Literature: Remnants

The end of the world has come... and gone.

Written by K. A. Applegate and Michael Grant (the co-authors of Animorphs and Everworld), Remnants is a 14-book Young Adult series published in the early 2000s. The series begins with a giant asteroid called "The Rock" striking Earth, obliterating the planet and all life on it. A last, desperate gambit by humanity is enacted, The Mayflower, a space shuttle rapidly retrofitted with experimental technology, including hybernation berths. Eighty people are shot off into space for the distant hope that someday, they can awaken and find a new planet to refound human civilization on. When they're plucked from space by a sentient super-ship called "Mother", and come into contact with the aliens that call her home, the series proper begins. No one gets out without sacrificing their body or sanity in some manner.

The series is roughly divided into two arcs, though it is a continuous narrative. The first seven books deal with the group attempting to take control of Mother, while the second batch of seven deals with their returns to the broken ruins of Earth. Along the way they deal with internal power struggles, mutations, war, violence, trauma, and Mind Rape. Additionally, as Mo'Steel says, the kids from Lord of the Flies have nothing on this group. Everyone has secrets, personality flaws, hidden agendas, and some are just plain crazy, and despite the fact the group dwindles daily, there's still plays for power and control being made.

Remnants is a dark series, with violent deaths in nearly every book. Aside from the art history and group politics, this is what happens when you combine Loads and Loads of Characters with Anyone Can Die. The author promised that Jobs and Mo'Steel would survive; anyone else is fair game. And yes, believe it or not, this is a kids series. That does not stop it from being one of the darkest things ever written. Unfortunately, the series is a shining example of The Chris Carter Effect: expect numerous plot points and mysteries to go unsolved and character arcs to be brought to a screeching halt when someone is killed off or a shocking twist is revealed. This culminates in a Gainax Ending of the highest order.

The series consists of fourteen books:
  1. The Mayflower Project
  2. Destination Unknown
  3. Them
  4. Nowhere Land
  5. Mutation
  6. Breakdown
  7. Isolation
  8. Mother, May I?
  9. No Place Like Home
  10. Lost and Found
  11. Dream Storm
  12. Aftermath
  13. Survival
  14. Begin Again

This series provides examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight: Survival, starring Tate, who is more or less a Recurrer otherwise. Also ends up being A Death in the Limelight.
  • A God Am I: Yago comes to think he's a messianic god destined to lead humanity.
  • Accidental Murder: D-Caf does this to Anamull; he just intended to scare him, but lost control of his mutation.
  • Action Survivor: All of the Remnants are human beings, and a small handful have experience in fighting or physical activity. Yet a surprising number of them survive a long time.
  • Adults Are Useless: Olga, Mo'Steel's mom, is the only adult who isn't completely useless, but she's pretty close since she does little of actual importance. Everyone else is entirely useless, especially Wylson, Violet's mom, who only makes everything worse by trying to run the group when she's obviously got no clue what she's doing. In the end, all the adults but Olga die anyway.
  • After the End: The entire series starts with Earth being destroyed, and picks up with the handful of survivors that escape.d
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Mother is a sentient ship/computer that has spent centuries, perhaps millennium, wandering space. With no sensory input, she ended up Going Mad From The Isolation.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Kubrick loves 2Face, but she doesn't feel the same, as the main reason Kubrick loves her is her deformity.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Tate has a very close friendship with Tamara, but it's not clear if it's deeper than that.
  • And I Must Scream: Billy during the Mayflower voyage, during which he spends five hundred years awake.
  • Anyone Can Die: Aside from Jobs and Mo'Steel, no one is safe. The human characters die often and without warning.
  • Apocalypse How: Where do we start? It would be a class 4, if not for the survival of small amounts of humans and other creatures.
  • Apocalypse Wow: The destruction wrought by the Rock is described in exacting detail in the first book. First a small chunk that broke off the main asteroid utterly destroys San Francisco midway through, then the real thing at the end of the book.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: Some of the survivors have this, as in the future taking a new name is essentially the fashion trend of the decade. Mo'Steel takes the cake; he's not sure if it stands for "More Steel" or "Man of Steel" (he's broken so many bones most of them are made of metal now), but he fits under either definition. His birth name, "Romeo Gonzales," is also cool.
  • Babies Ever After: The ending epilogue recounts the survivors have children now.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: At one point, Yago, Amelia, and Tate all telepathically fight over who should take control of the body they share.
  • The Bechdel Test: Surprising for something aimed mainly at boys, the series passes with flying colors. There are numerous female characters and they are given a lot of depth and development.
  • Berserk Button: Do not mess with Mo'steel's mom. This is a lesson that Rattler learns the hard way.
  • The Big Bad Shuffle: The main antagonist changes several times, and includes Mother, The Baby, Yago, the Troika, and a few of the human survivors on Earth.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Yago is a candidate for main antagonist, but only by virtue of being the most recurring one; he actually doesn't do much in terms of seizing power, and the few chances he gets to do so, he bungles it and is put in his place by the more dangerous villains.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Riders and the Slizzers are described as giant insects. Slizzers are implied to be mutated cockroaches.
  • Blessed with Suck: Billy has psychic powers that drive him insane and back again. Also, the mutations, especially Violet's and Tate's, and especially the Troika, are not the kind they like having.
  • Body Horror: Characters lose limbs, get impaled, mutilated, etc, in horrific detail.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: D-Caf vanishes from the series after he accidentally kills Anamull, and is not seen in the last three books, not even a mention in the epilogue. It unfortunately seems the author just forgot about him.
  • Colony Drop: The Rock is an asteroid that hits Earth.
  • Crapsack World: Anything that can go wrong in this series does. There's a very short reprieve in Book 8 when the group has finally taken control of the ship and is leading semi-normal lives in a recreation of an urban neighborhood, but it only lasts until the end of that book and there are still some problems brewing.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Virtually every death in the series, but one standout is Big Bill's death. Worms eat his leg from the inside out, while he remains completely able to feel pain. The worms then spread to the rest of the body, and Billy does a Mercy Kill by shutting down his mind.
  • Cute and Psycho: Yago is described (by himself) to be one of the most desirable teenagers on the planet, starting all sorts of trends and having tons of fangirls. He's also an egomaniac with a strong ability to manipulate and control others. Doubles for Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon in this.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Jobs and Echo's daughter is named after Tate.
  • Death World: Post-Rock Earth. For starters, the planet's rotation has stopped, causing it to be divided into two extreme climate zones with a mild Shadow Zone in between. Second, the surface randomly spews columns of flames-which kills one of the characters. Lastly, there are a variety of hellish beasts making life difficult for whoever decides to live on its surface.
  • Disability Superpower: Played subtly. Noyze was born deaf, but is able to hear now thanks to an expensive operation. She's one of the handful of Remnants that doesn't have any kind of mutation or power, but, thanks to spending the first few years of her life communicating entirely in Sign Language, she is very observant and quickly learns to "speak" the Blue Meanies' Sign Language.
  • Downer Beginning: It starts with The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Billy has psychic dreams to this effect sometimes. He had these before he went insane aboard the Mayflower, by the way.
  • Driven to Suicide: The captain of the Mayflower shoots himself rather than going to sleep with the Eighty because his family was left behind.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Averted. In Applegate's version of the year 2011, cars have been made that can drive by themselves, so kids as young as twelve can ride them legally. The first book opens with Jobs taking a cruise on the highway.
  • Dwindling Party: They only sent eighty people in the first place, more than half of them died on the way there, and Anyone Can Die is in full effect for the thirty-some-odd people who made it to Mother. Not everyone dies in the end, and some more characters turn up when they return to Earth, but only seven of the Mayflower's passengers survive to the end. If you're curious, the survivors are Jobs, Mo'Steel, Olga, Edward, Violet, Noyze, and Roger Dodger. D-Caf suffered from Chuck Cunningham Syndrome, so strictly speaking he never died, either.
  • Dysfunction Junction: A large number of the characters have serious psychological problems and limited social skills. Some were like that on Earth (like Yago and 2Face), others got that way either because of the mutations or what they experienced during the trip (like Billy). Being the last survivors of Earth and subsequently getting put through hell wouldn't be good for anyone's psyche, mind you.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first book is the only one where nobody dies violently, although it technically has the highest body count of any book in the series, since every human on Earth dies in it. It's also the only one where the plot approaches what could be called "normal."
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The characters go through endless hell, yet at the end of the series, Earth has been restored to its former beauty and everyone is living a peaceful existence.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Rock causes one. Literally; Earth splits apart in a huge explosion.
  • Earth That Was: A later story arc involves them returning to Earth to see what became of it after The Rock hit. Turns out that Earth is still habitable, if only just barely.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: The "Janes", girls who model themselves on Jane Austen characters in dress and manner - represented among the survivors by Miss Violet Blake - are like a somewhat more grown-up version that hasn't been filtered through Japanese culture and puts rather more emphasis on rejecting technology.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The beginning of the series is this.
  • Ensemble Cast: Though Jobs is the central hero, there is a large and diverse cast with their own stories going on around him.
  • Expy: of the Animorphs characters, naturally, although some of the parallels are a little loose.
    • Jobs -> Jake, as level-headed The Hero.
    • Mo'Steel -> Marco/Rachel, as the snarky action-inclined Lancer.
    • Billy -> Tobias, as the estranged and tormented outsider.
    • 2Face -> Rachel, with Rachel's negative traits ramped up to create a crazed Dark Action Girl.
    • Violet -> Cassie, as the emotional core of the group. Also a bit of one for Ax, as the alien ship creates environments based on classical art and thus she ends up acting as Mr. Exposition to the group.
  • Eye Scream: One of the more obvious mutations Tamara's baby has is that its eyes melted. This doesn't seem to inconvenience it, but it's still pretty horrible.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Several characters end up wishing they were dead after what they went through. A few get their wish eventually, given Anyone Can Die.
  • Feel No Pain: Kubrick, due to having his skin replaced with some kind of clear covering... stuff. In fact, he doesn't feel any touch at all.
  • Fingore: In Destination Unknown, one of Violet's fingers gets eaten by worms.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: All of the Remnants who support each other. The only people who knew each other at the start of the series were Jobs and Mo'Steel, but by the end, they're extremely close. Being the last humans alive probably does that to you.
  • First Episode Spoiler: Mark's death.
  • Flat "What.":
    And then [Noyze] was falling through a crater in the ground, a hole that had not been there a moment before but was there now, yawning, gaping, huge. She fell past walls of dirt and rock, her body impossibly straight, feet down, arms raised over her head. Her brain was blank but for the word what repeated over and over and over until it was one long word whatwhatwhatwhat that had no real meaning.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The Mayflower was a pretty solid example of the non-warning variety, although it had more people on it than the usual.
  • Forced to Watch: Mr. DiSalvo had to watch while his son's skin was cut off piece by piece.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: The Blue Meanies shoot them. They turn out to be Instant Death Bullets, as demonstrated by Shy's death.
  • Future Slang: Appears in a minor capacity, especially from Mo'Steel.
  • Gainax Ending: Hooooo boy, a classic example. After returning to Earth and somehow Mother has traveled through time to crash on Earth and be a ruin worshiped by the Marauders, some sort of "ritual" is performed using Echo's baby, Mother, Billy, and "the Missing Five" that Billy somehow carries inside him. Whatever this ritual entails is never clear, but in the epilogue it apparently has restored life to Earth and we have Babies Ever After. And that's not getting into the many plot points that go unresolved.
  • Genius Loci: Mother, although she could also be considered a Sapient Ship, since she has aspects of both.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: There's an enormous amount of violence and Nightmare Fuel in the series, and even some cannibalism. According to Word of God, no one at Scholastic other than the editor really read any of them, and it shows. While the "young adults" rating of ages 12-18 is not wrong, the series is pushed up against the far right of that scale.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: It's a common theme in the series. For one thing, it's the reason that Mother is so insane. Billy seems to have avoided ultimately going completely unhinged, but it definitely affected his head. Although it's hard to tell what's mundane trauma and what's him being Touched by Vorlons.
  • The Grotesque: How Kubrick views himself, due to, you know, having see-through synthetic skin that shows his organs. And how everyone else views 2Face due to her face.
  • Happily Ever After: Assuming you survived to the end of the series, you actually got a pretty good ending, all things considered. A Gainax Ending, but a happy one.
  • Hard Light: All the living creatures (and only the living creatures; the inanimate objects are real) native to Mother's world are made out of force fields and holograms, which does nothing whatsoever to stop them from being dangerous.
  • The Hero Dies: The books don't shy away from killing major characters, most surprisingly 2Face and Billy in the final book.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Tate's sexuality was ambiguous, as were her feelings toward Tamara, but she was intended to be as least bi-sexual with an interest in Tamara.
  • Horror Hunger: Tate's ability is that whenever she's afraid, her mouth becomes enormous and she tries to eat whoever is threatening her. This results in her eating Yago, Charlie, and Amelia.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Tamara's "baby" is humanoid, but clearly not human.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: Tamara's baby needs to eat people to get power to fight the Riders. Also, Tate's mutation involves her eating people that threaten her. Yago, Charlie, and Amelia all get eaten, eventually.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: Everyone says that one reason they have superpowers is that they were exposed to radiation aboard the Mayflower, although they also acknowledge that this isn't an adequate explanation.
  • Improbable Age: All but one of the Remnants to make it to the end of the series are teenagers.
  • Infant Immortality: Not exactly (since the youngest person in the Mayflower was around ten), but when the Mayflower lands, they note that you were far more likely to die if you were a teenager than if you were older. However, it gets subverted when the vast majority of those teenagers die.
  • Jerkass: Yago spends most of his time lording his imagined superiority over other people.
  • Just Before the End: The first book covers the events leading up to Earth's destruction.
  • Kudzu Plot: To the point it sees like Writing by the Seat of Your Pants. Plot points and characters comes and go as needed, the story swerves several times, many mysteries and ideas are brought up and never resolved... it's a mess.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Originally, it was a big revelation that the Remnants had landed on a ship instead of a planet. But it's been spoiled by so many blurbs and descriptions for the series that it's not really worth hiding here.
  • Le Parkour: It isn't referred to by name, but Mo'Steel appears to be a practitioner, presented as part of his general enthusiasm for extreme sports; he and Jobs use it to get around their neighborhood quickly and stealthily in the first book.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Thirty-something characters make it to The Mother, and all of them are mentioned on a regular basis. And even more characters show up when they make it to the Earth That Was.
  • Meaningful Name: Shy Huang, 2Face's dad, is a quiet and meek man.
  • Meaningful Rename: The books' future society is one where peoples selection of nicknames is far looser. They tend to choose something that that reflects them, ie—Anamull ("animal") and Yago (from "Iago").
  • Mind Screw: The entire series is full of sudden plot twists and unknown mysteries. It gets exponentially worse once the Remnants decide to return to Earth, and suddenly the plot becomes almost incoherent.
  • Mistaken for Apocalypse: Played with. It turns out the Rock didn't destroy the Earth to quite the extent that they thought, but it was definitely an apocalypse.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Nowhere Land, the Remnants witness a battle between the Blue Meanies and some kind of... squid... things... around a sculpture while they were in an old-fashioned boat. The boat had cannons, so the Remnants decided to win the Meanies' favor by attacking the squids. But the cannons hit the sculpture, angering the Meanies. This caused them to attack.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: The Mother, for most of the series. Interfacing her causes instant Mind Rape; only Billy can survive it.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted, though it isn't focused on, the need for bowel movements is not hidden.
  • Odd Friendship: Jobs and Mo'Steel, as lampshaded by Violet in Nowhere Land.
  • Official Couple: Jobs and Violet, Mo'Steel and Noyze, Jobs and Echo, Violet and Sanchez.
  • Oh, and X Dies: Inverted; Applegate informed us beforehand that Jobs and Mo'Steel would make it to the end; everyone else was fair game.
  • Only Fatal to Adults: Only a few adults survived the hibernation in the Mayflower, but the majority of the kids aboard made it.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: A large number of the (human) characters, because of the rename-friendly culture they come from. We do generally know their birth names - for example, Jobs is Sebastian Andreeson, Mo'Steel is Romeo Gonzalez, 2Face is Essence Hwang, and Violet is Dallas Lefkowitz-Blake - but they're only used by their parents.
  • Parental Abandonment: Most of the parents are dead, either due to hibernation failure or getting killed off during the series. The only parent that makes it to the end of the series is Mo'Steel's mom, Olga.
  • Planet Spaceship: The humans who awaken when the ship reaches a destination initially think they've landed on a bizarre alien world. They soon discover it's a massive spaceship controlled by a sentient AI that brought them aboard as a curiosity.
  • Precision Crash: In The Mayflower Project, the planet-killing asteroid runs over a comet on its way in. A fragment breaks off and hits San Francisco, killing a minor character whose camera catches the whole thing and blows the secret to the world. The main body of the asteroid hits Portugal.
  • Production Foreshadowing: Probably an unintentional example, but in Them, Yago says that it'll be "freaks vs. normals", and he spends much of the rest of the series trying to create that conflict. The phrase "freaks vs. normals" would be very important in Grant's next series, Gone.
  • Promotion to Parent: Pre-series, Mark Melman to D-Caf. During the series, Jobs tries to take this role for his brother Edward.
  • Psychic Powers: Billy has them, though it isn't explained how.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Mo'Steel is the action-loving Hot-Blooded red, Jobs is the intelligent and careful blue.
  • Robbing the Dead: The group is not shy about taking supplies from their fallen members, as they don't have the luxury to be frugal.
  • Sapient Ship: "Mother" is a sapient starship. Unfortunately, after having been abandoned by her creators for centuries, she's also kind of insane.
  • Screw the Rules, It's the Apocalypse!: Almost everyone has this attitude to some extent, but the ones that really do are Mark and D-Caf, who break onto the Mayflower and get a berth so that they can survive, rationalizing "what's anyone gonna do?". This doesn't really work out for Mark, who dies before the ship takes off, but it does for D-Caf.
  • Shout-Out: Doesn't happen enough to be a real motif or a proper example of Theme Naming, but The Beatles get two: the Blue Meanies, and the title of the fourth book, Nowhere Land. Also, 2Face.
  • There Is Another: The Mayflower survivors think they're the last humans alive until they go back to Earth and meet the Alphas and Marauders.
  • Time Marches On:
    • Jobs took his name in honor of Steve Jobs; at the time the books began, 2000+, Steve Jobs was a comparatively obscure figure. Ten years later, who doesn't know who he is?
    • Played with in regards to some of the technological advances. Things like "links" (essentially blue-tooth headsets with internet access and video and audio streaming) and self-driving computerized cars were not too out of left-field for a 2000s author imagining the world of 2011, and they still might come around in our lifetimes, though now several years late.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Yago. All of the remnants have to work with him to survive, but he's definitely evil and not trusted.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: 2Face is the tomboy to Violet's girly-girl.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Quite a few of the characters (it's never explained whether their superpowers appeared during the voyage or after landing on Mother), but especially Billy.
  • Transsexual: Or something of that nature.
    "It was [Cordellia's] Great-Aunt Rebecca (formerly Great-Uncle Robert)."
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: All of the kids do this a lot, but Yago in particular. Considering what they go through, not surprising.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Published in 2001, the first book begins in 2011, before their hibernation after earth is hit.
  • Two Act Structure: Books 1-10 are about escaping the Mother alive, books 11-14 are about restoring Earth to its former glory.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Tamara, Tate, and Noyze are all black women. Tate has Ho Yay with Tamara that was almost explicit homosexuality, and Noyze grew up deaf. 2Face is an Asian girl whose severe facial burns could be considered a disability, though they don't really inconvenience her that much directly.
  • The Unreveal: The Ancient Enemy, the source of the mutations, the Missing Five, just what the "Troika" are, Roger Dodger and D-Caf's dreams, how a Shipwright became Tamara's Baby (or maybe vice-versa), how Earth possibly reformed and civilization on it survived. Yeah, there's a lot of questions left hanging.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Yago, being the President's son, knows that he has to get people to like him in order to have control. This works to a surprising extent, dispute his being Obviously Evil.
  • White Male Lead: Jobs, despite the rest of the cast being extremely diverse.
  • World of Chaos: Mother's artificially generated environment, which was mostly created from paintings. All sorts of paintings.
  • The Worm That Walks: Violet's mutation is the ability to dissolve in a mass of worms that can actually bring back the dead. She eventually passes it on to Rodger Dodger, D-Caf, and 2Face.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It:
    • Mo'Steel is chosen to be the leader of the Marauders after he kills their previous leader.
    • This is how the Riders' hoverboards work - they're mentally controlled by whichever Rider originally owns them, unless you kill that Rider, at which point, control goes to whoever is riding the board.