a.k.a. The Empire of Man series or the March Upcountry series.A series by David Weber and John Ringo. Prince Roger Ramius Sergei Alexander Chiang MacClintock was the third and youngest child of Alexandra VII, Empress of Man. Roger is The Unfavorite of his mother, considered a foppish clotheshorse who looks a bit too much like his father for his mother to trust him. With a crisis on the horizon he's sent off to represent the Royal family in a sector capital's chief festival. During transit the crisis starts for real with an attempt on his life. The destroyer transporting him is sabotaged, but Roger and his battalion of Marines manage to land on a primitive planet on the farside of the planet from the Imperial trading post.Most of the first three books deal with character development while Roger and his Battalion of Marines march toward the spaceport. The fourth deals with the consequences of their actions and what has happened while they've been out of contact.
March Upcountry (2001)
March to the Sea (2001)
March to the Stars (2003)
We Few (2005)
Ringo is currently working on a sequel, tentatively titled Rage of the Seraphs, from which he's posted snippets on his Facebook page.
Action Girl: Naturally, all female marines. (They do come from a society with gender-equality, after all.) More notable would be the few Mardukan females that qualify: Sena and Pedi, two of the most deadly martial artists in the series.
And I Must Scream: The narration of the toot zombie early in the first book states that deep inside, the real person is struggling not to do what she's doing.
Anyone Can Die: Except for the title character, do not take anyone else's life as a given. The group was own to only 12 by the time they leave Marduk.
Badass: Prince Roger, of course. Rastar and Pedi stand out from the Badass Crew as well.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Roger and Despreaux have this, if only because Roger begins with no idea how to interact with a woman who genuinely likes him and is not after something.
BFG: Par for the Marine course. Bead and plasma cannons, which Mardukans can wield one-handed. All of Pol's weapons — he's huge even for a Mardukan and can carry vehicle-mounted weaponry. Even Roger's "smoke pole" is big for a chemical-propellant firearm.
Bodyguard Crush: Despreaux and Roger (genderswapped as she is part of his Marine guard). Also the Empress and her paladin in the fourth book.
Bodyguarding A Badass: Much to the Barbarians' surprise and chagrin, Roger is a better and faster shot than any of them. Occasionally, he protects them. At one point, over their objections, he attempts a Heroic Sacrifice on the grounds that he is the only person capable of making it work.
Boom, Headshot: Roger's specialty. He astonishes the Captain of his bodyguard when he gets seven in half as many seconds at a reverse-ambush.
Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie: Guard bodybags have an auto-cremation function so that the fallen can be taken home to bury without overburdening the survivors with the weight.
Camp Straight: Roger is a Long-Haired Pretty Boy who loves clothes, and has never shown any sexual interest in any of the women (or men) at court. His valet is so used to the question he laughs at Despreaux's tentative query into his orientation.
Poertena. Then he makes the mistake of teaching his four-armed friends a few tricks... It turns out all Mardukans love this trope. If you aren't cheating, you're stupid. If you are and get caught, you're incompetent. They spend half the time bragging about how good they are at cheating and the other half denying, tongue-in-cheek, that they'd ever stoop to it. Standard Mardukan poker rules give every player the right to call a card check once per game.
Cassandra Truth: Soon after crashing on Marduk, several Marines needlessly die in an animal attack because the commanding officer refused to listen to Roger who, as an experienced hunter, recognized warning signs. Pahner assumed Roger was just shooting for pleasure's sake, but later apologized.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Marines' equipment supplier. "Your weapon was made by the lowest bidder", indeed - this kills a third of the Marines.
Corrupt Politician: The Parliamentary faction seeking to overthrow Roger's mother isn't portrayed at all positively.
Cunning Linguist: Roger and O'Casey both have Universal Translator program in their "toot" implants that let them quickly learn new languages and dialects and then share with the other marines. On the Marduk side, Denat is an absolute natural at learning new languages (and at pretending to be too much of a dumb barbarian to eavesdrop on people).
Dead Because Of Me: Prince Roger goes through a lot of Survivor Guilt as he sees more and more people die on his behalf, especially when it's the result of one of his many (usually minor) lapses in judgment.
Death World: Marduk qualifies due to the large and angry (and more common than should be ecologically possible, until justified) wildlife, but the sneaky, venomous wildlife is Nightmare Fuel as well.
Designer Babies: One of Roger's ancestors had some illegal work done, leaving him with inhuman reflexes and endurance, as well as low-light vision and really nice hair.
Dirty Coward: Prince Jackson Adoula. Runs away as the counter-coup starts and sacrifices underlings several times just to save his skin. Also, his co-conspirator New Madrid, Roger's father, who is pretty much unable to handle meeting Roger.
Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Cord comes "into season" while recovering from injuries. As the attendant problems might compromise his recovery, his apprentice Pedi takes care of him. As an additional complication, he did have feelings for Pedi but refused to act on them because he felt it was inappropriate.
Dumb Muscle: Erkum Pol. He is huge, even for a Mardukan, and at one point takes out four people simultaneously with a table. His response to anything and everything said by an officer is "Yes, sir".
The Empath: Phaenurs, a race of centaroid-lizards whose abilities make them Living Lie Detectors. They are one of the only races never to engage in physical war or have never engaged in cannibalism.
The Engineer: Poertena is The Mechanic. Pahner and Julian are very technically savvy as well, and all of the Guard can function as The Combat Engineer with their demo experience. The former Laborers of God can all fulfill the Support Engineer role since their old job was to build levies, dams, canals, and other civilian, fortification-like structures.
Ensign Newbie: Captain Pahner realizes Prince Roger is this after Roger asks to be called "Colonel MacClintock" during a planning session.
Fan Nickname: The Series That Must Not Be Named, a result of the authors' typical reaction to frequent questions about when it'll resume.
Fantastic Cavalry: The elephant-sized, heavily clawed, triceratops-like flar-ta and the horse-sized, omnivorous, velociraptor-like civan. The latter is often fed from the dead enemies on a battlefield and will try to take a bite from their riders when in an ill mood or hungry.
Pedi Karuse. It falls behind both her (lampshaded) Fiery Redhead personality and being a Badass as a defining trait for her, but she's the only fashion & makeup loving Mardukan (since most came from cultures that didn't wear clothes), and she's the only woman of any species to qualify on the team as well.
Friendly Fireproof: Played with. When the group is ambushed by a horde of natives and forced to melee, Price Roger picks up a grenade launcher and fires it into the mixed group. On the one hand, this is smarter than it sounds since the light armor marines wear will protect them from the worst the damage, and it would shred the natives. On the other hand, they could've broken the assault without it, and he cost the team needless broken bones and minor shrapnel injuries.
The "embarrassingly male" Mardukans are actually female by biological definition, based on the fact that they produce ova. Their "penis" is actually an ovipositor (egg-placer), and the actual males are the gender that receives the eggs, fertilize them, and carry them to term. After this is initially sorted out, the series continues to go with calling the biologically female gender "male" based on their appearance and societal role.
Also, Julian suggests disguising Prince Roger by giving him a sex change.
Gun Stripping: Happens a good bit because this is a military squad in a hostile environment that really does need to clean and maintain its gear, but special recognition goes to Julian, who can strip down a 40-piece plasma rifle in 7 seconds.
Hero with Bad Publicity: Before the start of the story, there is only one person in the universe that likes and trusts Roger, his valet. His tutor, his mother, and his siblings have ambiguous feelings about him, and everyone else thinks he's a useless prat. And then while he's on Marduk, the villains finger him as a traitor, which everyone is all too willing to believe.
Humans Are Special: Not pushed all that much but the inevitable conclusion when there are several species of sentient aliens but of the six interstellar nations only one is non-human and even then humans make up a significant minority of the three race alliance.
Zig-zagged with Dobrescu. First, he protests that he's a shuttle pilot, not a medic (his MOS is shuttle pilot, but he is trained as a medic too). Then he gets to start treating Mardukans...
Dobrescu: I'm a goddamned medic, not a xeno-surgeon.
Somewhat of a Running Gag for the character as he asked to be a backup astrogator (he refuses) and to pretend to be a real estate agent (which he does).
Amanda Beach is "an astrogator, not an engineer." (She does a fine job of the later, anyway.)
Info Dump (doubling as Scenery Porn): When the protagonists arrive in the abandoned city of Voitan, a conversation between Prince Roger and Gunny Jin is interrupted after two lines with a full two pages of scenery and battle lines.
Insult Backfire: One of the supporting characters is a Satanist. Her (originally Catholic) planet got this way during a religious civil war, in which one side demonized the other as Satanists. The other side accepted and maintained the term, having decided that given the evil of their opponents, Satan must actually be good.
Interrupted Intimacy: When Pahner walks in on Eva and Julian. Done with malice aforethought with Roger & Nimashet.
Pahner: "I almost wish he was still considered incompetent. Maybe then I'd have sent a decent sized force to look after him." (cut) Roger: "You know," [as Roger fights], "I could wish that Pahner didn't have so much confidence in me!"
Humans are considered this by Mardukans. We look like a large version of a weak, stupid, easily scared prey animal called the basik that's usually hunted by children by scaring them into a circle and clubbing them to death. Only we don't even have horns, claws, or armor. And our smiles look like the expression they make right before being clubbed. Fortunately, Mardukans learn quickly to take humans seriously.
Honored when "The Basik's Own" forms and takes a nastily smiling basik as its banner.
Even better, basik/vern are explicitly compared to rabbits several times.
Klingon Promotion: It's Boman tribal tradition for a war chief to be "anointed in the blood of his fallen predecessor." This isn't quite Challenging the Chief, because the previous chief loses his place/head by group consensus, not ritual combat.
Leeroy Jenkins: Much to the constant despair of his bodyguards, Roger tends to happily charge into combat. In the second book, it actually gets discussed - now that Prince Roger has turned himself around and has proven himself to be a capable leader, the Marines (and Mardukians) willingly follow him into dangerous situations. Pahner has to lay this out for him, telling him that, with each heroic action he does, he risks another Marine (and a nice dosage of guilt).
Little Miss Badass: Pedi Karuse. Small and underage-looking. Pregnant. And still capable of wiping the floor with her enemies in job lots, armed or unarmed, chained or free.
The Load: How the marines view Roger at first. Mostly justified (99%) because he's a spoiled clothes horse with three feet of gorgeous blond hair famous for throwing snit fits. Somewhat unjustified in that, for example, the first time he kills something he gets thoroughly yelled at despite the fact that it was, essentially, a Cape Buffalonote One of the most dangerous animals in the world the size of a house, and he did so because he recognized that it was a highly territorial herbivore (like a Cape Buffalo). They begin to realize he's not The Load when they learn that his extensive experience on safari makes him well qualified to survive a dangerous jungle. Also, he slaughters six enemies in as many seconds with perfectly aimed head shots.
The Mafiya: Roger's crew runs into some interference from local organized crime in We Few which seems to be the Russian mob. Unfortunately for Siminov, he fails to take hints that he's biting off more than he can chew by trying to muscle in on the prince's cover operation.
The Magnificent: A future historian looking back on the events of the books says that the writers of his time called Prince Roger Roger the Terrible, Roger the Mad, the Tyrant, the Restorer, or even the Kin-Slayer. Ouch. Talk about 0% Approval Rating.
Just about everyone has a computer implant in their brain, called a "toot", and the implant can be hacked. The chain of events leading to being stranded on Marduk was from a sailor whose toot was hacked by the conspiracy.
The details of how it was done are left off-screen, but Empress Alexandra VII effectively has her mind destroyed by the conspirators, to the point that she can't tell reality from the manufactured fantasy, and occasionally lapses into memories from her younger years.
Morality Chain: Despreaux is specifically groomed to be this for Roger. It works, too.
Mr. Seahorse: Technically, Mardukan "women" are male, and vice versa. The "men" have an ovipositor that resembles human male genitalia. But in fact, the men ovulate and implant the ova into a woman, who fertilizes the egg and carries it to term.
More Expendable Than You: Captain Pahner and his Marines make it painfully clear that no matter what they think of the Prince, their duty is to protect him at all costs, up to and including throwing their lives away to get between him and a threat. As the March continues, Roger comes to accept this, while at the same time taking a more and more active role in his own protection - to the point where the tables get turned, and Pahner finds himself in the position of relying on Roger to save the Marines, when it's supposed to be vice-versa. Gets deadly serious in the third book when they find out Roger is suddenly the one-and-only Heir to the Throne, making him absolutely unexpendable ... and then even more seriously flipped again when things get so desperate that even Roger himself becomes expendable:
Roger: The mission is to safeguard the Empire, Captain. Safeguarding me is only part of that. ... [The Empress] can make a new heir. If she wants to, she can use DNA from John and Alexandra's dad. The mission, Captain, is "Save the Empire."
Multi-Armed and Dangerous: All the Mardukans, which evolved from a six-limbed, amphibious ancestor. Special credit to Rastar, who can quadruple-wield pistols and still fire all of them with pinpoint accuracy.
"I greet you in the name of The People." He hoped he'd all the sounds right. Some of the words were the same, but accented so differently as to make them nearly unintelligible.
"Denat," Julian said over the earbud the intel NCO'd installed," if you're having translation problems ask me. I'll give you the right words. You just said 'I sneeze you in the name of The Idiots."
My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: Subverted. Julian is monitoring Despreaux's blood pressure and heartrate. When both go up, she's having an argument with Roger. When the heart rate goes up and the blood pressure drops, it's time to send in a Moment Killer.
The Bronze Barbarians and Roger have no problem eating local flora and fauna and breaking it down into base nutrients... because they have genetic modifications and nanobots in their intestines intended to let them do just that. There are some plants which are digestible to baseline humans, but the civilians in the expedition are in danger of starvation when the group's supply of human rations dwindles.
Mardukan plant- and animal life are so different that many chemical compounds humans need to survive are just not present. Vitamin deficiencies are a constant threat.
Several Mardukan poisons are shown to not work on humans, and vice-versa. One poison, which to Mardukans is tasteless, tastes like rotten fennel to humans.
The Saints use "pollution" as their go-to swear word.
Diasprans use "Water!" or "polluted water" since they worship water as a god.
Kosutic, as a Satanist, uses "Papists" where most people would use devil-worshippers and swears by "His Wickedness" where most people would swear by Jesus.
Parental Substitute: Kostas & eventually Captain Pahner for Roger. Roger also mentions that a need for one may have been an unconscious influence behind his interest in sports.
Path of Inspiration: The Church of Ryback, the religion behind the "Saints," which believes that humans should return to Earth and undo all the damage they've done to nature on other worlds. The problem is that they go way beyond this simple mission into outright hating all sentient life outside of their own faith, they ruthlessly treat all rivals and their own lower-classes as non-persons, and they engage is pretty much every act of environmental hypocrisy or "can't see the forest for the trees" behavior possible. Worse, some of their fundamentalists are even rumored to eat babies as a means of population control.
Place Worse Than Death: For the unprepared (everybody), it's Marduk. Also, any of the Saints' worlds that are being "reclaimed from humanity's taint". Slave labor provided from captured enemies, political prisoners, and dissidents, all plucking weeds and other Terran plants from the ground. By hand. To "minimize the footprint" caused by, say, basic biological processes like excrement, they're given less than a thousand calories of food a day. Death is kinder.
Planet of Hats: Pinopa is a planet of many islands and few continents primarily settled by Polynesians who are talented sailors. Armagh is a planet of Satanists who provide a frightening number of soldiers to the Empire thanks to their religious belief in preparing for Armageddon.
Plasma Cannon: Heavy artillery, they're notoriously faulty and cost some marines their lives.
Pyrrhic Victory: The battle for the tramp freighter at the end of March to the Stars. Not only do they lose Captain Pahner and several other marines, but their Mardukan allies practically gut the ship with plasma fire, not really knowing better.
Race Against the Clock: Once Roger's group finds out what's happened in the empire while they've been gone, they realized they only have a few months to save it. Before a new heir is born to a mind-controlled Empress, and her use is at an end.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: All members of the Empress' Own Royal Guard Marine units are chosen on the basis of being exceptionally competent soldiers, but service also requires high levels of proficiency in a least one other, potentially useful skill. These range from the expected (demolitions, medicine, gunsmithing) to the implausible (linguistics, piloting) to the flat out incredible (shipbuilding, car theft, theology). They are by no means rag-tag, but the Empress' Own attracts some pretty interesting people.
Recycled IN SPACE!. The plot of the first two and the first half of the third book is Xenophon's Anabasis (which also inspired The Warriors) in space.
Red Shirt Reporter: Harvard Mansul, IAS. We first meet him as a prisoner in a Krath fortress after being sent to investigate Shin barbarians. He ends up following Prince Roger (the story of millennia) through all sorts of combat hell. In his past, he'd encountered bandits and pirates, gotten shot at by inner-city gangs, been stabbed, and nearly died while lost in a desert.
The Fire Temples, from the volcanic land of Krath. Despite being a theocracy, none of the natives will talk about their religion at all, and cities are ruled by the principle of "all is forbidden, save that which the law requires." They trade for slaves to act as Servants of the God. "Servants" are sacrifices which are roasted and then served in chunks to the people of the cities. There's a reason the local pirates fight to the last man to avoid capture.
Later deconstructed when they explain how Krath went from a peaceful, semi-Taoist religion to the nightmare they encounter.
Subverted with Armagh's Satanists. The planet they come from was involved in a civil war triggered by a Catholic-based Corrupt Church government, who accused those who opposed of being satanists. The accused figured that if they were called such by a church that was prone to atrocity, Satan couldn't be all that bad a guy after all.
The Empire of Man's political system leaves the Emperor/Empress with quite a bit of personal power. The Heirs usually have important roles to get them used to wielding power.
Despite being a generally useless prat, one of Roger's hobbies is big game hunting which results in him being the best sniper of all the troops. It also becomes a headache and problem for the (technically second-in-charge, but he's the unofficial CO anyway) Marine CO, who has to keep reminding him that, if Roger fucks up and dies, the Marines might as well kill themselves.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: This starts to become a problem by the third book as the fatigue of nearly endless campaigning across Marduk leaves more and more of the Bronze Barbarians unfit for combat duty. Pahner compensates by pulling them into leadership and support roles, while adding competent natives to the ranks.
Strawman Political: The Saints are corrupt descendants of Greenpeace. Specifically they claim to un-terraform planets, but are actually one of the most polluting of the interstellar civilizations. Leadership-wise they're really more Straw Hypocrites, while as a culture they tend more towards Dirty Communists with a focus on being "green" rather than support of the working class.
Then Let Me Be Evil: Subverted by Armagh's Church of Satan. They were the more secular schism on a planet of Catholics and were labeled minions of Satan by their opponents. So they embraced the name, won the holy war, instituted religious freedom, and turned "Satanism" into a positive church in the wake of a discredited Christianity.
His Marines, elite of the elite, are selected partially based on their incredible loyalty to the Empress. They start off despising him, but this gets blown away the more they get to see him in action. In the end, every one of them is so loyal to the Prince that other (non-Bronze Barbarian) Marines think they're dangerously compromised.
It gets to the point where his subordinates push a woman he loves into marrying him despite her objections, due to the fact that he's Heir Primus to the Throne of Man.. because without her acting as his conscience, he would be a neobarbarian tyrant with "shoot first, ask later" policy. With entire fleets of starships and a massive army at his disposal.
Translation With An Agenda: A particularly insidious one. The only language kernel they have pre-loaded before landing is High Krath, from the "civilized" neighbors of the port. When they start using it, it has a preloaded bias for words translated as "service," "Servant," or "Serve." These are all euphemisms for being butchered live and then roasted and served to Krath's upper class in a religious ritual. Given the likely human (i.e. Saints) inspiration of the practice, there's a good chance the bias is deliberate.
Unwanted Rescue: By the Peoples' traditions, rescuing someone not of your tribe without a personal need to do so makes them your slave. Cord is miffed when Roger does it to him, though they eventually bond. And then this is flipped back on him when he unthinkingly rescues Pedi.
The Uriah Gambit: Subverted. Gunny Jin has to keep a plasma gunner who should be on the front lines in a safer spot because that person is dating someone he's interested in — all to avoid this trope.
We Have Reserves: Barbarian tribes on Marduk seem to exclusively rely on berserk Zerg Rush tactics. It works for the most part until humans introduce soldier formation tactics. The few who wise up to this fact find themselves quickly overruled for being "weak."
Weirdness Censor: The Mardukans are almost shockingly blasť to the presence of humans, partially because we resemble a harmless prey animal. Few towns display any curiosity for more than a couple of days before treating the group like any other traveling traders/warriors. This is Lampshaded several times.
Ye Olde Nuclear Silo: Thomas "Tomcat" Catrone lives in one. He bought a large tract of land in central Asia to retire and start a horse ranch on, and since there already was a large and very solid structure on his property, he converted it into a well-appointed home. The fact that he can hold off an assault platoon on his own in there is a nice bonus.
You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Weber is fond of this trope, having taken it up to Running Gag levels in the Empire from the Ashes series; it returns here in the fourth book. Prince Jackson Adoula blows up his house on Earth, along with his secret files and household staff; makes a note to eliminate his chauffeur soon thereafter; and intends to do away with at least one of his co-conspirators. Oh, and then there's the whole plot to murder the Empress after she produces a new heir. He orders her and the unborn heir eliminated once he has to flee.