Literature / To the Stars

To the Stars is a science fiction trilogy by Harry Harrison, consisting of Homeworld, Wheelworld, and Starworld. It depicts a rebellion against a totalitarian interstellar government.

This series contains examples of:

  • Arbitrary Maximum Range: In Starworld the rebel admiral points out to the protagonist how energy weapons don't work due to the energy diffusion problem.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: After an apparent Hope Spot where the Earth fleet have been decisively defeated, the Rebel fleet is shocked to find several battleships waiting in Earth's orbit, and their admiral reveals they've been Lured into a Trap. As there's No Kill Like Overkill, missiles are also launched from Earth to help finish off the rebel fleet...only for them to strike the battleships, leaving Spaceconcert open to invasion.
  • BFG: One of the Israeli commandoes is firing a handheld .50 calibre recoilless machine gun during the attack on Spaceconcert in Starworld.
  • The Big Board: In Starworld, the arrogant Earth admiral has an Awesome, but Impractical holographic tank, while his counterpart in the rebel fleet has a Boring, but Practical version that just tells him the essential information.
  • Cool Train / Base on Wheels: Wheelworld features a planet with very extreme seasons where the entire population of the colony escapes the brutal summers twice each (longer-than-Earth-normal) year by picking up and moving from one of the planet's poles to the other. This is done by jacking up the colony's main buildings on wheels, forming them up behind the colony's nuclear power plants (now transformed into enormous locomotives) and making the 12,000-mile trek to the other side of the planet. No tracks — the "trains" run on roads — but the effect is definitely train-like.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The crucial Space Battle in Starworld involves The Empire and La Résistance fleet squaring off. The Earth fleet is better equipped (holo-screens) and armed (having a good number of nukes), while the rebel fleet is made up of a few dedicated warships with crews that have defected and the rest are former transports refitted for war. All space combat is done using missiles, which are used offensively and defensively (as screens and mines). Energy weapons have extremely short ranges and can only be used planet-side. However, rebel engineers have a trick up their sleeve in the form of mass drivers. The main guns are built to run the length of the ship, accelerating plain old cannonballs (without explosives) to extreme speeds. The protagonist (himself an engineer) helps them solve a programming issue with the magnets, which previously prevented them from spamming cannonballs. After some maneuvering and missile launches (which were all intercepted by other missiles), the rebel fleet gets close enough to unleash their Secret Weapon. The opening volley cripples the enemy fleet. The rebels then move in for the kill, opening up with the smaller, turreted mass drivers that fire explosive bullets, tearing the enemy to shreds. Oh, yeah, and there were no casualties on the rebel side. Nobody cheers on the winning side, though, as many of those officers used to be friends, including the two admirals.
  • Doppelgänger Replacement Love Interest: Subverted in Starworld. The protagonist is sent to Israel to meet a contact, and he at first is shocked to see Sarah, his dead love who was killed in the first book. He then starts to see differences and, after talking to her, finds out that she's Sarah's sister. They end up having sex, but it turns out they're both married (he got married in book two, and her husband is a rabbi) and have no intention of leaving their spouses.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Not explained how it works, only that it doesn't quite violate Einstein's Theory of Relativity, even though it seems to. The inventor of the principle initially submitted his work to open criticism, hoping the others would find a mistake in his calculations. They couldn't. Time Dilation is somehow involved with a factor of 2.
  • Glad I Thought of It: The Russian Space Navy admiral in Starworld is known by his subordinates for his low tolerance of criticism (and love of vodka while on duty). As such, his Number Two tries to find ways to contradict his admiral in such a way as to present it as the admiral's own idea, usually with phrases like "Haven't you told me once..." The one time the subordinate openly criticizes the guy, he gets slapped for his efforts.
  • Government Drug Enforcement: In Homeworld, the upper-class protagonist is initially surprised at the idea that the proles might be rebellious, as the government lets them have all the drugs and booze they want.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: When it looks like Thurgood-Smyth will become a hero of the revolution, Jan Kulozik picks up a submachine gun, convinced he will create a Full-Circle Revolution. Thurgood-Smyth just tells him to go ahead, if he doesn't trust the new democracy will survive someone like him in it.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Starworld has the rebel admiral explain to the protagonist why energy weapons don't work in the vast distances of space. Although missiles are being used by both sides, the rebels use linear accelerators firing unguided cannon balls to gain the decisive edge, then finish them off with a Flechette Storm of rocket-propelled bullets (fired from the standard infantry weapons of the time) which work well over infinite ranges due to the lack of air resistance.
  • La Résistance: Many of the colonies decide they've had enough of Earth's tyrannical rule. They band together, along with a number of fleet officers. In fact, the admirals commanding both fleets in the key space battle used to be good friends. It ends up being a Curb-Stomp Battle, in which the rebels obliterate Earth's fleet using a new weapon (mass drivers). Then they attack Earth's orbital defenses, while Israeli forces storm the Mojave spaceport in a well-coordinated attack.
  • Magnetic Weapons: In Starworld, La Résistance develops coilguns as their secret weapon and use them to obliterate the Earth fleet. Prior to that, all space combat was fought with missiles. The ammo for the big guns that ran through the spine of the ships was regular old cannonballs, while the ammo for the smaller, turreted versions was explosive bullets. The main character even plays a crucial role in resolving the bugs with the magnet timing system thanks to his skill as a computer engineer.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Thurgood-Smyth. The hero refuses to trust him, but he arranges everything so the rebels have no choice but to follow his plan.
  • Mercurial Base: Drives the plot in Wheelworld.
  • Mr. Exposition: Reverend Montour in Starworld, who serves solely to flesh out and further explain the true past of the Earth that the main character first learned of in Homeworld.
  • Planet of Hats: EarthGov has not only terraformed Single Biome Planets, they've also created a unique culture for each in order to maximise their control. For instance the agricultural planet the protagonist has been exiled to in Wheelworld is populated entirely by peasants and mechanics, ruled by a group of autocratic Familys.
  • Post Peak Oil: According to the official history, the old rulers of Earth squandered away their resources until almost nothing was left. Then the new leaders stepped in and made do with what they had. Then Faster-Than-Light Travel was invented, and other planets became sources of resources.
  • Resistance as Planned: Jan Kulozik encounters his brother-in-law Thurgood-Smyth from the first novel, now a powerful Security official on Earth. Thurgood-Smyth claims that he deliberately foisted resistance in the colonies to bring about the downfall of the corrupt Earth government, and proves decisive in their victory. Jan is convinced he's just an amoral Manipulative Bastard, and quietly asks after their victory if this trope was in play or he just changed sides when he saw which way the wind was blowing. Thurgood-Smyth calmly informs Jan that as he'll disbelieve any answer he gives, Jan will simply have to make up his own mind.
  • Secret Weapon: Starworld has a Space Battle between two fleets: one belonging to Earth and one to La Résistance. Up until then, all space combat was done with missiles (conventional and nuclear) with missiles being used for both offensive and defensive purposes. Energy weapons might work well on planets but their range is too short for space warfare. So they end up building mass drivers the length of the ship, launching iron cannonballs, as well as a smaller, turreted version firing explosive bullets. The opening volley from the main drivers cripples the unsuspecting Earth fleet, which are finished off by the bullets. The Earth fleet doesn't even have a chance to shoot back.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Justified — an imperialistic Earth has terraformed a number of planets (with a custom-made culture as well), each one dedicated to farming, production or mining of one particular resource. The idea being that none of them have the diverse resources needed to launch a revolt.
  • Standard Starship Scuffle: Lampshaded and averted in Starworld, with the rebel admiral screening a space battle scene from an old movie, then pointing out how unrealistic it is.
  • Vodka Drunkenski: The admiral in command of the Earth fleet sent to destroy the rebels is Russian and likes to down shots of vodka on the bridge.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The trilogy begins with a Big Brother-like Earth lording it over interstellar colonies set up to be totally dependent upon each other. Since each colony requires numerous goods (which they are never allowed to stockpile) each made only on one of the other colonies, it would be impossible for a revolt to succeed unless every colony did so at once. Which they do. (It's not not strictly Earth-vs-everyone-else, though. On Earth itself there are several rogue states that cling to old ideals, such as democracy, the strongest of them being Israel. The last novel makes it clear that a revolution can only succeed with a simultaneous assault on the surface and space.)

Alternative Title(s): Homeworld, Wheelworld, Starworld

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/ToTheStars