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Literature: The History of the Galaxy
Expansion: The History of the Galaxy
("Экспансия: История галактики") is a long-running Russian science fiction book series
written by Andrey Livadny
. Unlike many other series, Livadny's novels rarely include the same characters. For the most part, each novel focuses on one or several characters being thrust into extraordinary events at some point in the universe created by Livadny, spanning a timeline between the 23rd and the 39th centuries.
Unfortunately, the novels are plagued by Canon Discontinuity
, which could have been explained away
by Unreliable Narrators
, if not for the ubiquitous use of the third-person viewpoint. It should be noted that the novels were not written in the chronological order of the Expansion universe.
The eponymous history of the galaxy is, for the most part, focused on humanity's expansion into the stars. Aliens only come to play in much later novels (according to the universe's timeline). Even then, there are surprisingly few alien races shown in the novels. However, this can be explained by the fact that humans have only explored a tiny part of the galaxy (despite the name of the series) and have only colonized slightly more than 200 worlds. In fact, the entire series tends to be human-centric, most prominently displayed by the so-called Galactic Wars, which only occurred in several dozen systems and without alien influence (aliens have not been discovered yet).
While most novels are of the Military Science-Fiction
variety, especially the ones dealing with the above-mentioned Galactic Wars, the author likes to go into the many moral issues arising from technological advancement, such as artificial intelligence and mind-machine interface, as well as other issues such as human-alien interaction.
It should be noted that all alien species in the novels can be classified as Precursors
, as most of them are several million years old, and some have stopped counting at several billion
. They left a number of ruins and artifacts, although only one is known to have been as far as Earth, but that was way before humans evolved.
To date, the series includes 34 novels and 20 short stories. Additionally, several of the novels are organized into sub-series:
- Mercenary: explores the consequences of creating an army of mindless androids to fight in a war.
- John Mitchell St. Ivo: chronicles the adventures of the last descendant of the family that founded the largest Mega Corp. in history.
- Mother: describes the evolution of a self-aware AI and its attempts at creating a new mechanical race.
- Living Space: involves the discovery of new alien races and the effect of new technology on humanity.
- Mechanoforms: showcases the invasion of human space by self-replicating machines which are all that remain of a long-dead civilization.
The novels contain examples of the following tropes:
- Absent Aliens - played straight for the first half of the series (in-universe chronology). Other races discovered later and play an important part in the second half of the series.
- Abusive Precursors - the Shvergs were an ancient, expansionist race responsible for several genocides. Humanity has yet to meet them, if they are still around.
- A God Am I - one of the novels has humans encountering an Energy Being that is indirectly responsible for the creation of all biological life in the galaxy (possibly, the Universe).
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot - a damaged photonic computer created by the Insects millions of years ago witnesses a devastating battle between Space Marines and radical separatists (who managed to obtain an antimatter weapon) and decides to destroy humanity. Does a Heel-Face Turn after the novel's protagonist repairs it (i.e. sticks the crystals that fell out back into their slots).
- For a series that focuses so heavily on AI, this trope is surprisingly rare. This is not to say machines don't attack humans, but they are usually war relics who are simply following their programming. After all, since their side lost, everything they see will be classified as enemy.
- Alien Among Us - very rare, as most aliens look nothing like humans. One novel had an example where a Harammin disguised himself as a human by using portable holographic generators (ironically, a human invention).
- Alliance, The - Free Colonies.
- Ancient Astronauts - the Delphons and the Logrians are mentioned to have visited Earth in the distant past, leaving only myths of their visits. The only problem with that is that the last time they visited was 3 million years ago, so it is unlikely that the early hominids would pass on any stories to us. It is also implied that the Logrian genetic experiments on artificially impregnating human women were partially successful. They left behind some machinery for doing this and then extracting the genetic samples. Also, "iezuz" is a word in Logrian meaning "artificial conception" or "genetic experiment". Does This Remind You of Anything??
- The Logrians from the First World have also visited Earth during the Middle Ages to "recruit" slaves for menial labor, their uttely alien shape (including two snake-like heads) possibly inspiring myths of dragons coming from the stars.
- Anti Matter - the LIGHT annihilator is a Wave Motion Gun that works by forcing the target object to create anti-matter particles via fusion. The result is an Earth-Shattering Kaboom (sometimes, literally) that takes out the object and everything around it.
- Additionally, the new generation of modular Space Fighters introduced in The Backup Spaceport is powered by an anti-matter reactor that utilizes a mix or tritium (hydrogen-3) and anti-tritium, which is described as being the only anti-matter particle that only annihilates if it encounters a tritium particle and none other.
- Arbitrary Maximum Range - justified with the use of missiles as primary weapons for ship-to-ship combat (they constantly weave and dodge to avoid being intercepted). Played straight with lasers, plasma guns, and mass drivers. On the other hand, ground-based missile weapons have ridiculous ranges, some even able to hit a target in orbit when launched from the surface.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence - the Emulotti survivors had to ascend to escape the Shvergs. A human was also forcibly turned into energy by a piece of Emulotti machinery.
- Balkanize Me - after over a 1000 years, many people get fed up with the Confederacy of Suns and its fleet, due to the lack of any external threats and unequal planetary rights. The Confederacy is dissolved for about 30 years. Then several external threats are discovered, and it is quickly reformed.
- Brain Uploading - a common theme in later novels with the discovery of logrs and the Logris. Each logr is a powerful alien mini-computer capable of holding the consciousness of a sentient being and using the being's memories to create a personal virtual world when "plugged" into the Logris, an enormous super-computer composed of billions of logrs. This adds a major philosophical issue to the storytelling, as being able to do this and then download the consciousness into a cloned body makes a person effectively immortal. Interestingly, the concept of soul is never brought up.
- Even before the logrs, the "Loner" AI modules were designed to directly interface with the minds of the Space Fighter or Real Robot pilots in order to draw on their experience. This usually resulted in parts of the pilot's personality imprinting on the Loner, sometimes "reviving" the consciousness of a dead pilot in the Loner after his physical death.
- Bug War - Insects vastly outnumber humans and have a completely different mindset.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive - too numerous to count. One even stages an attack on The Federation after he is threatened with jail time.
- Cracker, The - futuristic hackers with brain implants are a major plotline of several novels.
- Cyberspace - separate from virtual reality. Every electronic device is perceived by certain people with multiple brain implants, allowing them to remotely interface with the devices. In contrast, VR is rendered by software for the user's benefit.
- Dead Man Switch - during the last years of the First Galactic War, the Earth Alliance set up automated outposts in systems surrounding the territories of the Free Colonies. Should Earth ever be successfully attacked, the outposts were supposed to launch a massive mechanized attack on the unprepared colonies. However, the admiral in charge of the Earth defenses deliberately disabled this system in order to save humanity. After all, if both Earth and the colonies fall, who's left?
- Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud - tornado missiles are used by Confederacy of Suns forces to destroy old Earth Alliance automated military bases, most of which are underground. Once the general location of a base is known, the ship in orbit launches missiles that detonate in the tropopause (that is, if the planet has one), starting several tornadoes that naturally seek out hidden air shafts and proceed to destroy everything in the base.
- Dyson Sphere - the Insects built one around their star in order to both provide plenty of living space and solar energy but also to protect their race from the oncoming Forerunners. The project lasted nearly a 1000 years and was partially successful. Unlike a "traditional" Dyson sphere, the Insect version was flattened at the top and bottom and, from the side, looked more like a rugby ball (or a football, for Americans). It was heavily damaged but not destroyed by the Forerunners and remained in a state of disrepair for 3 million years until humans found it.
- Electronic Telepathy - cybreakers can enter another person's mind via a brain implant that present in most humans. They can sift through their memories, conduct Mind Rape, or fry the victim's brain. Only specially-trained people called mnemonics are able to fight off cybreakers.
- Empire, The - Earth Alliance.
- End of an Age - the collapse of the first Confederacy of Suns is seen this way by some, considering it was in existence for nearly 1000 years.
- Energy Being - the "God" being is one, as well as the Evolgs. The Emulotti became these after the Evolgs helped them Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. The Forerunners are between this and primitive biological beings.
- Everything Is Online - the giant Interstar network is the evolution of modern-day Internet with most systems plugged into it.
- Explosions in Space - averted, as the main threat from an explosion in space is debris flying everywhere at high speeds.
- Played straight with the use of antimatter weapons. Their first use in battle saw the complete annihilation of a moon and two armadas... from one shot.
- Federation, The - Confederacy of Suns.
- Fish People - the Delphons.
- Frickin' Laser Beams - heat lasers are used in ground, air, and space engagements, although Magnetic Weapons are usually preferred over them.
- On the other hand, lasers do not require ammo, just energy. If you have a working reactor, then you can fire as much as you want. Apparently, overheating or the need to replace the gas/crystal is not a problem in the future.
- Generican Empire - The Confederacy of Suns, the Stellar Khalifate.
- Heavy Worlder - the Norls are large humanoids from a world whose gravity is at least double that of Earth. One is shown to be able to easily grab a huge rock and toss it aside. Their handheld weapons can easily take out an armored vehicle or a Real Robot.
- Heroic Sacrifice - plenty.
- Hive Mind - sufficiently large Insect clans establish a telepathic field that serves as this for them. While it is initially stated by the Insects themselves that their cities with their unique architecture are necessary for such a field, this proves to be a Batman Gambit on their part which, ultimately, fails.
- Human Aliens - only two alien races are humanoid. The rest are very different.
- The Delphons are often described as aquatic humanoids, although they should probably be classified as Fish People.
- Humongous Mecha - nearly every single novel features battles involving "serv-machines" - 20-60 metric tons of death on legs piloted by a human and/or an AI, depending on the model. After the end of the Galactic Wars, the basic designs settled on three models: the 60-ton (metric) Phalanxer, equipped with long-range missiles and rocket-propelled artillery but poorly suited for close-range fighting due to low maneuverability, although the missile racks can be discarded after firing to lighten the load; the 40-ton Raven, a rare medium variant used either in pair with one of the other models or independently; and the 20-ton Hoplite, a light (for a Humongous Mecha) and maneuverable variant equipped with close-range weaponry, usually to protect its big brother the Phalanxer but often used as a scout and/or spotter.
- Interestingly, after defeating the Earth Alliance, the newly-created Confederacy of Suns adopted the Alliance serv-machine classes instead of its own Golden Eagles used during the war. Then again, many useful Alliance inventions and designs were borrowed by the colonists after the end of the war due to their effectiveness.
- Hyperspace Is a Scary Place - the Hypersphere anomaly/dimension is, for all intents and purposes, empty. It is complete and utter darkness (except for a small area at the center). Navigating it is difficult on the best days and impossible without proper equipment. Dive too deep, and you get crushed by intense energy "pressure". Emerge from it without proper calculations, and you could end up inside a star or a planet.
- I Know Mortal Kombat - during the First Galactic War, the Earth Alliance recruited a battalion made up exclusively of teenagers playing a mech simulator MMO in booths secretly set up by the Earth Alliance military. These gamers proved to be formidable opponents due to their unorthodox and unexpected tactics, especially when fighting machines. For example, no machine would ever think of reprogramming surface-to-air MIRV missiles to act as ballistic missiles.
- Immortality Immorality - the Harammins were obsessed with immortality at any cost. They finally did it by using clones and consciousness transfer. However, this turned them into decadent aristocrats with no respect for life.
- This is precisely why the Logrians refuse immortality, despite inventing the technology.
- Imported Alien Phlebotinum - after the liberation of the Logrians from Harammin rule, they give humans some of their technology, including the logrs (tiny crystalline computers capable of holding a person's mind), the Logris (a massive space-based computer composed of billions of logrs), and the light-bending gravity generators.
- An inverse example includes human hyperdrive technology, later adopted by the Insects and the Logrians.
- Improvised Weapon - while not a clearcut example, the LIGHT antimatter weapon was originally developed as a new type of engine for spacecraft.
- Instant A.I., Just Add Water - AI chips are mass-produced for both civilian and military use. Several AIs have attained a certain level of self-awareness, although an archaeologist in one novel claims there will never be a "true" AI (i.e. an AI that evolved without help from a human or due to programming). All AIs are programmed to learn at an incredible rate. Those interfacing with humans absorb human memories and incorporate them into their own, often developing their own personalities.
- Invisibility - can be partially achieved using full-body suits with chameleon coating. Also, an ancient Harammin experiment resulted in a virus that mutates anyone exposed to it into one of four types. One of these, the Shadows, are able to hide themselves from visible detection, although this doesn't affect their clothing.
- Jesus - in the novel Living Space, it is revealed that Jesus was indeed a real person but was just a man with an unusually high IQ for the time. He was created by machines left by the Logrians 3 million years ago, programmed to monitor human evolution. Occasionally, the machines would mix certain bloodlines to produce superior specimens. Jesus tried to help people and was, eventually, tortured and crucified. Detecting that one of the specimens is near death, the machines took his dying body and placed it into a suspensor field, making it look like a halo. His consciousness was subsequently copied onto a logr to be placed into the virtual universe of the Logris. At the end of the novel, the deceased protagonist meets Jesus inside the Logris, wandering the desert generated by his mind for nearly 4 millennia.
- According to the Logris, "iezuz" is a Logrian word meaning "artificial insemination" or "genetic experiment".
- Love at First Sight - most novels feature characters meeting and falling in love ridiculously quickly. In fact, some characters' inner monologues indicate love at first sight when they remember first meeting the other person, but there was nothing in the novel itself to indicate this, which is similar to what many people in Real Life claim (memory is a fickle thing).
- Macross Missile Massacre - when missiles are used in space, they are usually launched in ridiculous numbers, usually to counteract equally numerous point-defense systems on enemy ships. A dedicated missile frigate is stated to be able to simultaneously launch up to 100 missiles at 50 different targets; however, they are not very effective against heavy cruisers, as those can easily shrug off the hits.
- Magnetic Weapons - except for one novel, EM weapons play an important role on any battlefield. All handheld weapons (except antiques) fire tiny metallic balls accelerated to extreme speeds by a magnetic field. They are, however, not very effective against armored targets. In these cases, "ancient" weapons firing bullets provide significantly better penetration than EM weapons, which are designed for anti-personnel roles. Larger versions of these are mounted on fighters and capital ships but can be countered by thick armor.
- Regular firearms are used by humans on Insect planets in order to prevent them from obtaining advanced weapons.
- In one novel, EM weapons are specifically referred to as Gauss guns.
- Mech By Any Other Name, A - mechs are either called "serv-machines" or "walking machines".
- Milky Way Is the Only Way, The - no one ever brings up the idea of going to another galaxy. Justified, due to only a tiny fraction of the galaxy being explored by humans and other known races. Also, the nature of Hypersphere seems to indicate that it does not stretch beyond the Milky Way. It is possible that every galaxy has one, but it doesn't exactly help matters.
- Nonindicative Name - the so-called Galactic Wars took place in a few dozen star systems and, in the grand scheme of things, was nothing more than a localized conflict (even though it lasted over 30 years) that only involved humans.
- The Phalanxer-class serv-machine does not fight in a phalanx formation.
- The Insect Dyson Sphere is not actually a sphere but looks more like a rugby ball from the side.
- One of the names for the inhabited planet at the center of hypersphere is First World. There doesn't seem to be a reason for the name. This world is actually the last one to be sent into hypersphere (although the only one to remain habitable) during the joint Insect/Logrian experiment.
- Negative Space Wedgie - the imprint of the galaxy at the center of hypersphere emits powerful electromagnetic fields that have an EMP-like effect on most electronics. It also somehow amplifies human energy potential, sometimes allowing a consciousness to exist separate from the body. Scientists have no idea how this is possible, but given that there's an entire artificial star system located deep inside hypersphere, their bafflement is understandable.
- Neglectful Precursors - the creators of the mechanoforms end up unintentionally unleashing a self-replicating menace on the unsuspecting galaxy. The same menace ends up destroying them first.
- Other races also occasionally leave artifacts lying around that have bad consequences. However, in their defense, they were escaping the Forerunners at the time.
- Old-School Dogfight - fighter/bombers are the primary means of space combat.
- Panspermia - one of the novels reveals that all biological life in the galaxy is a side effect of mass migrations of the Forerunners, primitive semi-organic creatures created by an ancient Energy Being as vessels for its consciousness.
- Perfect Pacifist People - the Logrians don't like to fight, which doesn't stop them from developing powerful weapons and defenses. The Emulotti also don't like to kill, but only because they don't want to feel bad afterwards. They even separated themselves into "quarter-entities" to fight the enemy. Needless to say, it didn't work out as they planned.
- The Logrians also have no problem with going to primitive worlds and bringing back slaves to do the menial work, as the Logrians are more thinkers than laborers.
- Planet Eater - the Forerunners were a massive swarm of non-sentient beings which consumed all matter in their path.
- Portal Network - the Insects, Logrians, and Harammins created these in order to quickly move between planets and systems. Since all portals are using the same principle and technology, there is no way to limit access to undesirables. This became a problem during the Forerunner Crisis 3 million years ago, when billions of fleeing Insects practically invaded Harammin planets through their own portals. Portals can exist in various sizes, from small ones for people to humongous ones for spaceships.
- Each portal is, basically, a primitive version of the hyperdrive used by humans, consisting of two generators: a low-frequency generator to "submerge" objects into hypersphere, and a high-frequency generator for "surfacing". These races just never developed a portable version of the generators. On the other hand, humans went straight for hyperdrives and never developed portals.
- Powered Armor - when not piloting Humongous Mecha, Space Marines wear this.
- Power Of Love, The - present in some novels, where love is enough to overcome any obstacle. For example, an gynoid reprogrammed as an assassin remembering an android she met before and overring her programming upon seeing him in the sniper rifle scope.
- Psychic Powers - all Insects are telepathic, capable of both mental communication and Mind Rape.
- Pyrrhic Victory - the first use of the LIGHT antimatter weapon in battle was supposed to be a trap for the Earth Alliance fleet. The Colonial fleet assembled in a system a few jumps away from Earth in order to provoke an enemy response. Their intention was to surround the enemy fleet and herd it near a planetoid that would be the target of the weapon. Unfortunately, the Alliance used a new jumping technique to ambush the Colonial fleet with two armadas. The Colonial admiral had no choice but to fire the weapon anyway. The resulting explosion vaporized the planetoid, also destroying the Alliance and Colonial fleets. Only 8 Colonial ships survived, and the weapon itself was lost. So not only did the battle result in a Pyrrhic victory, but it left the colonies almost completely defenseless.
- Real Robot - serv-machines are usually classified as this when facing other serv-machines. When facing other types of combat vehicles or soldiers, they are usually seen as Humongous Mecha.
- Also, during the First Galactic War, the colonists designed cheap autonomous walkers called LDLs (Large Driver Laser) with rudimentary computing capabilities (i.e. no AI) and the ability to work together with other LDLs. The LDL-55 variant is armed with a 200-megawatt laser, able to slice cleanly even through the thick armor of a Phalanxer. These were produced by the thousands in order to counter the Alliance's much more effective serv-machines.
- Research Inc: the Galactic Cybersystems Corporation
- Space Is an Ocean - subverted, for the most part. While the author tends not to focus much on space battles, the few that are described do not really go into much detail and mostly focus on a single fighter pilot rather than a fleet. Fleet officers use a ranking system loosely based on Russian naval ranks with the addition of the "Galact" prefix (e.g. Galactlieutenant, Galactcaptain), although the prefix is only used during introductions and as a form of formal address. It should be noted that the fleet and the Space Marines are considered to be the same branch of the military.
- Space Marines
- Space Age Stasis - Partly played straight, considering the setting spans about 1500 years of human space exploration. While there are technological advancements, there are also centuries where nothing appears to change much from the time before. This is surprising, considering that some novels are focused on radical new technologies and their effect on society and warfare. And the argument about "everything has already been discovered" doesn't apply as a number of Precursor races and ruins have been found whose level of technology vastly surpasses that of the humans (i.e. there is room for a lot of improvement). Basically, you can pick up a book set in 2607 and one set in 3867 and see a good number of the same pieces of technology with little in terms of improvement.
- Standard Sci-Fi History
- Stealth in Space - possible with the use of jamming equipment, especially if controlled by a cybreaker. Also, the Logrians invented extremely powerful gravity generators and used them to hide an entire star cluster from the rest of the galaxy for 3 million years. Smaller versions have later been adapted by humans for use on ships, although their operation requires the use of a skilled cybreaker or mnemonic in order to constantly adjust settings to match the changing environment.
- Subspace Ansible - most civilized human colonies have giant automated HF (Hypersphere frequency) stations in orbit, allowing instantaneous interstellar communication. They create stable HF channels and carrier waves. Ships are also able to do this but to a lesser extent.
- Subspace or Hyperspace - all FTL travel is achieved by entering another dimension (or anomaly) called the Hypersphere (it's an actual sphere with the galaxy "surrounding" it). Most aliens use stationary gates, while humans and several other aliens created portable hyperdrives.
- Turned Against Their Masters - the enslaved Insects rebelled against the Harammins. A group of androids began killing their owners on a farming planet. While there are plenty AIs in the novels that go around killing everything they see, they don't fit the trope because they have been programmed to behave this way (most of these are First Galactic War relics).
- One group of 400-year-old androids does decide to wipe out humanity as revenge for having their personalities destroyed for the purposes of war.
- Unusual User Interface - most humans get a chip implanted into their skull when they're born. This allows them to mentally control simple devices. The military versions allow a pilot to perceive himself as the machine he is piloting. Basically, the pilot of a Humongous Mecha only has to think or even get an idea of doing something, the machine's AI will pick up on the thought or impulse and execute it. Can lead to some unorthodox tactics, such as ducking when fired at with RPGs (a natural human reaction). The AI also learns during this melding, eventually adopting tactics and personality traits of the pilot.
- War Is Hell - a common theme in many novels, especially if the main character is a soldier.
- Wave Motion Gun - LIGHT antimatter weapon. When first used in battle, destroyed a moon as well as two armadas.
- The War of Earthly Aggression - the First Galactic War begins with a surprise attack of the Dabog colony by Earth Alliance in order to force the colonies to allow unrestricted influx of additional settlers from the overpopulated Earth. The most frustrating thing is that President John Winston Hammer simply assumed that the colonies would say "no" and didn't bother to ask. What started with a nuking of two major Dabogan cities and a massive invasion turned into a pitched battle with the locals, who manage to rout the invading forces. In frustration, the fleet admiral nukes the entire colony from orbit. The other colonies band together against the common threat. What was supposed to be a week-long blitzkrieg turned into a 30-year war which nearly spelled doom for all of humanity. The Alliance was eventually defeated, and the colonies formed the Confederacy of Suns on the ruins of the war.
- We Have Reserves - this is generally how the Insects fight, given their advantage in numbers compared to the other races. Also, their warriors are usually mindless drones.
- During the First Galactic War, the Free Colonies desperately needed ways to successfully counter the extremely deadly Earth Alliance serv-machines on planetary battlefields. While the colonists had their own serv-machines, they were not nearly as effective as the Alliance ones. As such, two new types of combat drones were designed that could be cheaply produced en masse and have limited tactical capability and the ability to work together. The LDLs (Large Laser Drivers) were small autonomous walkers armed with powerful lasers (the LDL-55 variant's laser is 200-megawatt) and the MX-300's were treaded RPG launchers. Entire batallions of these were thrown at Alliance forces, and many still walk around the battlefields centuries later.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human? - this often becomes the moral question when dealing with AIs, cyborgs, and humans whose consciousness has been copied onto a droid or a Humongous Mecha. In later novels, the Confederacy of Suns has passed a law granting equal rights to fully-sentient machines, including machines carrying the consciousness of a human. There is still plenty of prejudice, though. However, many new technologies allow a droid to look indistinguishable from a human using real-looking skin, etc.
- You Can't Go Home Again - theme of several novels.
- One such novel involves a soldier ending up on a world that used to be the testing ground of the Harammins. He gets infected with a genetically-engineered airborne virus that turns him into a Shadow (he has Invisibility, empathy, and Immortality). He realizes that if he ever makes it back, he will infect everyone with the same virus, resulting in chaos and mayham (some mutations are of the Body Horror kind). At the end of the novel, several dozen Ganians also end up infected. Like him, they decide to stay.