Captain Jez of Spaceforce
A Space Opera
series by Penelope Irving, centred around the work of Earth’s space police force against a backdrop of three potentially warring Galactic ‘empires’ (although only one superpower is, technically, an empire).
An unspecified number of centuries in the future, Earth is at the centre of a Union of around 1200 inhabited worlds. But we are not of course alone in the Galaxy - on one side is the ancient Taysan Empire, Space Elves
with a rigidly stratified caste-based society and an absolute monarch, and on the other, the totalitarian People’s Republic of Daros. A hundred years before the series began, the governments of each signed a three-way peace agreement that has just about held up since. But with each signatory thereby pledged to gang up on the other if any one breaks the accord, there’s widespread fear that the Peace is fragile at best.
‘Preserving the Peace’ against Taysan espionage and Darian infiltration is Spaceforce, the United Worlds of Earth’s crimefighters IN SPACE.
The series follows the adventures of Jez, an experienced officer with a Dark and Troubled Past
, and a new recruit, Andri Ferris, a Techno Wizard
who came to the attention of Spaceforce when they arrested him for cybercrime. The pair work for ISIS, the branch of Spaceforce which deals with sensitive, political, intergalactic problems. Oh, and Jez is a space vampire.
On the Taysan side, there’s Jay, a charming and ruthless spy who got that way because he was a poor fit for the life he was born to lead - and Ashlenn, a spirited ingenue who is forced to abandon her position in Taysan society.
The books are a mixture of adventure, soft-core spy thriller and police procedural, with running character arcs and a bit of romance thrown in. The series is intended to be ongoing, according to the website
THE BOOKS SO FAR ARE, IN ORDEROutcaste
(2014) Citizen Andri
This series contains examples of:
- Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Prince Ragoth’s attempts to speak English.
- Action Girl: Pretty much every major female character but in particular Jez, Ashlenn and Mizal.
- Alien Lunch: The banquet given to the visiting Taysans in Deadline is this, seen through their eyes. ‘Soup’, a drink you eat? Frozen flavoured animal milk? Urgh.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Jay has no difficulty attracting female attention or seducing normally respectable Taysan women. As for aliens, he even catches Gretcha’s eye although she’s just slept with Andri and he is still there in the room.
- Averted with Mizal, who physically assaulted him on the one occasion he tried it on with her.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Clearly Jay is not quite normal by Taysan, and perhaps even by human standards. Salthar describes him as a sociopath. However, despite his ruthlessness and tendency to be a Manipulative Bastard, he seems to be capable of feeling love and loyalty.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: The Big Bad of “Oblivion turns out to be the last surviving member of the elite Mixitor nobility. She is abetted by the Hon. St John Pemberton, a minor aristocrat from Earth.
- Averted by Jez, who is also daughter of another, less prestigous noble house.
- Asexual: The player Cathur in “Oblivion”, whose asexuality is in Taysan culture a shameful secret that has caused him to be exiled, and blackmailed, and in the end drives him to suicide.
- Armor-Piercing Slap: Salthar delivers one of these to Jay when he confronts him after Jay’s elopement.
- Bald Black Leader Guy: Commander Judd, chief of the Interplanetary Special Investigation Squad and Jez and Andri’s boss, is certainly black and in charge. We’re given no specific information about his hair or lack of it, but baldness doesn’t seem unlikely. He’s certainly Large and In Charge.
- Becoming the Mask: In Outcaste, Jay has clearly become very comfortable in the Swordbearer Caste and his life plan seems to involve remaining as one.
- Berserk Button: Never suggest to Jez that she drinks blood!
- Blue Blood: The Taysan Empire is ruled by a single absolute monarch, but the Imperial and Noble Castes presumably provide back-up.
- We learn in “Oblivion” that Jez’s homeworld, Mixitor, had a system of Greater and Lesser noble houses.
- Bodyguard Crush: According to Jay, Prince Ragoth’s lovely young female bodyguard Maydith is in love with him, and he with her. Thanks to Taysan taboos against inter-degree relationships, it can never be.
- Brain in a Jar: Harri Howe, Chairman of the Fantasia Corporation. Lampshaded by Andri.
- Break the Haughty: Jay, at the end of Outcaste - and at the end of Oblivion. Whether he stays broken is another thing.
- Bury Your Gays: Leela Choudhray, the only character in the series so far explicitly revealed to be gay, is murdered in a staged suicide.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": There are plenty of alien animals referred to by their ‘original language’ names throughout the series. For instance, Jez thinks of Jay as a ‘slumbering ''anx’’’ - presumably some kind of large predator.
- Camera Spoofing: In Deadline, the Prince’s kidnapping is covered up by a hacker who fakes security camera images from an earlier time period.
- Also in Oblivion, Andri performs the same trick with Fantasia’s security cams to allow Jez and Jay to sneak into the planet’s central research laboratories without attracting unwanted attention.
- Can't Hold His Liquor: The Taysans en masse react so badly to alcohol that even drinking slightly fermented fruit juice can turn them violently aggressive or sexually disinhibited. According to Prince Ragoth, brewing and selling this illegal substance is one of the few instances of widespread criminal behaviour amongst the Taysan people.
- Clueless Chick Magnet: Andri doesn’t particularly seek women out, but he seems to attract them anyway.
- Cold Open: The opening chapter of Oblivion, in which theme park ride engineer Karen Chase falls to her death.
- Conveyor Belt-O-Doom: The climactic action scene of Deadline, when Prince Ragoth is nearly dragged into a gigantic dust-grinding machine.
- Cop and Scientist: Jez and Andri. While technically Andri is a cop too, he’s really there to know about stuff.
- Crash-Into Hello: Jay and Ashlenn meet by colliding with each other in a courtyard in her Big Fancy House.
- Crystal Spires and Togas: While not described in detail, Taysan cities do seem to use a lot of crystal in their architecture. And the warrior swordbearers aside, robes of some sort are de riguer fashion for the majority of the Taysan population.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Jez was exiled from her homeworld as a teenager, after an uprising by her race’s ‘bloodservants’ that wiped out almost all of her people.
- Deadpan Snarker: Jay is the past master of this, but Jez and Andri have their moments too.
- Decadent Court: The Taysan Court is certainly big and fancy, and it’s implied that it’s a hive of backstabbing and machination.
- Divorce Requires Death: There seems to be no such thing as divorce in the Taysan Empire. In Outcaste, when Dazil knows that her husband Carral wants a son, she’s genuinely afraid he might murder her in order to be free to marry another woman.
- Domed Hometown: The city of New London on the colony planet Hope in Deadline is described as the second-largest domed city in the Union. The dome just keeps out the weather - nothing sinister.
- Downer Ending: Let’s look at the end of Oblivion. The Big Bad, Minty Mazata, has got clean away - only her hapless sidekick St John Pemberton is left in the custody of Spaceforce, to carry the can for the whole Oblivion debacle. Fantasia itself has been blown up. And Jay and Ashlenn have been forcibly separated by the dictates of the Taysan Empire, and forbidden ever to contact each other again.
- Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: The many different Taysan castes all wear distinctive clothing. So much so that the Player Caste can unmistakably characterise a member of, say, the Swordbearer Caste on stage with a stylised costume.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Fantasia, at the end of Oblivion.
- Elopement: Jay and Ashlenn.
- Establishing Character Moment: Jay’s very first scene finds him, as a sixteen year old, in the arms of a seductive older priestess - setting the tone for his major preoccupation in life.
- Eternal English: The language which the Taysans call ‘Earther’ is definitely identified as English. And bar a very few buzzwords it seems to be the same English we use today, although that might just be Translation Convention.
- Everyone Is Single: None of the main characters appear to have partners or even boyfriends/girlfriends, although Jay engages in frequent liaisons and Andri, as of Oblivion, seems to be going the same way. Of course technically Jay and Ashlenn are now married to each other, but given that they’ve been forced to separate, who knows how that will turn out.
- Fancy Dinner: Jez and Andri are invited to a gourmet dinner in a floating bubble restaurant by the management elite of Fantasia. It’s interrupted, as all good fancy dinners should be, by news of a death.
- Fangs Are Evil: Minty Mazata’s certainly are. Jez keeps hers hidden most of the time.
- Fantastic Caste System: The Taysans, up to eleven. Everyone is born into a very specific profession and cannot leave it.
- Fantastic Drug: Oblivion, which can induce a lucid dreaming state.
- Fatal Flaw: Jay is pretty omni-competent and unshakable, but women can lead him astray. He does know this, but can’t seem to help himself.
- Fish People: The Ralaloons, dancers encountered briefly by Jay and Ashlenn on Fantasia.
- Fully-Clothed Nudity: How the very modest Taysans perceive the Eathers’ way of letting arms, legs and cleavage hang out. When Jay strips to the waist in Oblivion, it’s the first time Ashlenn has seen a man’s arms - let alone anything else.
- Genki Girl: Mizal, even though she’s dead.
- Green-Eyed Epiphany: It’s jealousy of Rovenn that makes Jay realise he has genuine feelings for Ashlenn.
- Silver-Skinned Space Babe The Taysans. Except for the ones who are golden instead.
- Hacker Cave: In Deadline, the Spectrum has managed to turn a luxury penthouse suite into one of these.
- Hereditary Republic: Mixitor before the Uprising was apparently this, with the nobility forming the government and the ‘Grand Protector’ coming of necessity from one of the Great Houses.
- Hive Mind: in Oblivion, the Chairman of Fantasia claims that the fantasi-coli bacteria have a rudimentary hive mind. Jez is sceptical. And it doesn’t stop the Taysans blowing up the whole planet in the end to eradicate the species.
- Hollywood Encryption: Andri seems able to get into anything, after a few minutes’ fiddling with his various Black Boxes.
- Horror Hunger: Mixitors need to ingest the blood of another species on a very regular basis, or die within 48 hours or so. Fortunately for those like Jez who want to maintain some social standing with other species, concentrated blood capsules will do.
- Hot for Preacher: Jay is first introduced to the delights of the flesh at the tender age of sixteen by Shiell, Priestess of his local temple.
- Humans Are White: Averted. There are plenty of non-white humans mentioned in the series, from Commander Judd to relatively minor characters such as Commander Nagasaki and Dr Leela Choudhray. Of the major characters, Andri is the only white human. It is implied though that colony planets are largely divided on ethnic lines.
- Ignored Epiphany: Jay’s compulsive womanizing causes him endless trouble, particularly as such behaviour is actually a criminal offence in the Taysan Empire. He does recognise this and vows to reform at the end of Outcaste - the very first scene of Deadline, the next book, finds him in a tavern, attempting to pursue a liaison with the serving wench.
- I Have Many Names: Jay, which isn’t really his name anyway. We do know that his birth name is Jhal, but he uses a variety of aliases interchangeably as the situation demands. Justified in that some names seem to be appropriate for different castes, and his job as spy usually involves impersonating a suitable identity.
- I Have Your Wife: Minty taunts Jay with this in Oblivion. It has the desired effect, at least temporarily.
- Interrupted Intimacy: Jay and Ashlenn are discovered in flagrante delicto by Jez in Oblivion.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: In Oblivion, Jay doesn’t hesitate to use this on a hapless mook who was just trying to feed a vat of bacteria, in order to get information about the bad guys’ whereabouts.
- Justified Criminal: Calia in Deadline, who has been sentenced to the status of non-person for marrying a man of lower degree. This has driven her to acts more widely viewed as criminal, such as kidnapping and murder, but Jez feels sympathy for her.
- King of the Homeless: Calia, leader of the Outcaste in Deadline.
- Large and In Charge: Commander Judd.
- Last of her Kind: Minty Mazata, last daughter of all the Great Noble Houses of Mixitor. Not actually the last Mixitor, but her status makes her default leader of the exiles - despite being a murdering drug baron.
- Letting Her Hair Down: Ashlenn, on the beach in Deadline in the scene where Jay urges her to elope with him. Given extra significance by the fact that in Taysan society, ‘unbound’ hair is considered indecent.
- Nastily subverted with Mizal, whose hair is let loose by her murderer/torturer to humiliate her. Jay pins it back up when he views her mutilated body.
- Lizard Folk: The Rrertaxi.
- Love Is a Weakness: Jay believes this - and in his case, really, he’s right.
- Love Triangle: Jay, Ashlenn and Rovenn, if briefly.
- Lying to the Perp: In Oblivion, Jez is quite happy to string a minor drug dealer along with the promise of release in return for co-operation, and to renege on the deal when she has what she wants.
- Male-to-Female Universal Adaptor: Jay seems to have no difficulty sleeping with alien women.
- Manly Tears: It’s ambiguous, but it seems that Jay may shed a few after reading the first section of Mizal’s field report.
- Massively Numbered Siblings: Jay has eleven sisters.
- Motive Rant: Corusval delivers one in Deadline when Jay confronts him with evidence of his treachery.
- My Instincts Are Showing: Jez can transform into something like the traditional vampire ‘feeding face’, with curled lips and unnaturally extruded canines. She seems to do it when feeling threatened - or deliberately, to intimidate.
- Named After Their Planet: Pretty much everyone. Taysans come from Taysar, Darians come from Daros, Mixitors come from the world that used to be called Mixitor. Naturally, most aliens refer to humans as ‘Earthers’.
- Naming Your Colony World: Andri reflects in Deadline that the earliest Earth colonies were called by ‘cheesy’ names such as Hope, and indeed later we hear about worlds called Inspiration, Discovery and Horizon. There are also examples of New Something planets in the Union, such as New Scotland and New Florida.
- Never Suicide: The death of Leela Choudhray, which certainly looks like suicide, but Jez immediately suspects is not. Later, Harri Howe tells her that Damien had her killed to silence her.
- Nice to the Waiter: In Outcaste, Jay is so polite to a servant that Dazil notices and comments. Of course, she doesn’t know at that point that he is of worker origins himself.
- Noodle Incident: Whatever happened at Orion’s Eye, the year after ‘so-called’ Commander Brightman ceased to be head of security there.
- No Sex Allowed: Darians are apparently forbidden by law to have personal relationships.
- Not That Kind of Doctor: There are so many doctors in “Oblivion” that Jez gets exasperated. Only a couple of them are ‘that’ kind of doctor.
- Only One Name: Jez has other names (Jeziandra of House Aznata) but she doesn’t use them in day-to-day life. Maybe to avoid drawing attention to herself as one of the few surviving Mixitor nobles.
- We know Jay’s birth name (Jhal) but not his clan, an important part of any Taysan name. He doesn’t sign it on the marriage registry in Fantasia.
- Our Vampires Are Different: The Mixitor are not really vampires at all. Not in the supernatural sense. They just happen to need to drink the blood of other creatures to survive, and can bite you in the neck with their optionally-extruded, venomous fangs.
- Pardon My Klingon: Jez swears like a trooper - but in her own language. It doesn’t trouble Andri, because he keeps his translator unit profanity filter on.
- People's Republic of Tyranny: The People’s Republic of Daros.
- Pleasure Planet: Fantasia.
- Posthumous Character: Mizal, who was dead before the opening of Deadline, but who affects the actions of several characters throughout the series so far. Though we don’t meet her, we hear her voice strongly in her unfinished field report.
- Posthumous Narration: Mizal’s field report.
- Questionable Consent: In the series’ most explicit sex scene so far, Jay more or less forces himself on Ashlenn while she’s saying no. She enjoys it in the end but it’s definitely Dub Con.
- Romantic Runner-Up: Ashlenn was all set to allow the archivist Rovenn to court her before Jay appeared on the scene. One wholly suggestive firestaff lesson with Jay, and she dumps him.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Empress of Taysar genuinely rules as an absolute monarch, and at least one of her sons engages in diplomatic missions.
- Scar Survey: Jay shows off his to Ashlenn when explaining his true background to her.
- Shameful Strip: Before being murdered, Mizal was stripped naked and her body is delivered back to the Taysans like this. Jay reflects that whoever did it ‘knew Taysans’.
- Shed the Family Name: Jez doesn’t use her ‘House’ name, Aznata (although she did give it when she was presented to the Taysan Empress in Deadline). She implies that it’s because she fears attack from the Scree, who massacred most of her people and targeted nobles in particular.
- Small Town Boredom: A deep desire never to return to his breadfruit-growing, peaceful, rustic backwater homeworld of Redvarr is one of Andri’s driving motives in life.
- Space Elves: As the oldest spacefaring race in the known Galaxy, the Taysans consider themselves to be enlightened and civilised, certainly in comparison to the chaotic and decadent Earthers and the sinister Darians. This is not Jez’s view of them, at any rate.
- Space Police: Spaceforce, obviously.
- Standard Sci Fi Setting: Faster-Than-Light Travel, check. Wise Spiritual Race, Genocidal Race, check. The Federation, The Empire, check. Couldn’t be more so really.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Jay and Ashlenn.
- Also, Mizal and Salthar, and Prince Ragoth and his bodyguard Maydith. Are there any non-starcrossed lovers in the Empire?
- Techno Wizard: Andri.
- The Charmer: Jay.
- The Coroner: Gretcha Killborn in Oblivion.
- The Cracker: The Spectrum in Deadline. It’s implied that Andri used to be this, to some extent.
- The Emperor: Or, in the Spaceforce universe, the Empress. She rules the Taysan Empire as an absolute monarch and technically owns every world in the Empire.
- The Federation: The United World of Earth.
- The General's Daughter: Sent to investigate General Corusval, Jay is specifically advised not to seduce his daughter. So instead he elopes with her, which turns out as well as you might expect.
- The Jeeves: Jay’s very respectful and efficient manservant, Rall, who just happens to be spying on him and reporting his every move back to his boss.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Taysan Empire is at peace, and apparently has been for centuries within its own borders. It’s not clear, therefore, what the extensive, highly trained and omnipresent Swordbearer Caste actually does.
- The Spymaster: General Salthar, head of the Tayshak and Jay’s boss.
- The Wise Prince: The Taysan Empress’s youngest son, Prince Ragoth, is an effective diplomat. We see him display a certain degree of grace under fire while kidnapped in Deadline, but in Oblivion he reappears and is instrumental in securing Ashlen asylum with the Union.
- Translator Microbes: Everyone wears (or has implanted) a piece of micro-technology which provides real-time translation of speech, though not necessarily of written language. It’s not perfect, however. Earther translators seem to render (usually Taysan) speech as somewhat stilted.
- Unobtainium: hyperdrive engines are powered by a crystal called garrium, a material so valuable that an entire planetary economy is based around scooping up tiny fragments of it in tonnes of dust.
- Villain Exit Stage Left: Minty Mazata gets away at the end of Oblivion, having vamped Jay and fled the planet in her own ship before the alarm was raised.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Damien Howe, grandson of the founder of the Fantasia Corporation, seems to have been seeking his grandfather’s approval in vain all his life (or at least since his mother’s premature death).
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ashlenn’s father Corusval is passing secret research to, as he thinks, the Earthers because he fears the Darians are arming for war against the Empire and the Union. He wants the Earthers to share the Taysans’ technological advantages.
- The Outcaste, who have banded together to ensure their own survival and now want to force the Taysan Court to give them an official place to live.
- Woman Scorned: Dazil in Outcaste. She is so distraught by what she sees as Jay’s rejection of her that she turns him over to the authorities, having learned the secret of his origins in the course of their affair. But there is also a suggestion that she might have planned to seduce him from the outset, in order to get pregnant and avoid being ‘replaced’ by her husband.
- Wound That Will Not Heal: The ‘vampire’ punctures Minty Mazata makes in Jay’s neck show no signs of healing by the end of Oblivion.
- Your Normal Is Our Taboo: In the Taysan Empire it’s a criminal offence to marry someone of a different ‘degree’ (social class, effectively), and you can to all extents and purposes be executed for doing so.