "Imperative Voice" with this effect. During the climax, two characters vie for control of the protagonist with both using Imperative Voice.
- Cure Your Gays: Purely accidental, male homosexual to bi. Pak Generalov's homosexuality is cured with the same Phlebotinum that is used to undo specialization. It "blocks all genetically deranged emotions" and seemingly him preferring men is one of them. He starts experimenting with women and it's likely to become a habit by the time the drug wears off.
- Cute Monster Girl: Deliberately invoked by Czygu, who frequently give their females the shape of teenage human girls with large eyes. In the past they used them as infiltrators, spies and saboteurs and only their stench gave them away. Turns out, the concept that a smell can be unpleasant was so alien to them, they figured it only by the start of Genome. This is also one of their preferred shapes to negotiate with humans.
- Designer Babies - the Specs, although everyone has some sort of gene therapy done to fix certain defects, such as poor eyesight.
- Discriminate and Switch - when the Czygu and their human-clone guide get on-board, Pak Generalov is very hostile towards the group. Naturally, everyone assumes he hates aliens (not an uncommon sentiment). However, it turns out he's ok with the Czygu. It's clones he can't stand.
- Also used by Pak when being hired by Alex. Pak asks if it's a problem that he's gay, to which Alex replies that he doesn't care. Pak then admits he's a Natural, which is something that Alex does feel prejudiced against. However, since he had just claimed that he doesn't discriminate, he can't very well go back on his own word.
- Easter Egg - the final chapter of Genome contains a coded message that can be found by only reading the capital letters.
- Emotion Suppression: The specs (specialists who are genetically augmented for certain jobs) have certain emotions suppressed and others modified as part of their specialization.
- Empire, The - humans are all subjects of the Empire and are ruled by an Emperor. It is not a tyrannical rule, however. There are also several alien empires.
- Everything's Better with Princesses - Zei-so is a Czygu princess.
- Explosions in Space
- Fantastic Racism - several human factions despise aliens. There is also distrust between the Specs and the Naturals.
- Flash Step - any fighter-spec can move faster than the eye can see when necessary, so any non-fighter will see them move to another location in the blink of an eye with barely a blur.
- Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke - the main plotline of the first novel.
- Great Offscreen War - several wars are mentioned but none described.
- Immortality Immorality - Edward Garlitski is, effectively, immortal, as he exists as an uploaded brain in a processing crystal. Losing some of their humanity ensued.
- Knight Templar - humans on the planet Ebon are the followers of the Church of the Angered Christ and believe that all aliens must be exterminated. They have devoted all their efforts into building the most powerful force in the galaxy and bred soldiers specialized in killing and torturing aliens. The Empire was forced to quarantine Ebon lest all alien races would band together against them.
- Non-Mammal Mammaries: Czygu have these, being insectoid and all that. Justified: after one removes her spacesuit, we find out those are her pseudopodii.
- Kim Ohara is named after Kim O'Hara, the protagonist of Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim.
- Detective Peter Valk is named after Peter Falk, the actor most known for his role as Columbo.
- The execution scene is similar to Milady's execution in The Three Musketeers. Except that nobody forgives the villain.
- Stealth in Space - averted with the crew in Cripples being forced to use natural obstacles such as asteroids to hide from automated warships.
- Take That - the character of Pak Generalov is gay and a clone-hater. Lukyanenko, a Fido Net user, created him to make fun of a fellow Fido Net user named Vladimir Generalov, known for his gay-bashing posts.
- Ultimate Evil - supposedly, a race so evil and powerful threatens to invade known space, that one of the races posted powerful automated warships to protect everyone.
- Seing how said race are a bunch of Axe Crazy warmongers, the heroes muse that maybe those nefarious invaders are, in fact, benevolent and enlightened. Nobody's eager to check though.
- Unusual User Interface - while standard starship controls exist on any ship, they are there only for traditional purposes. All crewmembers "jack into" the ship's virtual reality network, which they use to perform their function.
- Vagina Dentata: Kim's specialty is actually a superspy. It includes a poison sting inside her vagina, controlled either consciously or automatically upon rape attempts. Which is exactly the Big Bad tries.
- Vestigial Empire - the Taii used to rule most of the known universe until their war with an equally-powerful opponent, leading to mutual devastation. Now they are left with a few dozen worlds and outdated technology and are slowly dying out, as younger races take what was once theirs. As a token of respect, the younger races still let the Taii send their ancient moon-sized battleships on patrols of their former holdings. The novel makes a point to mention that the giant ships are usually escorted by modern warships of the younger races a tiny fraction of their size but capable of obliterating the relic with a single volley.
- The protagonist fears a similar outcome for humanity, should the war with the Czygu break out.
- The Empire is arguably in the process of becoming this. If you read the novels in internal chronological order, you see the Empire experiencing its first rebellion, followed by more rebellions followed by its member planets becoming more independent. In Cripples, the crew isn't even sure who the Emperor is, because his authority means little in the outer reaches.
- Watson, The - Detective Peter C-Forty-Fourth Valk (who prefers to be called Sherlock Holmes) has an assistant named Dr. Jenny Watson, an expert in forensics. Not sure if he picked her because of her name or primarily for her forensics knowledge.
- What Is This Thing You Call Love? - genetically-engineered pilots, detectives, and tax inspectors are incapable of loving another person. A pilot-spec will instead fall in love with his or her ship. Detectives-spec love the law. Slightly subverted in that they know what love is from before their transformation at mid-teens, or at least as much as a teenager high on hormones can know about love.