Literature: Theirs Not To Reason Why
This is a Space Opera
trilogy by Jean Johnson, consisting of A Soldier's Duty, An Officer's Duty, Hellfire, Hardship,
which came out November 25, 2014.Ia is a precognitive, who foresees a galaxy-wide cataclysm three centuries in the future. In all the possible futures, only one comes out differently, and Ia must give up every possibility for her own life to make sure that it happens.
She must abandon her dreams of a career as a singer and musician, and join the Space Force, first as a Marine, then into other branches. She disobeys orders and conceals vital information from her own superiors. She literally wades through the blood of friend and foe alike, fighting through a genocidal war that she could have prevented. She leaves her family and homeworld in the centuries-long grip of an oppressive theocracy, all in the service of iron necessity, because if she allows anything else to happen, everything in the galaxy will die, eradicated as though they'd never been. She will sacrifice all that she would or could have been to become the Prophet of a Thousand Years, ensuring that the galaxy and all the sentients in it will have a future of more than three centuries.
This series provides examples of:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: Ia's crysium bladed sword, which she uses to cut steel and harder materials.
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: Ia can see all of Time. Naturally this is somewhat confusing to a (half-)human mind, but fortunately she's powerful enough to force it into a form she can understand. The most common setting being the Timeplains, a grassy prairie filled with streams where each stream represents the life of a single sentient being. She's also been known to turn it into a star-filled sky for poetic reasons, a woven tapestry in order to better track specific lives, and a line graph when defending her actions and the consequences thereof to a psychic ethics committee.
- Cat Folk: The Solaricans.
- Combat Clairvoyance: Saves Ia's life on several occassions.
- Energy Beings: The Feyori, who use their powers to meddle with matter-based intelligences as part of a game of their own.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Both Ia and her half-twin share a Feyori father. The accompanying psychic abilities really only manifested in Ia, though.
- Heavy Worlder: Ia is from a 3.2g planet; her consequent strength and reflexes serve her well as a Marine.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Ia's entire life starting at age 15.
- Nearly her entire crew voluntarily joins her in this. Knowing full well that it wasn't necessary, they sacrifice themselves along with Ia out of loyalty.
- Heroes Act, Villains Hinder: Ia's plans and visions are the primary driver of the plot.
- Humans Are Psychic in the Future: Because of the meddling of the Feyori. They deliberately bred psychic abilities into the matter-based races in order to guard against their ancient enemy, the Greys, for whom psychic inergy is poisonous.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Over the course of the series Ia commits genocide and personally murders or knowingly allows hundreds of thousands of people she could have saved to die. All in the name of saving all sentient life hundreds of years in the future. Somewhat subverted in that she is completely aware of the consequences of each of her decisions and therefore can arguably know that they are in fact justified.
- I Love You Because I Can't Control You: A large part of Meyun Harper's appeal for Ia is her inability to predict their actions. This makes them the one person in the universe capable of surprising her.
- I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: Chaplain Benjamin gets one in near the start of Hellfire, when Ia challenges Bennie to prove she can handle battle. Bennie's response:
You really want me to shoot a gun? Please. I'm a preacher, not a fighter.
- Doctor Jesselle Mishka uses this later on in the book, complaining that she's a doctor, not a soldier.
- Literary Allusion Title: To Tennyson's "Charge Of The Light Brigade".
"Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
- Psychic Powers: Ia has massive precognitive and postcognitive powers, along with lesser talents in telepathy, pyrokinesis, electrokinesis, telekinesis, and biokinesis.
- Power Incontinence: When people touch Ia for too long, they are likely to be pulled into her visions, which is invariably a rather traumatic experience.
- Mental Fusion: In a crisis Ia is able to fuse with a distant descendant in order to gain extra combat abilities.
- Omniscient Hero: Ia, who is able to see both the past and all possible futures with perfect clarity. Though as she herself says, while she can potentially see all of Time, she only knows the things that she actively bothers to look for and remember.
- Not So Omniscient After All: Knowing all possible outcomes of a situation is not at all the same as knowing which of those outcomes will prevail. Most of the series' plot twists are the result of low-percentage possibilities Ia has dismissed as too unlikely coming true against all odds. Any scenario involving Feyori or Meyun Harper will also be difficult if not impossible for her to see.
- Red Baron: Ia gets the moniker "Bloody Mary" after she ends up covered in Ludicrous Gibs during her first combat action. "Bloody Mary!" was the first thing out of her CO's mouth when she saw the mess. Then she gets covered in blood again, this time wearing her BDUs, when the prisoners they took stage a breakout, and that's that.
- Seeing Through Another's Eyes: Easily done from the Timeplains. This is Ia's primary method of information gathering when she needs to know things she hasn't the time to learn any other way.
- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Unfortunately this often means looking into minds she would really rather steer well clear of. Salik officers tend to spend quality time together while eating their prisoners, which is also when they're most likely to be thinking about valuable war intel.
- Shout-Out: The series is full of these.
- Space Marines: The Terran United Planets Space Force Marines.
- Sssssnake Talk: The reptilian Tlassians.
- Stable Time Loop: The Immortal was born two centuries in Ia's future, then cast back in time 15,000 years by the Feyori. She rescued a group of humans from tectonic upheavals on Earth and transported them to a distant planet, which eventually became the V'Dan Empire, and founded a religion there predicting Ia's coming as the Prophet of a Thousand Years. This also allows Ia to steal designs for future technology from the Immortal's records.
- Thanatos Gambit: Ia starts setting one up when she's barely 15. Her entire life from that point onward is dedicated solely to its success.
- The End Of The Galaxy And All Sentient Life In It: Will happen 300 years after the series' timeline. Ia's life goal is to get everything set up now and in the coming centuries so that by the time Doom rolls around everything will be in place to prevent it.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Captain Ia gives an epic one in Hellfire, as she explains to a disobedient subordinate how, by continuing to fire after she ordered him to stop, he doomed the entire galaxy. How only through one of his comrades giving up everything he ever could have been to take over a dead man's life was the total annihilation of every sapient who would ever live in the Milky Way averted. And how, because of his actions,despite all she could do to fix the situation, 720,593 people who otherwise could have been saved will die horribly.
"You will be given a list of these names to contemplate in your spare time. You are free to ignore it if you wish, but understand that I cannot. "
- Unusual Euphemism: A variety of "V'Dan" curse words substituting for many four letter words, but also more unusually replaces 'ass' with 'asteroid' in all circumstances.
- You Can't Go Home Again: By choice. It is physically entirely possible for Ia to go home even after she says her final goodbyes to her family, but doing so would cost time that she needs to spend averting galaxy-wide destruction. Her own ethics won't permit that, so in practice the situation plays out like this trope.