Literature / Kris Longknife
Jack: "I see they didn't hang you."
Kris: "Nope, they missed their chance. The Navy still has a Longknife."
Jack: "Why do I feel like saying 'God help us all'?"
Kris: "'Cause it just may be true."
-Mutineer, by Mike Shepherd
A Military Science-Fiction
series about the titular Kris Longknife, a rich young naval officer who struggles to deal with the expectation and reputations (both good and bad) of a famous family of military leaders, politicians, and billionaires, written by Mike Shepherd (also known as Mike Moscoe).
There are currently thirteen books within the series, with additional books planned:
- Mutineer (2004)
- Deserter (2004)
- Defiant (2005)
- Resolute (2006)
- Audacious (2007)
- Intrepid (2008)
- Undaunted (2009)
- Redoubtable (2010)
- Daring (2011)
- Furious (2012)
- Defender (2013)
- Tenacious (2014)
- Unrelenting (2015)
In addition, there are four associated ebook novellas:
- Kris Longknife's Bloodhound
- Welcome Home/Go Away
- Training Daze
- Kris Longknife's Assassin
There is now a spinoff series centered around a secondary character:
- Vicky Peterwald: Target (2014)
- Vicky Peterwald: Survivor (2015)
There is also a prequel series being written:
Also, set in the same universe, Mike Moscoe earlier wrote a trilogy of books under his own name:
- The First Casualty (1999)
- The Price of Peace (2000)
- They Also Serve (2001)
These books are currently out of print, though they will be republished in 2013.
This show provides examples of:
- A-Cup Angst: Kris is tall, wirey, and small-chested. The latter causes her some considerable distress as she constantly seems to keep running into attractive women with more assets she compares herself to.
- Action Girl: Kris, obviously.
- Artificial Intelligence: Nelly, Kris' personal computer.
- Assassin Outclassin': Kris has escaped or outfought a disturbingly large number of murder attempts (To the point where at one point Kris jokingly asks Nelly to time how long until the next one, and Nell snarks that she can't count that low). Vicky hasn't suffered quite as many - yet, though she's rapidly catching up.
- Asteroid Miners: Tommy Lien, Kris's best friend for the first three books, comes from a family of these. As a result, he's Properly Paranoid about safety in space, and is quite OCD about triple-checking everything.
- Badass Family: Those damned Longknifes.
- Badass Princess: Kris.
- Battle Couple: Tom and Penny, who are both Navy officers and lovers.
- Battle in the Rain: The Battle of Black Mountain in To Do Or Die takes place in the middle of a torrential downpour at night. It's deliberate, so as to eliminate the defenders tech advantages (the position was EMPed beforehand). Combat quickly degenerates to muddy knife-fights in the dark.
- The shootouts on Olympia in Mutineer count as well, though it's raining the entire time due to a volcanic eruption.
- Beam Spam: How the raiders fight and inflict casualties; when in doubt, they just start shooting lasers at anything and everything.
- Berserk Button: Kris really hates kidnappers, especially those that kidnap children. This is an understandable byproduct of her little brother getting kidnapped and murdered when she was 10.
- Bodyguard Crush: There are some very strong hints that Jack is in love with Kris. He marries her in Defender
- Brain–Computer Interface: Kris upgrades to one between the first and second books so she and Nelly can talk to each other faster.
- But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Kris spends all of Unrelenting pregnant, despite having just replaced her contraceptive implant. It turns out that a supply officer had sabotaged her fleet's last shipment of implants as his way of protesting her relaxing the fraternization regulations. This results in seventy unplanned pregnancies and said supply officer getting dishonorably discharged in a system where the only company willing to give him a new job is the manure works.
- Celibate Hero: It looks like everybody in the series is getting some romance except for poor Kris.
- The Chessmaster: Admiral Crossenshield, Wardhaven's head of black ops. He's got his fingers in many pies, and is (one of) Abby's Mysterious Employers
- Chest of Medals: It's noted in Tenacious that Kris has, by that point, accumulated most of the highest awards for valor issued by human governments, including that of her sometimes mortal enemies from Greenfeld. And then she gets three more from the two largest Sasquan governments. One of the feline aliens comments it's hard to find room when she tries to hang a medal over Kris's neck.
- Crazy-Prepared: In Defiant Abby manages to produce clothing, including correct-size undergarments, for a woman she'd never heard of a week before. Then she dials it Up to Eleven and produces enough bulletproof bodysuits and ceramic trauma plates to outfit an an entire Marine squad.
- Combat Pragmatist: Kris notes that while most marines had to be trained out of notions of fighting fair, Kris took to dirty fighting like a duck to water.
- Cult Colony: Xanadu, a planet of religious fanatics who feared being eaten by Iteeche so much that they fled to the edges of human space and lived completely underground.
- Deadly Decadent Court: The Greenfeld Empire. Hinted to also be the state of the Iteeche Imperial Court.
- Drop Pod: Light Attack Craft (LAC), essentially a set of rocket-powered benches with a heat shield and steering wheel, are used to drop small teams on enemy positions. The series begins with Kris piloting one on a hostage-rescue mission.
- Escape Pod: Ships carry survival pods, which are also built into battle stations. They don't have any propulsion, they're just there to keep you alive till whoever survived the battle picks you up.
- Language Drift: Everyone speaks Standard, a mish-mash of English and Spanish.
- Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: The Highlander regiments always bring them along, being ScotsmenIN SPACE! Tommy, despite being part Irish, hates the noise,
- False Flag Operation: The Greenfeld attack on Wardhaven in Defiant is officially due to "pirate battleships" attacking.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
- Wardhaven, which has a king and Parliament, comes off as Space Britian, though being a member of the United Society/Sentients, it ends up as a United States/England mashup.
- Greenfeld appears to be Space Soviet Russia crossed with elements of Nazi Germany at times.
- The Mushashi Empire is pretty explicitly Space Japan, complete with kimonos, formals tea ceremonies, and high-tech warships.
- The Helvitican Confederacy appears to be Space Greece.
- The Scanda Confederacy is Space Scandinavia/Space Vikings. If the name wasn't clue enough, their ships are named after figures from Viking mythology.
- Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: Present on Fast Attack Craft (FAC), Patrol Fast (PF), and Frigates (FF), which mount their main (and for the FACs and PFs, only) weaponry forward.
- Fluffy the Terrible: The Esperanto League, a minor human faction, bans giving warships "distressing combative names".
- Four-Star Badass: By Tenacious, Kris is field-promoted to full Admiral (four stars), and has the highest awards for valor issued in human space, as well as that from a newly-discovered alien species. She's been in the military for six years.
- Glass Cannon:
- FACs, with four 24-inch pulse lasers and no armor, are this. Their cannon can cripple a battleship, but they can't take a hit.
- The omnicidal alien's ships tend to be this. Ridiculous amounts of laser cannons, but no armor.
- Going Cold Turkey: Kris honestly believed she was a drug addict for years as a result of spending most of the two years following her brother's death either stoned (From medication provided by her mother), drunk (from various items stolen from the family liquor cabinet) or both. Her great-grandfather Trouble managed to get her the help she needed to stop, and she didn't touch drugs or alcohol of any kind for years afterwards for fear of restarting a potential addiction. Later evidence showed that she had yet to reach that stage.
- The Greatest Story Never Told: In universe, how Kris earned the Order of the Wounded Lion, Earth's highest award for valor, is classified and she doesn't tell it to anyone.
- Heel–Face Turn: Hank's sister, Vicky at least somewhat. Her improvement comes after she's assigned to a military ship as a very junior officer to discipline her following her actions in a previous book. After doing so, she learns not only to take pride in actually being good at something on her own merits and not because of her wealth or family, but that she's learning how to be a proper officer, something that Hank lacked and actually caused his death.
- Humanoid Alien: Ironically enough, the one alien species that looks human enough that they're virtually indistinguishable externally are an omnicidal Horde of Alien Locusts whose thought processes are the the most alien of the non-human intelligent species humans have met.
- Inappropriately Close Comrades: Unrelenting features a supply officer whose views on the relaxation of fraternization rules prompt him to sabotage a shipment of contraceptive implants, resulting in a lot of unplanned pregnancies (and the supply officer getting a dishonorable discharge).
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Zig-zagged.
- Kinetic weapons, generally dial-a-yield dart rifles, are favored for ground use, man-portable lasers being reserved for anti-missile defense.
- Laser cannons, due to their near instantaneous travel time, are used on spaceships. Kinetic or other projectiles make an appearance in some space battles but their effectiveness is generally fairly low.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: General Terrance "Trouble" Torden. Victoria "Vicky" Peterwald.
- Lost Superweapon: The Vanishing Box. Left behind on Santa Maria by The Three, it was discovered a million years later by local teens. Capable of instantly obliterating entire mountains, it's later used to fight a rogue AI attempting to kill everyone on the planet.
- Later research into how it works leads to the creation of the Hellburner, a teraton-yield super-torpedo.
- Loud of War: Tommy Lien, of of Kris's friends and crewmember on her PF boat, blasts the March ofCambreadth over the radio as the flotilla sorties to meet the attacking battleships in Defiant.
- Macross Missile Massacre: Kris launches one during the Battle of Wardhaven. A couple space freighters are fitted with hundreds of modified ground-to-ground missiles borrowed from the Army. They're not particularly effective-the warheads are pretty small-but the incoming battleships are forced to either shoot the missile down and overheat their lasers, or loose sensors, ice armor, and possible laser cannons to a blizzard of missile fire.
- Man in a Kilt: Highlander regiments from Lorna Do and Pitt's Hope, planets settled by Scotts, still wear kilts into battle. Popularly known as Ladies From Hell, they're highly regarded as top-notch light infantry, a reputation cemented when 200 Highlanders and a Marine platoon take Black Mountain in vicious close-quarter combat in a thunderstorm.
- Meaningful Name:
- In the Battle of Wardhaven, Kris splits the defenders into three groups. Task Force Custer provides supportting fire, Task Force Horatio serves as the final line of defense, and Light Brigade mounts a sucide charge destoy the enemy at point-blank range.
- Kris leads the attack aboard PF 109, part of Attack Squadron Eight. PF 109 is the only survivor, albeit with heavy damage and several dead.
- Memetic Badass: The Longknife family are an in-universe example - at least, the ones that are considered "one of those damned Longknifes" (that's all one word, by the way) - not totally a good thing, as many people would prefer to avoid associating with them.
- Kris eventually learns that she's gaining her own reputation separate from her family, and people are starting to differentiate between "one of those damned Longknifes" and "Kris Longknife".
- Mile-Long Ship: The still-unnamed alien raiders use million-ton battleships ten kilometers long. And the mothership is four thousand kilometers long. Human battleships tend to top out at about 300,000 tons
- Military Mashup Machine: The USS Wasp, in both incarnations, is this. The first model was classed a corvette, the second was designated a frigate, terms generally used for escort ships, though both incarnations mount battleship-sized laser cannon, carry a battalion of Marines, and mount missiles half its own weight. The overall result is something between a LHD/LHA-style attack transport and a Soviet ''Kirov''-class heavy missile cruiser
- Multicultural Alien Planet: Of the four (living) non-human advanced species contacted by humans, none come from a Planet of Hats. Even the xenophobic, omnicidal raiders have members of their species who aren't completely fanatics about killing everything else.
- Mysterious Employer: Abby's endless supply of trunks and their contents are payed for an anonymous source (or sources) that's interested in keeping Kris alive.
- Nanomachines: Nano bugs and scouts are heavily used(even by reporters), as are nanos meant to destroy other nanos. In an apparent gentleman's agreement nanos are never used to kill humans(though Kris does use them to blow an evacuated space station up). Also, Smart Metal and its derivative Uniplex, made up of massive numbers of metal nanos, are used to build entire ships.
- Which is fairly good sense since human-lethal nano-machines have the same problem bioweapons have, they tend to be rather unselective with who they kill and releasing anything sufficiently nasty to be of military value has a high chance of wiping you out too.
- Ninja Maid: Abby, Kris's body servant, knows how to dress that body in ball gowns as well as protect it with guns and bombs.
- Best demonstrated in Defiant, where she not only produces body armor for a nine-person assault force, but parachutes in as a marksman before rappelling face-first down an air vent to blowtorch a way in.
- Noodle Incident: In a Running Gag, all Abby's previous employers got killed. She's never elaborated on how or why though.
- No Endor Holocaust: It's mentioned that heavy space tugs tend to hang on the fringes of space battles that occur in orbit specifically to avert this.
- Overly Long Name: Roth'sum'We'sum'QuinCap'sum'We, an Iteeche alien who accompanies Kris for several books. Thankfully, he's happy answering to just Ron.
- Planet Looters: How the unnamed alien raiders behave. They kill off most a planet's biosphere (especially the dominant lifeform), and then steal all the resources they can, including most of the planet's water and a significant portion of its atmosphere.
- Portal Network: The Three left behind jump points used for FTL travel between solar systems. Blind Jumps are a danger, as you could end up hundreds of light-years from you destination if you enter a jump point too fast, accelerating too much, or use a less-stable jump point. Apparently if you're rotating it's worse.
- Pregnant Badass: Kris becomes pregnant shortly before the start of Unrelenting and gives birth at the end of it. This doesn't stop her from commanding a fleet through multiple battles over the course of the book.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Following the disastrous battle in Daring, Jack gets resigned to the charmingly named HellFrozeOver (yes, all one word), a station orbiting an gas giant that's being mined for fuel.
- Rebellious Princess: Kris becomes a princess at the end of the first novel and hates it.
- Romeo and Juliet: Hank, the son of a rival family, says that he and Kris might be like this in the second novel. Kris denies this, since she has no intention of dying. Also, the next time they meet, his categoric refusal to consider the possibility that anyone on his side might be in the wrong turns them into enemies. Then he dies.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something:
- Most Longknife family members, from King Ray to Princess Kristine. Subverted somewhat as Kris was in the Navy before she was a Princess and "King Ray" doesn't much fit the traditional role of a King.
- Vicky Peterwald is learning how to become this, mainly because she calculated her odds of surviving the ambitions of her stepmother's family if her skills remained limited to needlepoint and Kama Sutra as being negligible. It also improves the odds of her Empire surviving her stepmother's family's ambitions. Her father used to be one, but by the time of the Vicky Peterwald novels, he's become so fixated on having a pretty young new wife that he doesn't realize that his in-laws are deliberately running his Empire into the ground. Or the fact that his wife has put a hit out on his only surviving child from his first marriage (Something that is common knowledge across the entire Empire).
- Strong as They Need to Be: The dart weaponry used by all factions in the series uses varying charges of liquid propellant. Loading sleepy darts automatically reduces the charge, and you can manually vary the power, and a max-power rifle round results in Blown Across the Room at 500 yards.
- Shapeshifting: Ships built with Smart Metal can alter their shape as needed, shrinking in combat to present a smaller target, shifting from space mode to ground mode (for FACs), or even splitting into two ships (for frigates). Tends to result in minor problems, as equipment lockers often end up in the wrong location.
- Shout-Out: The characters frequently make references to lines from classic science fiction movies and TV shows.
- Space Cold War: Between the Longknife-ruled Wardhaven and the Peterwald-ruled Greenfeld Empire. Both sides dislike each other, and Greenfeld launches an attack on Wardhaven itself in Defiant in hopes of taking over. The Cold War thaws after Hank Peterwald's death, and after Kris saves Emperor Peterwald from assassination.
- Space Fighter: Averted. The fast patrol boats Kris pilots in Defiant fill a similar role, but with a crew of 15 and non-reloadable lasers, they tend to be more Space Torpedo Bombers/Boats.
- Space Marine: Jack is transferred to the Wardhaven Marines to allow him to protect Kris when deployed, and she ends up commanding several companies of them.
- Space Navy: What Kris joins, much to the dismay of her parents.
- Space Opera: While the series is marketed as Military Science-Fiction, there are so many sprawling civilizations and empires, political conflicts and intrigues with a good dose of romantic tension, that the series would be better described as new Space Opera that combine fast-paced adventure plots with some degree of hard SF rigor.
- Spoiled Brat: Hank's sister, with shadings of Rich Bitch.
- Survivor Guilt: Kris has this big time and knows it. The only reason she wasn't snagged by the same kidnappers that killed her brother Eddy was that she had stepped out for five minutes to buy ice cream. It took a considerable amount of therapy before she could admit to herself that even if she had been there, there was nothing a ten year old girl could have done that would have made any difference.
- Again after Defiant, where hundreds of civilian volunteers and her just-married best friend were killed in the Battle of Wardhaven.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Kris dresses as a man on several occasions in the second novel, when she has to do some undercover work.
- Take a Third Option: The Wardhaven and Greenfeld units cooperating to take down a planet being run by pirates and slavers run into the problem the Big Bad is a highly-connected Greenfeld businesswoman who claims the planet's ownership has been properly filed as a Greenfeld possession, and the heroes are faced with either taking them down and possibly starting a war between Wardhaven and Greenfeld, or going away and not stopping their operation. Admiral Kratz solves the issue by vaporizing the pirate's headquarters, leaving no evidence of the woman or her staff to raise a political stink, while some creative hacking removes all evidence that a claim on the planet was ever filed.
- Tranquillizer Dart: An available ammunition type for the standard-issue assault rifles, regular darts tipped with Instant Sedation knockout drugs and fired with a reduced load. They not perfect however, using them at point-blank range will break bones or even kill someone outright, the reduced load makes them inaccurate at long range, and there's no (publicly available) studies on the effects of multiple shots.
- Precursors: The Three. The ancient races which might have built the faster than light transportation network. Or might not have and it is all natural. Oh, and they left behind a bunch of planets they used to live on, at least 3 have been discovered and visited in the novels set in the universe.
- Undercover as Lovers: Not quite lovers. In order to free Tom, who is being held captive in a motel, Kris and Jack pose as a prostitute and her client to get into the place.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Kris and Jack.
- As of Defender they are married.
- Wedding Deadline: In Defender, Kris and Jack have their wedding planned, scheduled and performed in a single afternoon, so that they can get married before orders can be cut that place them in the same chain of command, which would make their relationship against Navy regulations.
- You Killed My Brother: Vicky to Kris in their first meeting. During their second meeting, Kris finally manages to get across that 1: There was a battle going on at the time, and things like that happen in battles. 2: It was Hank's fault that the battle happened in the first place. 3: Even given both of the above, he would have had a decent chance of surviving had he not been equipped with a defective survival pod (Which was suspiciously from a different production run than every other pod on the ship).