Literature: Out of the Dark
Expanded from a short story of David Weber
that first appeared in George RR Martin
and Gardner Dozois's anthology Warriors (2010), this trilogy kickoff blends elements of military science fiction and dark fantasy
. In the very near future, Earth has been targeted for colonization by a galactic empire known as the Hegemony. Deemed "lunatic local sentients" by a survey team that witnessed King Henry V
and his troops slaughtering the French at Agincourt
, humankind has essentially been written off as bloodthirsty, backwater barbarians
that no one will particularly miss. It's The End of the World as We Know It
. Technologically superior, carnivorous, canine-analog aliens
have invaded Earth
with the intention of killing most of us and enslaving the rest.Things don't go according to plan
Fans of the Honor Harrington
series can expect to enjoy the book... riiiiight up until the Twist Ending
. Speaking of which, if you don't want to spoil the infamous twist, do not
scroll down to the Index list at the bottom of this page, or even glance at the review page. Note that the planned sequel is intended to reduce some of the... less-hard-science aspects with an explanation much more acceptable to aforementioned fans. The sequel was intended to come out soon after Out Of The Dark
, but he ran into some delays
Tropes in this work:
- Abnormal Ammo: Shongairi mortars use a wide range of ammunition types, which include two different High Explosive rounds, incendiary rounds, smoke rounds, and one that releases some kind of fast-acting neurotoxin.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Ground Base Commander Shairez. She may be responsible for kidnapping humans to develop a plague to wipe us all out, but through most of the book she's shown as an intelligent, curious, hard working, and capable aide who is one of the more likable enemies and often serves to draw out the Admiral's softer side. In the end, she's tortured for info for several hours by Vlad the fucking Impaler.
- Alien Arts Are Appreciated: The Shongairi vehicle operators are very grateful for Human made roads after the prehistory planets they've gone to before.
- Alien Invasion
- Aliens Are Bastards: The Shongairi and the Hegemony.
- Aliens Speaking English: Most high ranking Shongairi personnel seem to be able to speak some Human languages such as English thanks to "belt translators", though they do have their own language.
- Alternative Calendar: Various chapters provide the date in both the Gregorian and the galactic standard calendar. The epilogue introduces a third calendar, replacing the Hegemony's calendar with the notation "Year 1 of the Terran Empire".
- Alternative Number System: The Shongairi appear to count in base-twelve.
- And This Is for...: When Mircea finally lets Buchevsky have his revenge by executing Thikair, he states that this is for his daughters, who were killed in the pre invasion orbital strikes.
- Apocalypse How: The Shongairi start off with a plan to only go up to a Class 2 and enslave the survivors but switches to a Class 3a when the invasions forces are getting chewed up on the ground.
- Armor Is Useless: Shongairi troop and vehicle armor is great against primitives with sticks and crossbows. Not so much against combat rifles, tanks, and rocket launchers.
- Asskicking Equals Authority: It's a bone-deep part of Shongairi psychology, and (at first) they view humanity's "never say die" mentality as consciously dishonorable; when they realize it's innate to our species, they decide we're clinically insane.
- Attack Its Weak Point: The Shongairi hover tanks have no belly armor, leaving it defenseless against anti-tank mines and IEDs.
- Author Avatar: Dave Dvorak.
- Awakening the Sleeping Giant: When the alien invaders are about to make the human race extinct, someone on Earth finally decides to come out of his self-imposed exile and show them what real monsters can do.
- Awesome Personnel Carrier: M3A3 Bradleys assist the Abrams tanks in Afghanistan in taking down Shongairi armored columns.
- Badass Boast:
- Lieutenant Colonel Alastair Sanders gives one to his troops in Chapter XV (6).
Lieutenant Colonel Alastair Sanders: “All right, people. Let’s get back to our units. But first let me just say I’m proud, damned proud, of all of you and all your people. I always have been, but never more than I am right this minute. I know how every one of you has to be worrying about what’s been going on back home. I’ve been worrying about it, too. But for right now, it’s time for us to go on doing our jobs as well as all of you and all of them always have before. As far as we know, we’re all the United States has left. I hope and pray that’s not the case, but if it is, then we are by God going to give these murderous bastards the frigging boot, and I want our toes so far up their asses the only thing they can taste is made-in-the-U.S.-of-A. shoe leather! I want them to frigging choke on it!”
Sharon Dvorak: “If those long-eared freaks ever get this close, my kids—our kids—are going to be hiding inside that cave, scared out of their minds
, Those kids are our lives, Dave. They’re our future. Hell, they’re our hearts and souls, and you damned well know it! And if anything happens to you, I’ll see you in their faces, hear the echo of you in their voices. Nothing is going to take that away from me. Nothing on God’s green earth—and I don’t care how it got here!—is getting past me to hurt those kids! Don’t you worry about what I’m ready for, David Dvorak. Not when our kids are involved!”
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. By the begining of Chapter XXVII (29), Thikair notes that Ground Base Commander Shairez appears to have "aged" thanks to the ongoing conflict with the Humans.
- Benevolent Alien Invasion: Discussed. Both the hostile Shongairi and the humans fighting them both realize that a benevolent invasion would have been a lot more effective than the regular Alien Invasion that triggered the violent, stubborn human resistance that is turning the aliens' occupation into a bloody slog.
- BFG: Everything from sweet, sweet Barrett .50 cal rifles to Bushmaster chainguns.
- Big Blackout: Averted — for a while. Despite the elimination of major cities, power and internet stay up for a good while before the Shongairi specifically take them out.
- Big Damn Hero: Ukrainian soldier Pieter Ushaklov saves a young girl and her infant brother, who almost got caught in Shongairi motor fire.
- Bittersweet Ending: By the end of the book, Humanity has all it needs to strike back at the Shongairi homeworlds and the Hegemony, and to rebuild Earth but at the cost of three billion human lives thanks to the pre-landing orbital strikes and an unknown amount lost during the fighting on Earth.
- Blue and Orange Morality: For the Shongairi, refusing to submit to an obvious superior, especially after that superior has demonstrated unquestioned strength, is horrific. They also don't see why humans get pissed when Shongairi eat the corpses of those they killed, including children; to the Shongairi, eating the corpses is the only way to honor them and not let the soul go to waste. Humanity's refusal to back down and fight viciously out of a need to protect their families or to seek vengeance for the deaths of loved ones is utterly alien to the Shongairi.
- Boom, Headshot: Lots. And other forms of Ludicrous Gibs too.
- Boring but Practical:
- You don't need a military grade BFG to kill Shongairi troops, even hunting and recreational firearms work well against them.
- When Dave Dvorak gets a good look at the standard Shongairi rifle, he is somewhat confused as to why they aren't using their equivalent of an Eotech sight instead of iron sights. Dave then remembers that Humans have been killing each just fine for centuries with good old fashioned sights.
- Break the Haughty: The Shongairi slowly start to lose morale as they realize that the backwater spear swinging primitives are anything but.
- Break Out the Museum Piece: Weapons stockpiles in Romania contained surplus Soviet weapons dating from as far back as World War II and are used by the resistance forces in the region.
- But What About the Astronauts?: The Shongairi eventually start knocking out Human satellites in orbit. Assuming this means the space stations such as the ISS are among them.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Shongairi equivalent to rabbits are known as "garishes".
- Casual Danger Dialog: An F-22 Raptor pilot takes time to criticize the F-35 while shooting down alien dropships.
- Crazy-Prepared: Of course, if there hadn't actually been an Alien Invasion, it just would have been... crazy.
- Crazy Survivalist: It's all justified (Alien Invasion, remember), but the menfolk of the mountain cabin have clear plans to put lots of half-inch holes in anyone who might threaten their little commune.
- Clarke's Third Law: Brigade Commander Harshair briefly reminisces that the savages from their earlier colonization campaigns were convinced that the Shongairi troops were wizards who could see in pitch black darkness thanks to their night vision tech.
- Combat Pragmatist: Surprisingly, the Shongairi are even more pragmatic than the human guerrilla fighters. (See Humans Are Morons below.) Of course the end result is that humans just get more insanely pissed off.
- Cool Plane: Several F-22 Raptors shoot down Shongairi drop ships in American territory. During the assault, one of the pilots even bashes another cool plane, the F-35 Lightning II, as he shoots the ships up.
- Cool Versus Awesome: At the end, the book is essentially about Wolf Man aliens with orbital bombardments vs. various modern armies and fucking Dracula!
- Conspiracy Theories: Unsurprisingly happens in the first few days of the attack. Later it the aliens begin to fall victim to them when bad things start happening to their bases.
- Could Have Avoided This Plot: The humans point out that the entire war could have been avoided if the Shongairi hadn't announced their presence with orbital bombardment and instead simply showed up to offer humans "carrots" i.e. gifts of advanced technology. The Shongairi eventually realize it too, but far too late.
- Crippling Overspecialization: The Shongairi are prepared for two kinds of combat — kicking the crap out of primitives & space warfare. They are shocked to realize that humanity is far, far more advanced at warfare inside a gravity well; their tech could have done everything we did better, but they just never needed to.
- Crusading Widower: Most of the main male characters lose their entire family in the invasion.
- Curb-Stomp Battle:
- The Shongairi preemptive cyber attack that completely destroys all human cyber security in mere minutes including the security of the Pentagon and CIA databases. It's even referred to as a "fucking cyber massacre".
- Then when the Shongairi make their first attempt at landfall, they are destroyed by eight F-22 Raptors attacking unopposed due to the aliens having no doctrine or equipment for aerial combat.
- Of course now, they are now dealing with human guerrillas and soldiers that refuse to surrender that curbstomp the alien's ground forces repeatedly as they're unused to an enemy that won't quit once their cities have been flattened from orbit.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Mircea has quite a dark past with some surprising secrets.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mircea Basarab.
- Deadly Gas: Shongairi mortars are able to fire a round the releases a fast acting neurotoxin.
- Death from Above: Humans have their aircraft while the Shongairi have Kinetic Weapons.
- Deconstructed Trope: The story deconstructs Humans Are Warriors and Humans Advance Swiftly. The Shongairi witnessed the English slaughtering the French at Agincourt and see how fast human tech is progressing compared to "civilized" races and are scared to hell. So they tell their enforcer race that everyone will turn a blind eye if an accident were to happen to us...
- Determinator: Mankind as a whole to the Shongairi; it turns out that while humans do possess a submission mechanism, it is subordinated to our instinct to protect family. It's also pointed out that "family", in this case, can include up to entire countries. Then Dracula extends it to humanity itself, at great cost to the invaders. And, implicitly, the Hegemony and its allies.
- Depopulation Bomb: The Shongairi open up with a bombardment that kills about half of the world's population, and note that starvation and disease will kill many of the survivors. When resistance continues that severely threatens their ability to maintain control, they plan to instead just wash the whole thing by releasing a bioweapon and wiping out all the survivors.
- Deus ex Machina: Throughout the story, the Shongairi invaders consistently lose ground battles to humans but pulverize the entire area from orbit afterwards. Towards the end they learn enough human tactics to capture a rebel village without resorting to orbital bombardment and develop a bioweapon to destroy what's left of humanity. But just as they're about to deploy the virus the leader of the village they captured to experiment on turns out to be freakin' Dracula and he and a handful of newly-spawned vampires single-handedly wipe out the entire invasion force. Hints that Dracula was present were scattered throughout the book, but were relatively subtle, and the reader is expecting a hard sci-fi war novel, and not fantasy elements to creep in and sucker punch them.
- Die Hard on an X: Up until the TwistEnding, it's basically Worldwar in the twenty-first century, with the political and technological issues adjusted accordingly.
- Disaster Scavengers: Alluded to and prepared against, but not actually seen. Humanity holds together pretty well rather than turning on each other for the most part. There are some mentions made of characters being attacked by other, desperate scavengers, and a couple of groups of National Guardsmen attempt to become local warlords and meet suitably bad ends. Then again, the plot doesn't last until winter, when people will get desperate, though what may happen then is discussed.
- Do Not Adjust Your Set: Fleet Commander Thikair hijacks Humanity's TV and Internet to demand Earth's surrender after the kinetic bombardment.
- Do Not Go Gentle: Around halfway through the novel, most Humans decide that if they can't beat their orbital firepower, then they will kill as many as they can on the ground.
- Dracula: It's foreshadowed a bit, but it's called a Twist Ending for a reason.
- Drop Ship: The first ones sent to Earth were destroyed by USAF F-22 Raptors and a French antiaircraft battery took out three more.
- Eagleland: Type 1. America is awesome, and the aliens recognize the US as one of their biggest threats.
- Earth Is a Battlefield
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Thikair eventually just decides to blast Earth to asteroids. Later, Vlad threatens to do this to the Shongairi worlds in turn using dreadnought weapons.
- The Empire:
- The Shongairi Empire.
- Year one of the Terran (aka Human) Empire begins after the defeat of the Shongairi.
- The End of the World as We Know It: Humanity is so screwed. Until Dracula decides it's the Shongairi's turn.
- Enemy Mine: An American Major and a Muslim extremist working hand in hand, with little rancor.
- Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: Subverted. The Shongairi war technology is drastically inferior to Human tech. The real problem is their orbital firepower.
- E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: Discussed. When the Shongairi arrive at modern day Earth, they are confused as to how we have advanced so fast, they speculate that perhaps that one of their recon drones crashed and gave the Humans a head start on the technological game.
- Everything Is Online:
- We youtubed shooting down alien dropships!
- Fleet Commander Thikair broadcasted to all of Humanity online to announce the invasion.
- Also one of the primary advantages of humanity, allowing us to coordinate strikes and keep up morale.
- Eye Scream: Squad Commander Gunshail is killed by a .308 Winchester round to the left eye.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Human militaries outmatch the Shongairi, but cannot defeat them thanks to the Kinetic weapons on the Shongairi's side.
- False Flag Operation: The aliens use Iran as a cover when hacking world military installations right before the invasion.
- Fantastic Racism: Within the Hegemony, between carnivores and herbivores/omnivores. The Shongairi have nothing but contempt for humanity as well, at least at first. The revelation of the vampires makes a lot of mankind...uncomfortable.
- Fantastic Slurs: The Shongairi use "weed-eater" as an epithet for the members of the Hegemony and Humanity calls the Shongairi "puppies."
- Frickin' Laser Beams: The Shongairi "tank's" main armament is a laser emitter rather than say a 120mm cannon. These are very powerful and can tear through our armor easily, but is weakened by Earth's atmosphere and can't go through depleted uranium-augmented Chobham armor, but it can go through Ferdinand armor.
- Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: Vlad is trying to be one of these, but the Shongairi are pushing him. He deliberately makes Stephen a vampire in order to be one of these and his Morality Pet.
- Galactic Conqueror: The Shongairi had already conquered two planets before arriving on Earth.
- Game-Breaking Injury: Dave Dvorak, after taking a round to the shoulder, is forced to sit on the sidelines and take care of intel.
- Gauls with Grenades: In Chapter XXIV (24), it is briefly mentioned that a French antiaircraft battery had brought down three more Shongairi landing ships.
- Genocide Backfire: The Shongairi invaded Earth, wiped out half the population, and eventually tried to kill the rest. Then we jacked their neural educators and industrial ships, and noted that their extremely slow FTL means mankind has centuries before anyone even realizes they haven't reported in. The novel ends with mankind prepping to turn the warships and weaponry back toward the Hegemony that condemned them in the first place.
- Genre Shift: The genre shift doesn't take place near the end, resulting in a cry of Twist Ending or Deus ex Machina. The issue is though the novel's expansion of the story is entirely before the events, resulting in 90% in the first genre of hard sci-fi alien invasion. The last 10% however involves Dracula.
- Glass Cannon: Shongairi ground vehicles are very well armed, with lasers that punch through modern tank armor like paper and advanced and powerful mortars. However, their armor is only rated to fight crossbows and catapults, so human anti-armor weapons go through theirs like paper too.
- Godzilla Threshold: Thikar eventually concedes the use of genocidal bioweapons as the only option against a planet full of humans who refuse to submit, and are rapidly depleting the invader's reserves.
- Good Guns, Bad Guns: Averted. Old Soviet hardware is lovingly appreciated by the resistance in Romania.
- Guns Akimbo: Rob Wilson does this out of desperation when Shongairi soldiers are closing in on him and an injured Dave. The concept is even deconstructed during the same scene.
Over the years, Rob Wilson had instructed more Marines and cops than he could count in the proper use of handguns, and he’d always made a point of depressing the pretensions of any would-be two-gun pistoleros who crossed his path. That kind of fancy shit looked good in movies, he’d told them cuttingly. Of course, in that case both the writers and the director were on the side of the hero as he unerringly picked off individual targets with each hand while simultaneously hurling his body in a graceful, headfirst, slow-motion, midair roll of a leap through a solid hail of automatic fire. In real life, the hurlee would almost certainly end up shredded and dead, he’d pointed out.
And even if the idiot survived—miracles did occasionally happen, after all, and he’d been told God sometimes took pity on lunatics, drunks, and fools—all he’d really achieve was to totally waste the ammunition from both of the guns in question. Even standing still he’d waste most of his shots because the human brain had this odd little quirk: it found it quite difficult to focus on two separate sight pictures simultaneously.
- Gun Porn: Oh, yes... The other thing the book is criticized for after the Twist Ending.
- Hidden Agenda Villain
- Higher-Tech Species: The Shongairi technology is very carefully calibrated to be just advanced enough to avert a Curb-Stomp Battle—and permit humanity to show what determined and gallant warriors we are—while still ensuring the eventual outcome will not be in our favor, necessitating the Deus ex Machina in the Twist Ending. Also, due to a quirk of human psychology, we're the only species that has ever reached our current tech level without world peace and thus to invent things like modern stealth fighters. They're far higher tech but are just kitted out for the wrong war and could dominate us if they weren't. They still hold the top of the gravity well and have better bioweapons and cyber-warfare tech.
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: Human Tank battalions rely on such tactics due to having to get the hell out of Dodge before Shongairi Kinetic weapons get a lock on them.
- Hoist By Their Own Petard:
- Neural education gives humanity what it needs to commandeer Shongairi capitol and construction ships and begin the Genocide Backfire.
- The puppies fail to realize that wiping out all of Earth's capitols leaves no one to tell their military and civilians to stand down, not understanding that we wouldn't find it self-evident. The Shongairi also failed to realize that revealing their presence by bombing the hell out of mankind and demanding surrender without offering any sort of incentive to surrender (beyond "we'll bomb you more") was likely to result in a lot of mankind just getting pissed.
- Leaving the internet in place to demand surrender lets humanity use it to rally and boost their morale, until the bad guys decide it's too much trouble.
- Eventually starts happening to humans. The Shongairi, paying attention to human tactics, start to wise up and allow regimental commanders more flexibility in calling in air and orbital support. Eventually they start using human grenade and rocket launchers to supplement their infantry weapons. One even notes that when it's all over, the Shongairi will have learned a lot from humanity. He's right, but not entirely in the way he thinks.
- Hope Spot: Senior Squad Commander Laifayr has when when Dave's .50 Cal Barret rifle stops firing since it is out of ammo.
- Hopeless War: We don't care, though.
- Hover Tank: The Shongairi tanks are able to hover, but this just leaves its unarmored bottom side exposed.
- Humanity on Trial: Offstage, but it does happen, and we're given the death penalty.
- Humanity Is Insane: The puppies' horrified conclusion.
- Humans Advance Swiftly: We've advanced three times faster than the fastest known race (which advanced twice as fast as the next best), and no one can figure out why such a warlike species hasn't blown itself up yet. The Shongairi actually intended to take advantage of this, putting humans to work in their R&D labs as well as using them as shock troops. Then we jack the Shongairi's neural educators, and the end of the novel implies we're getting prepped to eventually return the favor.
- Humans Are Morons: The Shongairi are initially convinced of this, based on "idiotic tactics" from Agincourt, and a further convinced of it once they understand the current situation. For example, they believe that the refusal of First World powers to use nuclear or biological weapons against their enemies in the Middle East is idiotic (specifically citing the US' tolerance of Iran's actions) and the presence of a public information network like the Internet, allowing free, ready access to vast stores of information, is considered completely insane.
- Humanity Is Insane: Humanity is the only race that doesn't have the instinct to surrender permanently when beaten by a superior force, since we're far more individual and family oriented than the pack and herd oriented aliens. Guerrilla warfare, passive resistance, and sabotage are utterly foreign to our would-be conquerors because a Shongairi confronted with an obvious superior will automatically submit; the notion of resisting against the "pack leader" in anything other than an obvious show of force intended to seize control of the pack is considered vile and dishonorable.
- Humans Are Survivors
- Humans Are Warriors: This novel has strong, pervasive themes of "HUMANITY, FUCK YEAH!"
- Humans Through Alien Eyes: Generally, the alien perception of humanity is that we're insane or idiots.
- Hypocrites: The Hegemony, who consider themselves peaceful and enlightened folk and who regret allowing the aggressive Shongairi into the fold as required by their laws decide to sweep humanity under the rug rather than let us one day join. The Shongairi repeatedly lampshade this in contempt.
- It's All My Fault: Stephan Buchevsky blames himself for the villagers he was protecting getting killed or captured. Mircea helps convince him that it isn't.
- Improvised Weapon: From IEDs to homemade Claymore mines.
- Immune to Bullets: The vampires.
- Infant Immortality: Averted in one particular scene in Chapter XVIII (19).
- Insufficiently Advanced Alien: Orbital bombardment is just about the only thing the Shongairi have going for them (though to be fair, Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies is pretty effective). Their ground forces don't have any experience going up against anything more advanced than crossbows, and it really shows in their tactics and equipment. They do eventually start uparmoring their equipment and adjusting their tactics, and their actual heavy and support weapons are quite effective; the humans note that the puppies' mortars in particular are very deadly and have a wide variety of ammunition types.
- Infodump: Several chapters are devoted solely to outline politics on Earth or within the Hegemony that led to the current situation. One chapter is mostly devoted to excessively detailing survivalist preparations, and there are some entirely irrelevant infodumps (e.g. the one regarding Iranian politics or several pages devoted to an F-22 pilot bashing the F-35 while in the middle of attacking alien landing ships).
- Intelligent Gerbil: The two alien species described in the novel resemble dogs and cattle.
- Invaded States of America: Shongairi forces eventually land in America and they get all sorts of hell from the US Military and Partisan fighters.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Happens off camera to some captured Shongairi Mooks and Ground Base Commander Shairez.
- Kill All Humans: The Shongairi plan to kill most humans and enslave the rest turns into this thanks to one asskicking after another.
- Kill Sat: The Shongairi use their kinetic weapons to try to pound Earth into submission.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Dropping a Meteor of Doom is a cheap way to soften up a future colony. Plus, the Shongairi have effective energy weapons on their heavy assault vehicles but mostly rely on mediocre conventional firearms. Human firearms and artillery become the stuff of nightmares for them.
- Last Stand:
- All of Humanity is pulling this since they have no way to stop the Shongairi kinetic weapons.
- Stephan Buchevsky and a small band of rebels pulls one so that the refugee village can evacuate.
- La Résistance: Partisans operate all around the world, and prove to be a major thorn in the Shongairi's side.
- Leave No Survivors:
- When Shongairi soldiers attempt to surrender, Stephen Buchevsky again sees the children they have killed, he is reminded of his own killed daughters and has them all executed.
- Eventually, the Shongairi just decide to kill all humans from orbit. Dracula ain't going to allow it.
- Let's Get Dangerous: The poor Shongairi did not expect backwater omnivores to pack armor-piercing, antipersonnel ammo, IED expertise, or the F-22, the M1 Abrams, or the T-72.
- Like A Daughter To Me: Pieter Ushaklov comes to view Zinaida, the girl he saved from Shongairi mortar fire, as this.
- Make It Look Like an Accident:
- One of the Hegemony's more pragmatic founding races basically tells the Shongairi that they'll look the other way if humanity doesn't happen to make it through this.
- Later, when the Shongairi decide we're too dangerous to use as slaves, they plan to make the release of their bioweapon look like an accident to deflect political fallout.
- Meaningful Name: Mircea Basarab. See Genius Bonus on the YMMV page.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: On a previous planet they colonized, the Shongairi's bases were attacked by "cat-apes".
- Molotov Cocktail: Molotovs become standard for resistance fighters, and are easily able to land inside alien vehicles through the infantry firing ports.
- Mook Horror Show: The book is full of POVs of Shongairi soldiers freaking out as their comrades are slaughtered by human weaponry and vampires.
- Morality Pet: Stephen becomes this for Mircea.
- Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Also Mother Afghanistan, Mother Ukraine, Mother Romania, and even Mother North Carolina...Weber really makes an effort to show that he views Earth as a World of Badass.
- Neck Snap: How Ground Base Commander Shairez is put out of her misery.
- Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: The Shongairi come off as insufficiently advanced because their entire war doctrine revolves around conquering pre-industrial races. Guess what happens when troops trained and equipped to curb-stomp natives with pointy sticks comes up against modern military hardware?
- Next Sunday A.D.: We are never given an actual year, but we do get some subtle hints such as America having a female president.
- No Polotics Were Harmed: The US President is a female and Governor Howell of North Carolina is a fictional character.
- Nothing Is Scarier: The Shongairi, when the vampires attack, find the silence more disturbing than facing the destruction humans can cause in direct combat.
- Not So Different: Mircea to Stephan in Chapter XXVIII (28).
Mircea Basarab: “It is just that we are so much alike, you and I. Deny it as you will, my Stephen, but there is a Slav inside you!"
- Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Enforced thanks to the Shongairi keeping a close eye on our missile silos and nuclear subs.
- Numbered Homeworld: The Hegemony designated Earth "KU-197-20".
- Obligatory War Crime Scene: Platoon Commander Rayzhar slaughters civilians out of revenge for the death of his brothers.
- Obstructive Bureaucracy: The Hegemony. It takes them 600 years to go from deciding humanity is a threat to finally sending the Shongairi after us. The Shongairi are aware they can probably get away with subjugating or wiping out a Class Two civilization because it'll take at least a couple of centuries for the Hegemony to check up on them; more if they stall for time. Justified because Hegemony FTL isn't that much faster than light and their first contact teams are most made up of a race specifically known for adherence to procedure.
- Oh, Crap:
- Thikair has one when Ground Base Commander Shairez informs him that Humans have no submission mentality.
- Dave Dvorak has one when he realizes that a Shongairi patrol will encounter him and his small resistance group during a supply run.
- Oh My Gods!: The Shongairi use names such as "Cainharn" and "Dainthar" in this fashion.
- One World Order: The Shongairi are confused that humanity managed to get to our current level of advancement without becoming this.
- Only a Flesh Wound: The concept of shoulder flesh wounds commonly seen in media is deconstructed in Chapter XXXIII (33).
- Our Vampires Are Different: Instant intangibility/gaseous form, invulnerability to conventional weapons, undetectable to thermal or night vision, no need to breathe, and no vulnerability to holy items.
- Our Presidents Are Different: Of the President Minority variety as POTUS is a female in this story.
- Outside-Context Villain: Both sides are this to each other for various reasons. The vampires throw this trope back in the alien's face.
- Papa Wolf/Mama Bear: Humanity's hat. The Shongairi's psychology is built around a pack structure, and thus they automatically submit to superior members of the pack. Most herbivore species' psychology is herd-oriented, causing them to submit out of automatic fear-response and a desire to deflect threats away from the herd as a whole. Humans, however, are family-oriented - and they respond to threats against members of their families with swift and seemingly-irrational violence.
- Planet of Hats: Earth is a planet of Determinators who happen to be Mama Bears and Papa Wolves. Notably, this is the conclusion reached by Base Commander Shairez because there is no other truly common thread she can discern, due to the violent diversity of human culture.
- The Quisling: Largely averted as a whole by humanity thanks to our collective outrage and the Shongairi's failure to understand human psychology and their "no carrot, all stick" approach. Then we get Governor Howell of North Carolina, who is actually a Reverse Mole — something the Shongairi can't really conceive of until late in the book.
- Rage Quit: This is, basically, how the Shongairi decide to end the war. They haven't been able to occupy the world, they can't complete their bioweapon, and now all their bases are getting assaulted by something they can't stop on the ground. Thikair withdraws his entire devastated army from the surface and then prepares to destroy the entire planet, mostly out of spite.
- Reality Ensues: Though mankind fights tenaciously and wins small victories, it ultimately has no way of defending itself from an enemy that controls the orbitals. It's a Hopeless War for man, until the Twist Ending.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- On the Shongairi side we have Ground Base Commander Shairez, who is often portrayed as the more likable Shongairi, whose only concern is to just follow her orders and get the job done along with not seem to having a severe hatred for the Humans.
- Meanwhile, Humanity has Governor Howell. The Governor of North Carolina who acted as Reverse Mole to the Shongairi and had all National Guardsmen and law enforcement covertly assist the rebel forces in his state. Because of his actions, which saved many lives, he seems to be well on his way to becoming President of the USA and the nation's capitol will be moved to Raleigh.
- Rebel Leader: Mircea Basarab.
- Recycled Premise: It's Worldwar in the 21st century.
- Reverse Mole: Governor Howell.
- Reviews Always Spoil: The Publishers Weekly summary leaves no doubt as to the nature of the twist at the end of the novel.
- The Right of a Superior Species: The aliens usually do this successfully but get way more than they bargained for with humanity.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
- The war against the Shongairi becomes this as so as it is confirmed that we can fight back and that they have landed on Earth.
- Platoon Commander Rayzhar goes on one when his two little brothers were killed in a ambush. He does not discriminate against military and civilian targets.
- It's clear at the end of the book that, with the help of captured Shongairi tech, Humanity will exact it's revenge on the Hegemony and the Shongairi home worlds.
- Rock Beats Laser: As it turns out, the depleted uranium-augmented Chobham armor on M1A2 Abrams tanks literally beats Shongairi vehicle mounted lasers.
- Romanians With Rifles: We get some looks at the Romanians fighting off Shongairi forces with T-72 tanks, doing just as well as the US and ground forces trying to protect refugees.
- Schizo Tech: How Earth is viewed. Not only is it weird for us to still be using fossil fuel power and yet to be avoiding chemical & biological weapons, but we've done things with military technology no other race ever would have because they would've been unified by that point.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Thikar decides to scrap the invasion and destroy Earth from orbit.
- Sequel Hook: The end of the book makes it clear that since we got decades until the Hegemony realizes the Shongairi haven't responded back to them, Humanity plans on bringing the fight to them with capture Shongairi tech.
- Shout-Out: David's dogs are named Nimue and Merlin.
- Self Insert Novel: So what, a main character is named David; it's a common name. And his wife's name is Sharon...and they live in South Carolina...and their dogs are named Nimue and Merlin? Oh, come on, Weber!
- Semper Fi:
- Master Sargent Stephan Buchevsky is a US Marine and was an instructor when he wasn't stationed in the Middle East.
- Rob Wilson, David's brother in law, is a former Marine Corps instructor.
- Slasher Smile: When Dracula and other vampires board the Shongairi ships, Thikair is terrified of his smile.
Thikair only stared at him, unable—not allowed—even to speak, and the human smiled. There was something terrifying about that smile . . . and something wrong, as well. The teeth, Thikair realized. The ridiculous little human canines had lengthened, sharpened, and in that moment Thikair understood exactly how thousands upon thousands of years of prey animals had looked upon his own people’s smiles.
- Suicide Attack: Major Dan Torino and Abu Bakr were going to use a suicide truck bomb to destroy a Shongairi base. Becomes unnecessary when the Shongairi evacuate the planet.
- Superweapon Surprise: Humanity has barely left their gravity well, and are facing a species that has FTL capability. Humanity has superior ground weaponry, but there's no way mankind can win, and both sides know it. But no one expected Dracula!
- Survivalist Stash: See Crazy-Prepared and Crazy Survivalist.
- Take That: The author does not have a good opinion on the F-35 Lightning II as shown during a scene where an F-22 Raptor pilot is criticizing it... while shooting down alien dropships.
- Tank Goodness:
- M1A2 Abrams and Romanian T-72 tanks do just fine against the invaders.
- Shongairi tanks (called GEVs) have powerful lasers for armaments and can easily punch through our armor.
- Tested On Humans: The Shongairi attempt to capture humans several times to prepare a bioweapon.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dracula delivers one of these to Thikair at the end, noting that, among other things, the Shongairi were going to sentence humanity to extinction for daring to defend themselves and fight back against an invader.
- The Remnant: The remaining Human military units of the world are still fighting the Shongairi.
- The Right of a Superior Species: The Shongairi usually do this successfully but get way more than they bargained for with humanity.
- This Is Unforgivable!: Absolutely no one on Earth will even consider helping the Shongairi thanks to their repeated orbital bombardment and the billions of human deaths.
- To Serve Man: Played with. The Shongairi are carnivores and consider not eating their fallen foes as almost disrespectful to them. This does not endear them to humanity or to any other race, for that matter.
- Twist Ending: AND HOW. The last few pages shove what appears to be a Sci-Fi novel into an entirely different genre, one that Weber fans will never see coming. YMMV, but few reviewers seem to appreciate it. You want to know the twist ending? Do you? Okay, look down at the bottom of the page, at the indexes. Now, in a Hard Sci-Fi setting, which of these indexes seem out of place?
- Ukrainians with Depleted Uranium: Ukrainian soldier Pieter Ushaklov and his squad fight the Shongairi invaders in his home country and assist resistance fighters.
- Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: The book is basically vampires versus aliens. Plus that's just the first part of the trilogy!
- Upgrade Artifact: The Shongairi test direct "neural education" on humanity and finds us surprisingly better at receiving it than most of the Hegemony's species. This in no way comes back to haunt them in the end.
- The Unmasqued World: Once the vampires appear.
- Villainous Breakdown:
- Brigade Commander Harshair undergoes one while his entire platoon gets decimated by American M1A2 Abrams in the Afghan desert.
Brigade Commander Harshair: "They’re primitives! Barbarians! They don’t even have interplanetary spacecraft, far less supralight capability! They can’t be doing this! It can’t be happening!"
- Thikair as the novel progresses, especially when humans begin destroying his ground bases. He eventually just decides to Rage Quit regarding the entire invasion and blow up Earth from orbit. Vlad disagrees, and the subsequent scene on the bridge of the alien dreadnought ends with Thikair breaking down into a sobbing wreck.
- War Is Hell: Something the Shongairi finally learn after treating it like a safari for so long.
Now the horrifying, thundering monsters [American M1A2 Abrams] came straight for the rest of the Shongairi in Harshair’s column, grinding contemptuously through or over the flaming carcasses of their dead comrades’ vehicles, trampling the wreckage underfoot, and the entire brigade began to come apart.
- War Refugees: There are many of them in Romania, and the Shongairi aren't afraid to target them either.
- We ARE Struggling Together: Averted, but it is mentioned that survivors will do what they must to keep themselves and their families from starving.
- When All You Have Is a Hammer: The Shongairi's trump card is their orbital firepower, which they use in lieu of effective ground forces. Whenever someone resists on the ground, the Shongairi orbital forces bomb them, or the nearest town within three or four miles. They don't seem to get that this is just making things worse. This is reinforced by Shongairi pack-based psychology, which tells them that the best way to force compliance is by bombing targets to demonstrate superiority, but those insane humans just keep on fighting.
- Wolf Men: The Shongairi themselves.
- Worthy Opponent: Regiment Commander Harah, despite hating them with a passion, still admires Humanity's ingenuity and resistance. Of course, he would never dare say this aloud.
Harah's Inner Thoughts: "Actually, Harah, part of you admires these creatures, doesn’t it? Once you get past their total lack of any concept of honor, at least. If you can ever accept that they truly don’t realize how completely and utterly dishonorable it is to refuse submission to a proven superior, it all looks a bit different, doesn’t it? After all, we’ve killed thousands of them for every Shongair we’ve lost, and they still have the guts—the absolutely insane, utterly irrational, totally dishonorable, mind-numbingly stupid guts—to come right at us. If they only had half as much brains, they would’ve acknowledged our superiority and submitted months ago, psychology or no psychology, of course. But, no! They couldn’t do that, could they? That would be the reasonable thing to do!"
- Yanks with Tanks: F-22 Raptors belonging to the USAF are the first to shoot down Puppy landing ships and they continue the fight against them both on home soil and in the Middle East.
- You Have GOT To Be Kidding Me: Abu Bakr el-Hiri's reaction to the thought of using a suicide truck bomb.
- You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: Buschevsky when discussing the scenario of nearby villages selling them out to looters to save themselves.
Stephan Buchevsky: "If their kids start starving, then any parent worth a single solitary damn is going to do anything it takes to feed them. I understand that, and I’ll give any kid the last slice of bread I’ve got. But if any of those other enclaves out there decide to sell us out, or throw us to the wolves to save their own asses by pointing somebody who comes after what they’ve got in our direction—or if they’re stupid enough to try and use your agreement just to get close enough to us to hit us themselves—then I’m going to be really, really unhappy, you understand. And they won’t like me when I’m unhappy. Hell, I don’t like me when I’m unhappy!”