A series of twelve novels by Simon Hawke, written from 1984 to 1991. The main characters live in the 27th century, but the greater part of each book takes place in the past.
After the invention of Time Travel
, the world has ended war in the present. International conflicts are resolved by sending soldiers into the past to fight in wars that have already happened, but the soldiers have to be careful not to cause a Temporal Paradox
, which could have disastrous effects on the timestream. The main characters are members of the Time Commandos, a unit with the job of averting paradoxes by carrying out "adjustment" missions in the past.
The main recurring characters are Lucas Priest, an everyman type who's the main audience identification figure; Finn Delaney, a career soldier with an exceptional service record and a serious discipline problem (he has very little patience with any officer who doesn't earn his respect — which is nearly every officer he's ever met); and Andre de la Croix, who was born in the 12th century but wound up emigrating to the 27th and joining the Time Commandos after getting mixed up in an adjustment mission.
A recurring antagonist, Nikolai Drakov, was introduced partway through the series. One of his plots resulted in attracting the attention of another set of recurring antagonists, Time Commandos from an Alternate Universe
who became convinced that their own universe's survival depended on them sabotaging the protagonists' history.
Works in this series
Tropes found in this series include:
- Action Girl: Andre
- Alternate Universe
- Back from the Dead: Lucas, via a screwy time-travel trick that fixed it so he never died in the first place
- Cloning Blues: The main villain clones himself, implants the clones with his memories, and gives them scars identical to his own. As a result, the heroes can't be sure if they're meeting the original or a clone, and the villain himself often wonders which he is.
- Cloning Gambit: see above.
- Dead Alternate Counterpart: Happens both ways once the timeline of the Alternate Time Commandos is introduced. It's established early on that Andre's counterpart is dead; later inverted with the Time Commandos meeting the late Hunter's still-living counterpart.
- Does Not Like Women: Doctor Darkness. Actually, he just doesn't like people (and moved to a base on a planet around another star to get away from them) but Andre is told he has particular issues with women.
- Drinking Contest: After Andre joins the Corps, Lucas and Finn agree on a drinking contest to settle which of them gets to make a move on her. When she learns about it, she insists on being allowed to compete as well, wins handily, and makes it clear that she's not much impressed with either of them.
- Expendable Alternate Universe: Averted; the characters are understandably horrified to learn that their technology has caused the equivalent of a nuclear war in the Alternate Universe, which declares war on them, and whenever they set out to mess with the alternate world's history, it's with a full understanding of the consequences.
- Fish Out of Temporal Water: Andre.
- Flock of Wolves: In The Pimpernel Plot there's a scene where, apart from the Scarlet Pimpernel and his nemesis, everybody in the room turns out to be an undercover time traveler, with about half of them working for the villain and the other half there as backup for the heroes. (Possibly a bonus in-joke for readers familiar with the source novel: in the original version of the scene, apart from the Pimpernel and his nemesis, the room is empty.)
- Genius Bruiser: Finn.
- God Guise: In The Khyber Connection, Gunga Din hails Dr. Darkness as the god Shiva after seeing him teleporting.
- Half-Human Hybrid: The hominoids.
- Have a Gay Old Time:
- In the original The Prisoner of Zenda, there is a scene in which it is decided that the King's double must hold up the ruse by making love to the King's fiancée. When this scene is revisited in The Zenda Vendetta, the conversation is re-worded to make it quite clear what this will (and will not) involve.
- In The Dracula Caper the team, disguised as contemporary American secret agents, use "gay" in the modern sense, leading to the following exchange:
H.G. Wells: The deceased was gay?
Agent: He means the deceased was homosexual, Mr. Wells.
H.G. Wells: I'm so glad I learned that before travelling to America, I would hate to give the wrong impression.
- Headless Horseman: The Hellfire Rebellion
- Hedge Maze: A clandestine meeting occurs in one in The Pimpernel Plot.
- High Dive Escape: The Zenda Vendetta
- Historical-Domain Character: Freely mixed with Public Domain Characters and becoming more prevalent as the series moves towards historical fiction at the end.
- Historical In-Joke
- In Spite of a Nail:
- The timestream can compensate for small disturbances, as long as you don't do something major like kill Winston Churchill.
- Even though the Alternate Universe has a different history, each of the major characters has an exact genetic duplicate there, and all their duplicates are in the equivalent of the Temporal Corps.
- "Join the Army," They Said: Temporal Corps recruiting presentations involve the more attractive soldiers, many of whom have never seen actual combat, dressing up in pretty historical costumes.
- Last Minute Hookup: Lucas and Andre
- Lilliputians: The Lilliput Legion
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: Each book is connected with a famous historical work of literature. Apparently in the Time Wars universe, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Three Musketeers, and The Prisoner of Zenda were factual historical accounts. Later books abandon literature for Mythology and actual history.
- Lost in Imitation: Each book is based more on a famous film version of its inspiration than directly on the book itself: The Nautilus Sanction, for instance, on the Disney film of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It's not clear whether this is because Hawke expects his audience to be more familiar with the films, or because the film versions are generally a more convenient length, or what. (There are enough in-jokes and references to show that Hawke has read the originals, so that's not the reason.)
- Mad Lib Thriller Title: Every single book, often referring to a classic work of literature that inspired the book. In order: The Ivanhoe Gambit, The Timekeeper Conspiracy, The Pimpernel Plot, The Zenda Vendetta, The Nautilus Sanction, The Khyber Connection, The Argonaut Affair, The Dracula Caper, The Lilliput Legion, The Hellfire Rebellion, The Cleopatra Crisis, and The Six-Gun Solution.
- Mad Scientist: Dr. Darkness.
- Magic Plastic Surgery: often used to help the protagonists impersonate historical figures
- Make Wrong What Once Went Right: Most of the villains, for a variety of reasons.
- Mexican Standoff: In The Pimpernel Plot, immediately after the Flock of Wolves reveal.
- No Equal Opportunity Time Travel: It is mentioned in the first novel that while the Temporal Corps recruits women, they are often limited to support roles in missions as not many time periods have frontline female fighters.
- One of the Boys: Andre, having grown up as a 12th Century Sweet Polly Oliver knight.
- Ontological Inertia: The Law of Historical Inertia says that any minor charges in the timestream will be smoothed out like water flowing round rocks. You need to make a sizable change to affect history, which the antagonists generally plan to do.
- The Plan: Drakov, over and over.
- Pinocchio Syndrome: the hominoids, especially in The Hellfire Rebellion.
- Power Trio: a number of the books revolve around the same three characters (Lucas, Finn and Andre) going on missions together.
- Public Domain Character: the inevitable lynchpin of a series based on Whole Plot Reference
- Recruiters Always Lie: See "Join the Army," They Said above. The series regulars bitterly note how these sales pitches bear almost no resemblance to their actual duties, which frequently involve being on freezing, muddy battlefields, disguised as peasants in lice-ridden clothing.
- Reverse Mole: Martingale
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: In the Pimpernel Plot the team manages to reverse an error that (unbeknowst to them) created an alternate timeline...and then has to live with the fact that erasing that alternate timeline may just make them the greatest mass murderers in all history.
- Shown Their Work: The Hellfire Rebellion and The Six Gun Solution both contain excellent summaries of the historical events and people involved (Pre-Revolutionary Boston and the gunfight at the OK Corral, respectively).
- Shrouded in Myth: In The Ivanhoe Gambit, Robin Hood turns out to be a lot less impressive than legend makes him out to be.
- Splitting the Arrow: In The Ivanhoe Gambit, one of the heroes, standing in for Robin Hood, cheats with uptime technology to pull off this feat.
- Stranger in a Familiar Land: Lucas is happy to return to civilian life at the end of the first book, but finds he doesn't fit in any more and re-enlists.
- Submarine Pirates: The Nautilus Sanction
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Andre, in the first book and a few times thereafter.
- Take The Third Option: Gulliver (yes, the Gulliver) says he'd prefer death to a memory wipe, which he sees as essentially the same thing. Colonel Forester recruits him instead.
- Techno Babble
- Temporal Paradox: heading them off is the commando's primary job.
- Time Police
- Time Travel
- Token Romance
- Tomboyish Name: Andre again; she acquired the name in her Sweet Polly Oliver days but continues to use it even when not posing as a man. (Any other name she may have had is never even mentioned.)
- The Tourney: Part of The Ivanhoe Gambit takes place during the tournament from Ivanhoe.
- Tricked Out Time: basically the entire MO of the Time Commandos
- The Trope Kid: The Montana Kid in The Six-Gun Solution.
- Villain Exit Stage Left
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Drakov and the Timekeepers.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?
- Year Inside, Hour Outside: The Temporal Corps recruiters only require soldiers to enlist for a week, but that's a week of the present; you can spend six months in the past and come back five minutes later. However, thanks to 27th-century anti-aging treatments, most soldiers look much younger than they really are and still have a decent lifespan left when they leave the army.
- You Will Be Beethoven: The Pimpernel Plot