Literature: RCN

Space Sailing has never been so much fun.
"But Daniel," Adele said, struggling to understand a situation devoid of logic. "Their ships are bigger and newer and there's more of them. Surely Admiral Chastelain knows that?"
"Yes, Adele," Daniel said, "But he also knows that we're the RCN. No Alliance commander ever forgets that."
"Ah," Adele said. "Yes, I understand."
— Lt. Leary, Commanding

David Drake's RCN (Republic of Cinnabar Navy) series is loosely based off the 18th century British navy, complete with spaceships that travel through hyperspace using sails. However, the sails are handled fairly realistically: stripping a ship's sails with a plasma cannon is a quick and easy way to keep it from escaping into hyperspace, the sails need to be furled and stowed before entering an atmosphere, and when deployed, interfere with the ship's realspace maneuvering and combat.

In the same way that Honor Harrington is Hornblower/Nelson IN SPACE, the RCN books are Patrick O'Brian IN SPACE, with Daniel Leary in the role of Jack Aubrey and Adele Mundy as Stephen Maturin (only with her being the ship's comms officer rather than its surgeon).

From the author's note from "The Way to Glory", fourth book in the series: "The general political background of the RCN series is that of Europe in the mid-eighteenth century, with admixtures of late-Republican Rome. (There's a surprising degree of congruence between British and Roman society in those periods.)"

Also known as
  • The "Lt. Leary" series, after the primary main character.
  • the "Republic of Cinnabar" series.
  • the "Leary-Mundy" series, after the main characters.
  • the "Lt. Leary, Commanding" series, after the title of the second book. The title of the first book, "With the Lightnings" did not lend itself to a series name.
  • The "RCN" series is the nomenclature Drake uses, for Republic of Cinnabar Navy.

The books so far,
  • With the Lightnings (1999).
  • Lt. Leary, Commanding (2000).
    • Title on the dust cover: RCN Lt. Leary, Commanding RCS Princess Cecile. A quirk is that the "R" in "RCN" has a stylized crown, suggesting the designer for the titles didn't know "R" stands here for "Republic" rather than "Royal."
  • The Far Side of the Stars (2004)
  • The Way to Glory (2005)
  • Some Golden Harbor (2006)
  • When the Tide Rises (2008)
  • In the Stormy Red Sky (2009)
  • What Distant Deeps (2010)
  • The Road of Danger (2012)
  • The Sea Without a Shore (upcoming, 2014)

This series provides examples of

  • A Lady on Each Arm: Before he hooked up with Miranda Dorst, this was not an unusual situation for Daniel.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Daniel is stated to be good enough at seducing women to make his living at it. More recently he has settled down with Miranda Dorst.
  • Absent Aliens: In spirit. While at least three other alien species exist, interaction between them and humanity is extremely rare, since humans and aliens don't compete or trade for resources or planets because they don't use the same ones: there's a mention in With the Lightnings of an alien visitor to Kostroma who has to be ferried about the city inside of a tank containing its native atmosphere.
  • The Alleged Ship: Starships from Novy Sverdlovsk have a reputation for being like this, with their crews being of equally low quality.
  • Almighty Janitor: Adele is officially a non-commissioned officer responsible for communications. If Daniel isn't present, however, everyone on the ship including Lt. Vesey, his first officer, will defer to her judgement in almost everything except handling and fighting the ship (which she openly admits she knows nothing about). And if it doesn't involve ship operations, Daniel is equally willing to follow her lead.
  • Antimatter: The High Drive that provides deep space propulsion for both ships and their missiles uses matter-antimatter annihilation to produce thrust. The reaction isn't complete though, so it's only used in vacuum, as antimatter that hadn't reacted in the thrust could interact with atmospheric molecules, damaging or even destroying the engines. Due to this, lower-powered and less fuel efficient plasma thrusters are used for atmospheric maneuvering.
  • Asexuality: Adele is completely uninterested in sex and finds everyone's obsession with it irritating:
    "Biology isn't one of my particular interests, Senator," she said in an upper class drawl. "I wouldn't be shocked if a maggot crawled out of your eye socket, though I'd find it vaguely disgusting."
  • A-Team Firing: Many of the Sissies are described as shooting with more enthusiasm than skill.
  • Bad Dreams: Adele has killed a lot of people and remembers every one.
  • Badass Boast: "Every Alliance spacer ... knows that no matter how many ships they have, they've always got to expect us to go for their throats. Deep in their hearts, they're afraid and they know we aren't. We're the RCN." — When the Tide Rises
  • Badass Bookworm - Lady Adele Mundy, Mundy of Chatsworth, one of the First Families of Cinnabar, Signals Officer in the RCN, pistol-packing Librarian. She's not only a Bookworm who's also badass, but equally Badass as a bookworm. Once she frightened the head of Cinnabar Intelligence with her ability to penetrate Cinnabar systems, form queries, and make inferences from the result.
    "The ship is to be the Hermes?" Adele said, her eyes on her display ... Sand cleared her throat, "I wouldn't normally pry into your sources of information, but I had reason to believe that only two people in the human universe had that information until now. If my communications with Admiral Anston aren't secure, then I really must know that." [After Adele's explanation] "I just realized that I've apparently ... leagued with a demon. But you're the Republic's demon, and I'm bloody well not going to let you go now that I've found you!"
  • Battle Butler:
    • Anyone disdaining either Tovera or Hogg as a simple servant is unlikely to live long enough to regret the mistake.
    • Porra's exiled mistress in What Distant Deeps also has a personal servant whose real duty (everyone knows) is to keep an eye on her. She and Tovera spend a great deal of time ensuring each has a clean shot at the other if necessary.
  • Becoming the Mask: As of In The Stormy Red Sky Adele believes this may be happening to Tovera, who initially joined with Adele to learn how to at least act like a human with a conscience instead of an amoral sociopath.
  • Berserk Button: Anyone who thinks they can sully the honor of a Mundy of Chatsworth without repercussions is in for a nasty surprise.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: While many of the Sissies fit this trope, Woetjans exemplifies it, a large woman who's shy with neither a sharp tongue nor a length of pipe to use as a bludgeon if need be.
  • Briefcase Blaster: Tovera keeps a submachinegun in her attache case, which is rigged to hide the weapon from any but the most advanced of weapon scanners.
  • The Captain: Daniel Leary is clearly in charge of the Princess Cecile crew, which causes some minor tension in Some Golden Harbor when Lt. Vesey is the official CO of the ship, but everyone tends look to Leary for guidance.
  • The Casanova: Daniel Leary's favorite form of entertainment in port is seeking out willing women to sleep with. And he always finds them.
  • Death Seeker: Adele Mundy ... unfortunately she sucks at dying.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Tovera reacts quite poorly to a mook that was excessively and insultingly physical about searching Adele, by castrating them.
  • Drives Like Crazy:
    • Whenver Barnes pilots an aircar, the trip always ends in a controlled crash.
    • With Hogg behind the wheel, the "controlled" in "controlled crash" doesn't enter the picture.
    • While Tovera's driving isn't as outright bad as that of Barnes or Hogg, while she's technically trained to drive an aircar it doesn't come naturally to her, resulting in some rough flying and landings.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Elmere in Some Golden Harbor. Matters are further confused due to the way he behaves in a stereotypically feminine manner.
  • Duel to the Death:
    • Duels are perfectly legal on Cinnabar. As a result, the prospect of a duel gets mentioned often.
    • Adele in the Backstory killed her first victim as the result of a duel with a young man that was too scared and/or proud to apologize for an insult he gave her. In the story proper, she occasionally uses the threat of dueling to intimidate people.
    • After their first meeting, Daniel resolved to challenge Adele to a duel for dismissing his uncle's achievements. Had plot not ensued when it did, it would have been a very short book
  • Earth That Was: Lt. Leary, Commanding explains that The War of Earthly Aggression ended in a massive asteroid bombardment that decimated the homeworld's population and rendered it mostly uninhabitable and the continents virtually unrecognizable.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • In With the Lightnings an unnamed Alliance naval officer refuses an order by an Alliance intelligence officer to summarily execute Cinnabar POWs. The spy promptly has his own people do it.
    • While Guarantor Porra is a brutal dictator who would have no qualms over torturing children, Tovera reveals that he gets Squicked at the idea of anyone doing it for sexual gratification.
  • Fantastic Racism: "Men whose idea of patriotism was that anyone not from Cinnabar was a wog with no honor and no rights." The members of the RCN feel that way about pretty much anyone not in the RCN, and not a few in it. This attitude shows up on Earth in the Aubrey-Maturin series, which RCN is based on, and is apparently Truth in Television.
  • Fat Bastard: Many of the tinpot dictators the Sissies encounter in their travels fit this trope to a T.
  • Feudal Future: A merchant princes variant. Cinnabar is a democracy only as much as 18th century Britain: while there's no nobility in the traditional sense, only members of the upper economic classes have the right to vote and there's little opportunity for social mobility except by getting rich and buying your way in.
  • Foil: Adele is an introverted bookworm who's friends with the extrovert Daniel. Also, the extremely co-dependent Tovera mirrors the independent Hogg.
  • Glove Slap: Adele in a Crowning Moment of Awesome to a slimy (allied) intelligence officer in With The Lightnings.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Autocrator Irene in What Distant Deeps. When her husband had been alive, it was presumed that he was a tinpot dictator with delusions of grandeur. But after his death, it was realized that, if anything, he had been keeping his wife in check.
  • Harmful to Minors: Adele's ten-year-old sister was forced into prostitution before being decapitated. The severed head was then placed on public view, in spite of her being too young to be affected by the Proscriptions that resulted in most of the Mundys being executed as participants in the Three Circles Conspiracy.
  • Heel-Face Turn: At the end of With the Lightnings, Adele is joined by a former agent of the Alliance of Free Stars' Fifth Bureau, Tovera.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Barnes and Dasi have no known romantic intentions towards one another, but where one goes the other inevitably goes as well. Also partially averted, as both are explicitly stated to not be at all heterosexually inclined.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: In Lt. Leary, Commanding, Daniel inflicts serious damage on an Alliance battleship with his corvette-class Princess Cecile by jumping in, launching missiles, and jumping back out before the enemy can return fire. As he expects, It Only Works Once because the enemy admiral is ready for him on his second run, so the second time he opts for a high-speed pass, but then nearly can't slow down afterwards because his High Drive takes damage.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Too much time spent in the Matrix (the series' means of FTL travel, no relation to the film by that name) causes humans to hallucinate, though it's implied that in some cases they may be seeing into alternate realities rather than hallucinating.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: Dropping into hyperspace to avoid incoming fire is a regular tactic in space combat, particularly for more lightly built ships. However, the transition into the Matrix isn't instantaneous, resulting in a vulnerable period for the ship attempting it if the captain's timing is off, and stripping a ship's sails with gunfire makes escape impossible.
  • I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: Daniel Leary's manservant and surrogate father Hogg is given to various "ne'er-do-well" activities, but because of the friendship the two share Leary explicitly says in narration that he doesn't ask how Hogg has "acquired" what the mission needs, because if Hogg's methods did come to light Leary would probably have to fire his mentor and best friend.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Adele Mundy is an expert pistol shot, from the Mundy family's insistence that its members be able to protect themselves, and be able to survive duels that may arise from the "rough and tumble" nature of Cinnabar politics.
  • Indy Ploy: Daniel prefers to plan ahead, and does it well, but it can be almost frightening watching how smoothly he adjusts if something ruins his current plan.
  • Interspecies Romance: Reptilian alien Fallert and Tovera are implied to have gotten intimate with one another in Some Golden Harbor; Daniel was thoroughly Squicked by the prospect.
  • The Jinx: The Sissies regard Lt. Mon as this and believe that Daniel's presence is the only thing that keeps it in check.
  • Kid with the Leash: Adele with Tovera. Adele keeps her around partially as a reminder that Bad Dreams are far from the worst possible consequence of her chosen lifestyle.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Anti-ship missiles don't bother with an explosive warhead, but instead use kinetic energy from being accelerated up to a significant fraction of the speed of light by their High Drive, making explosive warheads pointless.
  • Last Name Basis: Daniel's servant and parental substitute is only ever referred to as "Hogg", the family name.
  • Laughing Mad: Tovera's laugh is a very unpleasant thing to hear for any sane person.
  • Legacy of Service: It's said by the naration that Hoggs have been serving the Learys of Bantry for many generations, including the one standing by Daniel Leary throughout the book series.
  • Meaningful Name: The name of the gunner who operates the Princess Cecile's plasma cannons is Sun.
  • Moe Greene Special: Mundy's pistol fires ceramic pellets that don't have much penetration, so her preferred aim point is her target's eyes where there's no concern for bone deflecting the pellet.
  • Noble Savage: Believed by Adele's mother, who was never actually amongst the "savages" to find out what things were really like outside of the relatively cloistered life the Mundy family lived, prior to the Proscriptions. Averted by the savage cultures encountered in the series, who are just as nasty and brutish as Hobbes said.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Hogg regularly pretends to be a dull-witted hick to more effectively sucker anyone he gets into a poker game. Similarly, Daniel isn't above playing at being an Upper-Class Twit who got his position through family connections and dumb luck if the circumstances warrant it.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: In With the Lightnings, the summary execution of the Cinnabar naval delegation to Kostroma by an Alliance intelligence officer. An Alliance naval officer flatly refuses to take part, and Adele later stops Daniel's people from returning the favor.
  • Old Retainer: Hogg has been in the service of the Learys of Bantry for a long time, serving as a Parental Substitute for Daniel due to Speaker Leary's frequent absences due to his political career.
  • Once per Episode: Someone will assume that Daniel and Adele are romantically involved. The most hilarious instance occurs in What Distant Deeps when Adele visits the Bantry estate, in which a kid comes up to her and asks if she's Daniel's girlfriend. He's almost immediately clouted by his older sister, who then profusely apologizes for his behavior.
  • Out-Gambitted: In The Road of Danger during the battle between the Princess Cecile and the Estremadura, the former is constantly at a disadvantage due to the latter being able to be too close for the effective use of missiles every time they extract from the Matrix. The Princess Cecile eventually comes out on top when the Estremadura is hit by missiles Daniel had fired before their previous trip through the Matrix, and therefore hitting at terminal velocity. The only reason it worked is because the pilot of the Estremadura was so good.
  • Parental Substitute: Given Corder Leary's frequent absences from the Leary household due to his political activities, Hogg serves as a substitute father for Daniel, teaching him what it means to be a man.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The bad guys mostly come from the "Alliance of Free Stars", which is even less democratic than Cinnabar and amounts to a military dictatorship.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Tovera occasionally displays feats of strength that are out of proportion with her petite build.
  • Plasma Cannon:
    • Ship point defense mounts use plasma cannons, whose lightspeed bolts don't really work beyond relatively short ranges but are quite destructive within those ranges. Instead of destroying incoming missiles, they use ablation to try to drive anti-ship missiles off-course enough to miss.note  As a secondary use, they can strip the delicate sails used by ships to maneuver in hyperspace, to prevent a Hyperspeed Escape.
    • APCs have as an armament option plasma cannons. While not so great against heavily armored targets given atmospheric dispersal, at normal operating ranges they're devastating to infantry and targets with light to no armor.
  • Platonic Life Partners: Adele will do just about anything for Daniel, to the point of manipulating the Cinnabar government to serve with him, but it's mentioned several times that neither has any romantic inclinations towards the other — and Adele has no romantic inclinations toward anybody.
  • Psycho Sidekick: Adele's servant Tovera has no real emotions, and empathy is something that's effectively nonexistent for her. Mostly she stays with Adele to learn to at least mimic the behaviors of someone with a more normal mental state.
  • Put On The Bus: Betts served as the Chief Missileer on the Princess Cecile in Lt. Leary, Commanding and The Far Side of the Stars. In The Way To Glory, they're assigned to a cutter tender, which has no missile tubes. In Some Golden Harbor, the Princess Cecile hasn't got any missiles, and thus Daniel ships no missileer. During that voyage, he acquires a missile-armed vessel and takes a man named Borries on as missileer, who remains with the Sissies thereafter.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The series' True Companions consist of the disowned son of the most powerful politician on Cinnabar and playboy military hero, a lethal librarian/spy who is the sole survivor of the disgraced family massacred on the order of said aforementioned politician, a sociopathic former agent of Cinnabar's main enemy, and Leary's surrogate father who uses Obfuscating Stupidity so that people don't realize the hick peasant is the deadliest person in the room (if any of the other three aren't there).
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Tovera delivers one to Vesey in In the Stormy Red Sky concerning her squeamishness over killing people.
  • Recycled In Space: Aubrey-Maturin is explicitly the model for the series, for both the main characters and the setting as a whole. It could be mistaken for Horatio Hornblower, but that's already been done. Drake discusses the historical influences for the individual books in the foreword or afterword of each one.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Daniel Leary mounts a raid on the home star system of the Alliance of Free Stars in When the Tide Rises, relying in part on the notion that because no one would expect anyone to attack the star system with just an antiquated light cruiser and a corvette, there wouldn't be prepared plans available to handle such a situation.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In When the Tide Rises, the bulk of Daniel's fleet does this when the assault on Churchyard doesn't go as well as anticipated.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • Characters occasionally referred to "God," singular, up until somewhere in When the Tide Rises, after which they seem to always speak of "the Gods."
    • In the Stormy Red Sky says the Alliance dictator's name as "Jorge Porra". In What Distant Deeps, however, Porra's former mistress speaks of him as "Guillaume." Possibly this is just her name for him.
    • What Distant Deeps refers to the Peace of Rheims ending the war between Cinnabar and the Alliance. In The Road of Danger it's the Truce of Amiens.
  • Servile Snarker: Hogg. One especially notable incident occurs in In The Stormy Red Sky just after the Sissies have captured an Alliance world and are about to accept an official surrender when Senator Forbes complains about how dust will show up on the suit she's wearing. Hogg points out that as long as she hasn't crapped herself, she'll be better dressed than anyone they meet.
  • Shoot the Dog: Adele blows up a ship full of hostages to demonstrate her resolve in In The Stormy Red Sky. Immediately subverted by Tovera noting the Fifth Bureau would have killed the hostages before surrendering as SOP.
  • Shout-Out: A brief reference in In the Stormy Red Sky to a medicinal plant known as "bluebrights" and grown on the planet Melpomene. The chronologically first Hammers Slammers story takes place on Melpomene and mentions that bluebrights are the planet's only export. (The technologies used are different enough that the Slammers and the RCN cannot be part of the same future history.)
  • Slasher Smile: Tovera and sometimes Adele. In the former's case she's a sociopath aping the behaviors of a normal person, and with the latter it's simply from not being much of a people person.
  • Space Mines: Mines are used as the primary tool of planetary defense networks. Unlike traditional mines they magnetic lenses focusing the blast of their nuclear warhead to turn them into what are effectively one-shot x-ray lasers, similar to the missile warheads of another space navy influenced by the Napoleonic Wars.
  • The Sociopath: Tovera. Everyone who knows her, including herself, consider her a monster.
  • State Sec: The Fifth Bureau of the Alliance of Free Stars serves the Alliance's political suppression and general populace terrorization needs.
  • Straight Gay: Dasi and Barnes may not be attracted to one another, and their amatory interests don't really come up as minor supporting characters for the main heroes, but in When the Tide Rises it's hinted at that they're not straight, after another character uses "pansies" to disparage a just-deposed dictator's mooks as being unable to fight armed opponents. The two are among those that Leary looks to when gathering brawlers from the crew for beating some sense into others.
  • Take That, Critics!: Many of the books in the series has a detestable character with no redeeming features named "Platt" whose primary purpose is to either suffer some indignity or die messily. The real Platt "earned" this for a scathing review of Drake's Hammers Slammers series, which Platt said wouldn't have been written as it was if Drake had actually served in the military. Drake served in The Vietnam War, with the 11th Armored Cavalry, as stated in Drake's official biography.
  • Theme Naming:
    • Similar to some historical navies, RCN ships often fall into theme-named classes — "Archaeologist-class cruisers" such as the Maspero and "Philosopher-class battleships" like the Lao-tze. More unusual is that although there's nothing especially German about Alliance personal names, Alliance warships above the level of destroyers almost always have German names (the most noticeable exception is named after the Alliance capital world).
    • There is a strong Prussian feel to a great deal of the Alliance military apparatus. Ranks are German, uniforms are 'field gray' etc. In What Distant Deeps, it is revealed that the world of Adlersbild was one of the founding planets of the Alliance, along with Pleasaunce, and that this world is run by aristocrats with 'Von' in front of their names.
  • Tranquil Fury: Adele all the time
  • Translation Convention: In the foreword of the first book, Drake explicitly states he has Cinnabar using imperial measurements, while the Alliance uses metric ones, to help differentiate the two polities, even though he doesn't expect either system to actually exist many centuries in the future.
  • True Companions: Leary notes to himself in What Distant Deeps that he, Adele, Tovera, and Hogg have become a weird kind of family.
  • Vehicular Turnabout: The enemy ships are often captured and used against them, occasionally even taken into RCN service after capture. This is in fact how Leary acquires his first command, RCS Princess Cecile, in With the Lightnings: by stealing it out of dock from the Kostroman navy.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: In Some Golden Harbor, Adele and Tolvera use a false bosom used by Elemere to hide a pair of machine pistols for use in a raid on a paranoid councilor's mansion, knowing that they would be scanned for weapons on arrival, while a seemingly restrained Elemere wouldn't.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The Population Wars in the backstory, set off by Earth's policy of foisting its excess population off on its nearer daughter worlds without their consent. This culminated in Earth being decimated by Colony Drop, which, as Adele remarks in her Internal Monologue, ironically achieved Earth's objective to reduce its population to a sustainable level.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks RCNVerse gun barrels are made of iridium. And shoot osmium bullets. Both metals are rarer and more expensive than platinum in Real Life.
  • You Are in Command Now: In In the Stormy Red Sky, Adele finds herself thrust into command of the Milton when Daniel gets knocked out by some flying debris and Vesey experiences Heroic BSOD as a result.
  • You Have Failed Me: Guarantor Porra does this frequently, to the point where the Alliance Fleet's top brass has more buck-passing politicians than skilled tacticians.