The League of Peoples universe is the setting of a number of novels by James Alan Gardner. A coalition of super-advanced aliens known as the League Of Peoples have granted humanity the technology to colonize the stars. In exchange, they enforce a single inviolable rule: no dangerous non-sentient being may leave its home world. As anyone who would intentionally take the life of another is non-sentient in the eyes of the League, there is an absolute ban on space travel for murderers.Most of the stories focus on the Explorer Corps of the human Technocracy, colloquially known as the Expendables. Because exploring strange new worlds is the last dangerous occupation in Technocracy, it is reserved for the ugly, the flawed, the imperfect; the members of society who are deemed expendable. It is the task of these bitter Red Shirts to travel to unexplored planets, make new contact with alien species, and generally discover that, in spite of the League's rule, the universe is still filled with a thousand painful ways to die.A couple of the novels are instead set on Old Earth, now inhabited solely by the descendants of those who rejected the League's offer and chose to retain their right to violence and murder. As all of the inhabitants have been officially deemed non-sentient by the League, they are freely available as test subjects or playthings for any passing alien which should desire to use them so. The last bastion of order is the Spark Lords, who use their advanced technology to try to bring peace to the forsaken world.The League Of Peoples Verse consists of the following novels:
And I Must Scream: While the League finds murder unacceptable, they see nothing wrong with this. A common abuse of the Technocracy and the Shaddill is to jail a person for all eternity in some form of comfort.
Complete Immortality: Oar's species — they're Made Of Diamond and do not age after the mid 20s. It's insinuated that her ancestors are all still alive, comatose in the towers on their homeworld, just too soul crushingly bored to bother moving. Oar even mentions that one time she found herself stuck at the bottom of a river; she didn't die despite drowning, merely falling into a half-awake coma until she washed up on shore. They are, however, weak to sonic damage.
The Tahpo are also shown to be effectively immortal in Ascending, having lived for several thousand years. The fact that Oar's race and the Tahpo are both under this trope is not accidental.
Creative Sterility: A number of species. The Fasskisters, for example, are masterful engineers, but can only perform projects comissioned by others; they can't imagine any of their own. The Cashlings have a genetic version of ADHD, they literally cannot concentrate on things for more than a short while. Oar's race never mature mentally, leaving them permanently childlike until their brains burn out. Humanity is gradually becoming dumber and less ethical as time passes.
Ascending reveals the Tahpo have been going around inflicting this on any species they perceive as a threat.
Deal with the Devil: The chapter in Ascending where Oar makes her pact with the Pollisand is titled, "Wherein I Am Offered A Deal With The Devil". Subverted; it works out great for Oar with no apparent negative consequences.
Death World: Melaquin, from which no Explorer has ever returned alive. Subverted. It's exactly, perfectly Earthlike down to the same species of animals and plants. The Technocracy uses it as a place to exile anyone they find embarrassing. Most people survive, join a civilization of exiles living on the surface, then try to leave, only to be forced back by the ships in orbit.
Famous Last Words: The last words of Explorers are very frequently something along the lines of "Oh shit," to the point where the Expendables use the phrase "Going Oh Shit" as an euphemism for dying.
Freud Was Right: DiscussedIn-Universe example in Expendable. When explaining why the FTL drive is called a "sperm-tail generator", the narrator comments that, given sufficient time, soldiers will assign sexual references to every damn thing.
Glowing Eyes of Doom: The Pollisand has "Baleful Burning Eyes," effectively two glowing orbs floating in its chest cavity.
Happy Birthday to You: Sung in Expendable, with the lyrics "Happy birthday, lord and master...". Phylar Tobit uses the fact that it's always his birthday on some planet in the universe to justify his drinking.
Heroic Sacrifice: Nimbus. The Pollisand refuses to revive him because it was a Heroic Sacrifice, and he sees deliberate choices as almost sacred.
Human Aliens: Oar's race, also known as the Shaddill. Or rather, a spin-off race designed by the Tahpo to be permanent children and to replace the human colonists on their home world.
Innocent Fanservice Girl: Oar and her race. Justified a few ways over — she's Made Of Diamond, her whole race are feral children, and they have a genetic predisposition towards stealth. Oar's nudity is mentioned offhand when she's introduced in Expendable (as is the nudity of her countrymen in the towers), but other than the occasional description of the effects of water running down her skin (by Festina, anyway) the nudity is mostly ignored; the only other time it's mentioned is Oar idly asking if wearing clothing would make her appear more civilized. She does wear Festina's old explorer coat in Ascending but only because she feels it would offend Festina if she didn't. It's entirely possible (and likely) to forget by the end of Expendable and Ascending that Oar has been nude the entire time.
Lawful Stupid: The Technocracy. Subverted, as this is intentionally being hoist upon them by an outside force.
The League in general. Murder? Not ok. Self defense? Maybe ok. Kidnapping someone and locking them in a pit, keeping them alive for the rest of their natural lives? Just fine.
Living Ship: The Zaretts are a race of living ships bred by the Divians, provided to them by the Shaddill.
Man Child: Oar, due to the neurological quirks of her species: while she's actually 40 and looks about 20, she acts like a little kid, due to her brain never undergoing maturity and neural pruning. Makes for an incredibly intelligent race... that burns out around the age of 50.
Meaningful Name: Some alien races introduce themselves using names taken from human culture, including the Balrog and the Lucifer.
Medieval Stasis: For varying degrees of Medieval - almost any race given technology by a more advanced race stops growing technologically. This is also a result of Creative Sterility; it befell the Cashlings and Oar's race, among others.
Nigh Invulnerable: Oar's race. It's shown she can punch with the force of a sledgehammer without much trouble, and despite her glassy appearance it takes a lot of effort or sonics to even hurt her.
A vastly intelligent being who controlled what I saw and heard might indeed present himself as a silly buffoon as not to be taken too seriously. On the other hand, a silly buffoon might boast of himself as a vastly intelligent beast who was merely playacting. Which was more likely?
Oh Crap: Explorers call dying in the line of duty "going Oh Shit", based on their most common last words.
Punny Name: Uclod Unorr. As in, "Get off my foot, you clod!"
Rape as Drama: It's unveiled Jelca raped Eel and Oar when he first met them. It's implied that they had the mentality of 8 year olds at the time.
Red Shirts: The Explorer Corps. "That's what 'expendable' means."
Rousing Speech: Phylar Tobit gives one in Expendable. He cribbed it from Henry V, a Brick Joke about Shakespeare being required reading for the Explorer Corps.
Rules Lawyer: Frequently abused by League races. For example, while murdering people (or doing something you or your government knows will cause their death) is flat out not allowed, damaging their minds using genetic engineering, corrupting their governments, or exiling them to a technically safe world but never allowing them to leave are all acceptable. "Something about free will."
Self-Destruct Mechanism: While the League won't allow ships to go around full of explosives, Technocracy ships do have a protocol which fries all the sensitive technology on board if in danger of capture.
Slave to PR: The Pollisand goes to great lengths to maintain his evil reputation:
Pollisand: I like people thinking I'm an asshole. Being an asshole is my life's vocation; I'm a goddamned asshole professional. When other people act like assholes, they're doing it on their own time, but me, it's my job."
Sonic Stunner: The standard armament of Explorers, as lethal weapons are prohibited by the League. Somewhat dangerous to crystal-based life, like Oar's people.
Survivor Guilt: Festina Ramos gets a serious case in Expendable after the landing on Melaquin.
Transhuman: Several league races fall under this. There are some that are so far beyond human comprehension that the league races can't be sure they exist. They are literally watching the entire league 24 / 7, enforcing the spirit of the rules.
What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Explorers, aka "Expendable Crew Members". Specifically, if you're ugly / oddand stupid, you can easily be fixed by readily available medical technology. If you're odd and smart the government will specifically block you from receiving treatment and push you into a suicide squad, based on the idea that ugly people don't count as "people" to the average ship crewmember, and thus letting them go off and die doesn't hurt morale nor does it cause guilt in the management that gives out the orders.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: Oar's race gets "Tired Brains" after about 40-50 years, leaving them unable to get motivated to do anything other than lay under heat lamps 24 / 7.