--> ''Spirit of Man of the Stars give me strength!''
--> '''that is not my function.'''
--> - Raj Whitehall and Center

--> '''stochastic effects may randomize even the most rigorous calculation.'''
--> - Center

--> '''if the enemy reacts perfectly, both in making a plan on the basis of statistically-insignificant intelligence and in execution of that plan, then they could successfully attack us tonight. in that case, i will begin to believe in a god myself. theirs.'''
--> - Center

--> '''i am not god.'''
--> '' No, but you're the closest approximation available within current parameters''
--> - Center and Raj Whitehall

Military Science Fiction series by Creator/DavidDrake and Creator/SMStirling, who rather specialize in the genre.

The planet Bellevue was part of a vast, star spanning [[TheFederation Federation]] until civil war destroyed the 'Tanaki Nets' that made interstellar travel possible and called down atomic fire on military installations and population centers alike. Technological civilization has been losing ground on Bellevue ever since.

1,103 years after 'the Fall', two young aristocrats, Raj Whitehall (a provincial seeking his fortune in the Civil Government's military) and his patrician friend Thom Poplanich are exploring the ancient catacombs beneath East Residence when they blunder into the centrum of Sector Command and Control Unit [=AZ12-b14-c000 Mk. XIV=], a surviving AI supercomputer from pre-Fall times.

Center chooses Raj as its instrument to reunite Bellevue and reverse the entropic cycle that will, if uninterrupted, lead to the total destruction of Human civilization and possibly the end of Human life on Bellevue. Or, as Raj sees it, he has been chosen by an Angel of the Spirit of Man as an Avatar to serve the Spirit's purposes on 'This Earth'. Both man and computer realize that this will more likely than not lead to Raj's death, either in battle or at the hands of his paranoid Governor, the Sole Rightful Autocrat of the ''Gubierno Civil'', Barholm Clerett.

The series is very obviously based on the history of 5th c. Byzantium. (Albeit with military technology more akin to that of the 1870s.) Barholm Clerett is a less-stable Justinian I. His wife Anne is a former 'entertainer' like the Empress Theodora, and Raj's campaigns show a more than passing similarity to those of Belisarius. Bellevue's Byzantium is 'The Civil Government', a theocratic state based on the literal worship of technology as relics of 'Holy Federation', the direct creation of 'The Spirit of Man of the Stars'. Interestingly, the 'Gubernio Civil' is descended from Hispanic colonists from the southwest United States and Latin America; their main language is Sponglish, similar to the Spanjol spoken by peons in the barbarian lands of the Brigade and the Squadron.

In addition to the Civil Government there is 'The Colony', a Moslem state founded by refugees from the Final Jihad and the Civil Government's most formidable rival. (The Colony was on Bellevue ''first''; presumably they had their own name for the planet.) Its other enemies are the Brigade and the Squadron; blond, fair-skinned barbarians speaking a corrupted form of American English -- Namerique -- and descended from mutinous Federation troops stranded by the Fall.

After nearly losing his command and his life on a raid against the Colony, Raj returns to defeat the Colony's Settler and its great general Tewfik ibn Jamal in the first book of the series, ''The Forge''. Raj's next assignment, in ''The Hammer'', is the reconquest of the Southern Territories currently held by The Squadron, a barbarian naval power. Raj's campaign to retake the Western Territories from 'The Brigade' is covered in ''The Anvil'' and ''The Steel''. In the final book ''The Sword'' Raj returns to the east to face the one general who's ever beaten him, Tewfik.

It should be noted that the series shares many similarities with Drake's later ''Literature/BelisariusSeries'' (not surprising really). Later, similar concept was explored by Creator/DavidWeber in his ''Literature/{{Safehold}}'' series, although with genocidal aliens replacing civil war.

A sequel series has Center and the [[SoulJar recorded mind]] of Raj acting as SpiritAdvisor to a couple of brothers on another world who must fight the Chosen, a SocialDarwinist [[TheEmpire Empire]] of [[RecycledInSpace Space]] [[ANaziByAnyOtherName Nazis]], ({{Expies}} of Stirling's own Literature/TheDraka), to ready their planet for entry into TheAlliance founded by The General. This series uses elements from The Spanish-American War, UsefulNotes/WorldWarI, the Spanish Civil War, and UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. Yet another sequel series does the same on another planet, with Creator/EricFlint stepping in for Stirling after the first book (Flint also co-wrote with Drake in the ''Literature/BelisariusSeries''), and doesn't even try to disguise the nod to ancient Rome.

The majority of the series is out of print now, but the first two books have been republished as "Hope Reborn" (available as Warlord at BaenCD), a new book, ''The Heretic'' was released in 2014.

If you're looking for the Creator/BusterKeaton movie of the same name, go [[Film/TheGeneral here]]


* AllPlanetsAreEarthlike: Bellevue's native vegetation has a reddish coloration and native lifeforms are dangerous sauroids. It's mentioned repeatedly that without aggressive hunting of the sauroids, nobody can live on Bellevue except the barbarian [[BadAss Skinners]]. However, some of the native life is edible, and reportedly TastesLikeChicken.
* AndManGrewProud: the Fall of 'Holy Federation' that led to this mess.
* {{Badass}}: Raj Whitehall.
* BadassArmy: The Civil Government forces lead directly by Raj ultimately conquer the entire planet for the Civil Government in spite of always being kept short of men and supplies by paranoid civilian leaders and a swindling Chancellor with his fingers in nearly every economic aspect.
* BadassCrew: The Companions: Gerrin Staenbridge, Barton Foley, Antin M'Lewis, Kaltin Gruder...
* BadassGay: Both Barton Foley and Gerrin Staenbridge, though they're technically BiTheWay, male-preferred.
* BanditClan: The Skinners live in clan grouping and survive mostly by hunting the native sauroids, but their primary interaction with other cultures is to RapePillageAndBurn.
* BarbarianTribe: The Military Governments, descended from [[TheFederation Federation]] soldiers stationed out in the boonies. Some are VERY barbaric indeed - and NONE of the This Earth heretics speak proper Spanjol!
* BattleCry: The Colony (Allahu Akbar!), Squadron (GETTEM!), and Brigade (UPYARZ!) all have traditional battle cries.
* BilingualBonus: If you speak the ancestor languages of Namerique or Sponglish, you'll spot the humor in things like the term for the Brigade nobility [[note]]''brazaz'', from the English "brass ass", a derogatory term for military officers[[/note]] or a spineless bottom-feeding fish used for dog food [[note]]''advocati'', from the Spanish ''abogado'', "lawyer"[[/note]]
* BestialityIsDepraved: Appearing in soldiers' comments as everything from a BadassBoast to a mortal insult, depending on context.
* TheCasanova: Major Kaltin Gruder, who averages three duels with outraged husbands per winter, keeps an entire mini-harem of slavegirl concubines, has had at least a one-night stand in every single town the army ever stopped in, and once managed to find a girlfriend to happily (and temporarily) shack up with within ''half an hour of first entering a city being sacked''. He was once heard joking that he enjoyed the opportunity to go on campaign because it gave him a chance to get out of the house and get some ''sleep''.
* TheChosenOne - Raj, and in an unexpected way his friend Thom Poplanich as well.
* ContinuityDrift - Suzette's eyes keep changing color, as do the number of generations her family have been prominent and other admittedly minor details.
* DeadlyDecadentCourt - East Residence is described even by its inhabitants as a 'snake pit' where murderous intrigue is the favored pastime of the patrician elite. Luckily for Raj Whitehall his wife, Lady Suzette, is a past mistress of all the arts from seduction to poison.
-->'''Messer Enrike, merchant:''' The Brigade were far easier to deal with. Grovel a little and you could steal them blind. Small chance that that would work with Raj Whitehall. He might pass for a simple honest soldier in East Residence, that pit of vipers, but a simpleton from the Governor's court could give lessons in intrigue to Carson Barracks.
* DaysOfFuturePast
* TheEmpire - Both the Civil Government and the Colony are like this.
* ErmineCapeEffect - East Residence court dress is extremely elaborate. The Governor is rarely seen out of his cloth-of-gold vestments and Suzette frequently wears her splendid and seductive court costume to awe and inflame provincial officials.
* EvilChancellor - Tzetzas. ''Literally'' the Chancellor. There's a joke in-story that a venomous reptile bit him and died in convulsions while Tzetzas was unaffected. Driving his own country's people so far into debt that he can enslave them and take their property for himself is just good business, as far as he's concerned. His greed even drove the Civil Government into renewed war with The Colony, due to his minions shortchanging the tribute payments and substituting poor quality materials in the non-money part of the tribute.
* EvilCounterpart: ''The Heretic'' involves a supercomputer that took exactly the opposite track to Center: enforcing stagnation and stability, and [[GodGuise deliberately presenting itself as a god]] rather than denying it. Said supercomputer is another Sector Command Control Unit (though of one generation prior to Center), and its local name is Zentrum -- German for Center (the dominant local languages of ''The Heretic'' are primarily German-derived).
* ExtendedDisarming: Raj's companions find an extraordinary number of weapons hidden on Muzzaf Kerpatik's person when they frisk him.
--> '''Raj'''(thinks): Indeed a man of affairs.
* FantasyCounterpartCulture:
** The Civil Government is Byzantine Rome, the Colony is the Sassanid Empire, the Squadron and Brigade are Vandals and Ostrogoths respectively, and the Skinners are the Huns.
** The Heretic sequel-series has Duisberg as Egypt (except the only other cultures ''are'' barbarians and not just regarded as it). Given that Duisberg's society was designed by an EvilCounterpart to Center, this might be deliberate in-universe.
** The Chosen has the Draka versus the Alliance in the form of Santandans. There are clear analogues to Spain, Switzerland as well.
** The Hafardine books has the Confederacy of Vanbert as a very clear late Roman Republic transitioning towards early Roman Empire, the Emerald League as Greece (and consequently subject to Vanbert at the time the books are set), and the Southrons filling in for (mainly Germanic) barbarians.
* AFatherToHisMen: Raj Whitehall, of course, but his subordinate commanders also qualify.
* FemmeFatale: Lady Whitehall uses her feminine wiles quite freely to advance her husband's goals, fighting from the shadows the dirty political battles that Raj is ill-equipped to fight.
* {{Handguns}}: The standard Civil Government sidearm is a five-shot revolver, similar to an early Colt. Barton Foley, however, prefers a cut-down shotgun he carries in a shoulder holster.
* TheFederation: At the start of the novels, the Federation has been dead for over 1100 years after a vicious civil war. Central's goal is to rebuild it. By the time of ''The Heretic'' Center's goal of a reconstituted Federation has to some degree been fulfilled (in the form of a "reconstituted Galactic Republic"). Little else is known of it, since the focus is on a planet that isn't part of the Republic.
* GentlemenRankers: Several appear in the books, notably Mekkle Thiddo, although Raj commissions him quickly.
* GloryHound:
** Raj worries his men will think he is this - they don't. Cabot Clerett ''is'' one however. He's a good officer but all he really cares about is his own glory.
** The Military Government troops all put glory and pride ahead of getting the job done, which is part of why Raj was able to defeat them even at a marked numerical disadvantage.
* GodGuise: The Civil Government's religion equates the Federation with Heaven, Computers as Angels, etc... It's also a good example of a CrystalDragonJesus as the Spirit of Man of the Stars faith's rites and temples bear a more than passing resemblance to the Orthodox Catholic Church.
** There's also a schism between the 'Gubierno Civil''s Spirit of Man of the Stars and the Military Governments' Spirit of Man of This Earth (the equivalent of the Arian heresy).
** The "computers as angels" aspect is played up for comic relief ... and this series deals realistically enough with war to ''need'' a lot of comic relief. Raj will notice some "holy relic" of computer technology, to which Center replies by telling him it's a minor piece of circuitry, and tended to malfunction a lot, too. And as the Arch-Sysup (equivalent to the Pope) says:
--->"My son, my son ... I shall pray for you. Avoid the sin of rashly assuming that your program is debugged ... do not in your pride refuse to copy to your system the wisdom others have been granted by long experience."
** Bellevue's Spirit of Man religions are inadvertent -- no computer ''deliberately'' caused it, and Center makes quite clear to the two persons he communicates with that he's not a god. Zentrum of Duisberg is the god of a religion it created and has enforced for over three thousand years.
* HonorBeforeReason: The [[ProudWarriorRace The MilGov tribes]] like the Squadrones and the Brigaderos live by this. And die by it in extremely large numbers.
* HorseOfADifferentColor: Instead of the Cavalry troops riding on horses, they ride on eight hundred to sixteen hundred pound dogs that were bred up to be about the size of a horse.
* IDidWhatIHadToDo:
** You might call this Raj's theme song - pity he can never quite believe it.
** It's also Suzette's theme song, and she sings it ''much'' more enthusiastically than her idealistic husband.
** At one point, one of the savage Skinners cheerfully says Raj is "bad like us" because of all the death he's caused. Raj [[YourApprovalFillsMeWithShame starts to nod in agreement]], but Center reminds him he's working to build a future in which there's ''nobody'' like the Skinners, anywhere.
* IfMyCalculationsAreCorrect - Center's extrapolative faculty is indistinguishable from prophecy, but it's EitherOrProphecy based on probabilities.
* ImpoverishedPatrician - Suzette's backstory. It helps explain some of her ruthlessness; her fierce love for Raj covers the rest.
* ImprobableAimingSkills:
** Center can do things to your perceptions, just ''starting'' with overlaying gunsights on your vision, that make unlikely shots rather more likely. Battle-hardened vets stare in awe after Raj takes down several enemies with rapid pistol fire, one-shot-one-kill. At one point it enables him to shoot a grenade out of the air -- he's relieved no one saw that, because if they had, the rumors that he receives 'divine' aid would become unstoppable.
** The Skinners may be barbarians using primitive firearms, but they almost always hit what they aim at, and several times the chief Skinner was able to hit objects with offhanded shots that weren't even aimed. One shot by the Skinner chief zips by Raj's head about a meter away, but he doesn't flinch from it because he knows that Skinners consider it insulting to hit something other than what they were aiming at.
* InsistentTerminology - Any time Raj refers to the planet he's on as "Earth", Center will interrupt with a "'''bellevue'''".
* InsultBackfire: Inverted. Several members of Raj's entourage take offense at the Skinners calling Raj "half-man", when this is in fact a compliment and Raj knows it.[[note]] the context is something like "He ain't a Real Man like us, but none of these wetlanders are, and he's a damn sight harder than most of them, almost as hard as us".[[/note]]
* MagicFromTechnology - Center claims to not be a supernatural being, but a lot of what it can do for/through Raj puts the lie to that.
* ProudWarriorRaceGuy: Several. There are the ''Squadrones'', ''The Brigederos'' and most vicious of all the Skinners, who are anything but [[NobleSavage noble savages]]!
* RapePillageAndBurn: According to Bellevue rules of war, what the troops are entitled to do after a city is taken by storm. The officers either take part or close their eyes to it. Things are usually brought back under control in twenty-four hours or so. In Raj's army, any violation of civilian property or persons after that is punishable by hanging.
* TheRival - Tewfik ibn Jamal to Raj Whitehall.
* RiversOfBlood: After the conquest of Port Murchison, Raj muses that it's the first time he's literally seen the streets running with blood.
* RoyallyScrewedUp: Governor Barholm and his nephew and heir Cabot Clerett are both raging paranoiacs who are exceedingly distrustful of Raj for various reasons, even though he has never even hinted at having any desire for the Chair.
* ScienceIsBad: Inverted. The goal of the series is to restore the High Tech civilization that once flourished on Bellevue and, if necessary, rebuild TheFederation from there.
* SchizoTech: Justified by the Fall. Some artifacts and knowledge managed to survive even if most didn't. The rest of the tech-base is firmly in the 1880s, with internal combustion engines as the cutting-edge, experimental technology.
* ScopeSnipe: During the southern campaign, a Brigadero was looking at the opposing Civil Government forces through a telescope... right until a shot from a Skinner plows right through the telescope and into the user's eye.
* ShoutOut: almost too many to list.
* SoldierVsWarrior: Raj counts heavily on this difference to defeat his more numerous foes.
* StoryboardingTheApocalypse: Center can show Raj ''detailed'' audiovisual scenarios of the most likely results of various courses of action. Sometimes, just to rub in for us what a WorldHalfEmpty they're in, it'll show him situations he can't do anything about.
%% * SufferTheSlings
* TakeThat: It's mentioned that the war dogs are often fed a particular kind of fish, a bottom-feeder with a disgusting smell, utterly unfit to be eaten by humans. The fish is called the ''avocati'' -- clearly derived from the Spanjol for "[[AcceptableProfessionalTargets lawyer]]." Only good for dog food, eh....
* ThrowAwayGuns: Barbarians like the Squadrones and Brigaderos still use flintlocks and muzzle loaders and so carry a lot of spares, instead of taking time to reload that lets their opponents get free shots at them.
* TrueCompanions: Literally, the Companions, a circle of loyal lieutenants around Raj.
** TheLancer: Colonel Gerrin Staenbridge, second in command.
** LoveableRogue: Antin M'Lewis, former Bufford parish thief and captain of scouts.
** TheSmartGuy: Colonel Jorg Menyez, infantry leader and fortifications expert (unfortunately allergic to dogs); Colonel Dinnalsyn, chief of artillery.
** TheBigGuy: Major Kaltin Gruder, the straightforward & unimaginative blunt instrument.
** SergeantRock: Master Sergeant [=DaCruz=].
* ThreeWaySex: There are indications that Gay lovers Gerrin Staenbridge and Barton Foley and their concubine Fatima enjoy this.
* UpThroughTheRanks: Antin M'Lewis, begins as a private soldier with a bad reputation, but wins an officer's commission by helping to put down a coup against the Governor.
* VestigialEmpire: The Gubierno Civil is practically a text book example. Indeed the shrinkage is a serious problem that might lead to the extinction of Human life on Bellevue if not reversed.
* WellIntentionedExtremist: Center, who considers the cause of Human civilization worth any number of individual Human lives ... though he becomes less and less happy about it the longer he knows Raj.
* WouldNotShootACivilian: Crimes against non-combatants are harshly punished in Raj's army, except after a city that refuses to surrender is taken by storm, in which case all bets are off.
* YourApprovalFillsMeWithShame: The Skinners, nomadic barbarians that are the antithesis of everything Raj and Center are striving for, regard the former as 'Bad like us!' Raj finds it rather depressing when he thinks about it overmuch.