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Characters / Caliphate

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Characters in Tom Kratman's dystopian science fiction thriller Caliphate, sorted according to faction.

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    Imperial States of America 


Following a nuclear strike in American soil by Middle-Eastern terrorists, the distraught and grieving American public elects radical populist candidate Pat Buckman who promises revenge against the ones responsible. The United States declares an all out war against Islam, nuking all Muslim states in the world (and North Korea) at once, destroys Mecca and begins a campaign of conquest to control the entire Western Hemisphere. By the end of Buckman's term, the Imperial States of America were formed, controlling the entire continent from Canada to Argentina with a couple of puppet states such as the Philippines under their sphere of influence.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: They carry out such campaign of extermination against Islam that they have no problem tracking down people that might share DNA with terrorists and execute them too. If this isn't enough to class them, their campaign to annex Canada is referred to as Anschluss in-universe.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The political system and culture of the ISA is very authoritarian, or basically a civic nationalist version of fascism. It deports Mexicans by the millions and kills the moros in the Philippines, and most people accept this as good (or at least necessary) in-story. Tom Kratman has elaborated on it in an interview, saying that he wanted it to be as dystopian as he could make it while still having it somewhat plausible-ish.
  • Dirty Commies: There is a Marxist underground that tries to undermine the Imperial States, mostly in the former Canadian territories, with Hamilton playing a part in dismantling one of its cells. However, it's mostly small and powerless, since its ideas are no longer popular with the masses.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: If there is one thing the Imperial States has learned from the Three Cities, it's that every response they make will be excessive. Their nuclear retaliation against all Muslim countries by association with terrorists is proof of that, but it's mentioned that the specific attacks on Indonesia and Malaysia were because the president suspected that their governments were enabling piracy and terrorism in nearby countries.
  • Eagleland: They are "The Boorish" amplified many, many times. Even genuinely good Muslims like Besma would have reasons to hate them and refer to them as "American devils" because they blockade every Muslim country from global trade and destroyed the Middle East.
  • The Empire: Following Buckman's amendments to the Constitution and becoming the effective dictator-for-life, the USA is renamed the Imperial States of America.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: While they embody several Nazi-like characteristics, they can be fairly egalitarian when it comes to gender and race. They welcome people from all over the world so long as they aren't Muslim.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Imperial America may be a de facto People's Republic of Tyranny that does any number of horrible things, but the one thing they seemingly don't do is widespread transhumanism. Even among OSI agents, cyborgs are the exception rather than the rule, and by all appearances, no one is forced to accept any modifications.
    • Outright slavery appears to be a massive taboo as well, if Hamilton and Caruthers' individual disgust for the practice.
  • Expanded States of America: United Americas variation, having conquered Canada by force after their nuclear attack on the Islamic world, with the rest of South America falling into line voluntarily rather than inviting their wrath (except Venezuela, which was then taken by force). Plus, they also annexed the Philippines.
  • False Utopia: Though not really to the people in it, like Hamilton, who know full well how much it sucks. However, the ISA is widely seen as much better than it is in many other countries—when Hamilton describes everyday life there to Petra, she thinks it sounds like a utopia, since the ISA's brand of oppression is far quieter and less "in your face" than the public whippings, crucifixions and ban on literacy for women in the Caliphate.
  • Final Solution: Attempted it towards Muslims by forcibly removing them from America, pressuring countries around the globe to follow suit and bombing most Islamic countries in the world. However, the aftermath ended up establishing the Caliphate when the refugees hijack democracy in Europe to establish their own fascist regime.
  • Fictional Political Party: The "Wake Up, America" Party, which is unofficially nicknamed the "Armaggedon Party" is the one that comes into power in response to the establishment's perceived weakness and failure to bring the terrorists to justice. They pretty much become the sole party in America after Buckman had consolidated his power and got rid of all obstacles to his reign.
  • Illegal Religion: Islam is considered a "pseudo-religion" or "a dangerous political movement only dishonestly pretending to be a religion" and declared not protected by the Constitution. While never explicitly stated, it's implied that with the exception of Christianity, all other religions followed suit and were declared illegal; it's mentioned that in it's initial days, the ISA was tolerant and welcoming towards Buddhists, Hindus and Animists immigrants, after the Constitution is repealed and the President is given absolute powers, freedom of religion is presumably abolished as a result.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: It's made clear by the narrative that the ISA is evil, but at least women are still freer (well, as free as they can be living in a dictatorship) in contrast to the ones living in the monstrously misogynistic Caliphate, so much so that Petra believes it's an paradise when John tells her about his home. To say nothing in comparison to the Celestial Empire, which might be infinitely worse.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: The setting has a whole lot of cyborg technology with fairly nightmarish implications, but its use is heavily restricted in the ISA, due both to government regulations and the country's generally conservative culture, so its society still comes across as pretty normal. The Celestial Kingdom deploys much more of this, and the Caliphate also makes some (horrible) use of it, though they can't manufacture their own tech and have to import it from China.
  • Oppressive States of America: A dictatorial, dystopian future United States that went bad after some very traumatizing terrorist attacks, and is now an Empire that has conquered many foreign countries and forcibly brought in so many Indian immigrants that Dinesh and Ashwarya are said to be among the most common names in the country.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: At least as far as Muslims are concerned, they are this since in their point of view, every Muslim is a terrorist by default.
  • The Extremist Was Right: The insane slide of the United States from a small-government pro-business country to a worldwide imperial horror turns out the only sane way to deal with the terrorism.

President Pat Buckman

President of the United States elected after the Three Cities' disaster and founder of the Empire.
  • The Conqueror: While he serves as President, he transforms the United States into the Imperial States, conquers and directly annexes all of North America, and establishes American hegemony over the Hispanic countries to the south.
  • Exact Words: He tells all Muslims that they will be safe within the internment camps... While automatically pardoning anyone killing a Muslim outside them anywhere on American soil.
  • False Reassurance: He is able to get away with locking up political dissidents by placing them into internment camps for their own protection... Or else Buckman's followers would kill them.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: He came out from nowhere in the aftermath of the nuclear attacks on the US soil and goes on to rise into power until he had effectively turned the USA into a fascist regime.
  • Glorious Leader: A political nobody who rises to prominence after devastating terrorist attacks, promising revenge. He is elected in an historic landslide, carrying every single state.
  • Karma Houdini: He died quietly in his sleep in 2036 leaving behind a legacy of an oppressive empire, the enmity of most of the world and civil liberties damaged beyond repair.
  • Knight Templar: He swore to get even with the terrorists after they nuked America, and once he is President, he does. To the point of destroying much of the Middle East.
  • Necessarily Evil: How its actions are portrayed in the narrative, they are guilty of so many atrocities (ethnic cleansing, state-backed terrorism, concentration camps) that appall even their own citizens, but they go along with it because 1) they are fighting a merciless enemy and 2) they'd probably get punished for sedition.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: It's probably not a coincidence that his name sounds very similar to that of conservative columnist and former Presidential candidate Pat Buchanan—who, to be sure, isn't this kind of lunatic in real life, but got pilloried as one by the liberal media when he ran for office back in the 90s. Effectively, Buckman really is the caricature that Buchanan was merely smeared as.
  • The Pardon: Uses the power of presidential pardon as a weapon against Americans he politically opposes, pardoning all but one person who murdered his opponents (the exception was due to the murderer having been determined to have killed purely as revenge for an affair between the victim and the killer's wife, and nothing to do with politics).
  • Magnificent Bastard: In-Universe example. A historical document notes that while he could be insane, no one could accuse him of not thinking ahead and planning for the future, since he managed to consolidate his power under in 3 years and turn the USA into an dictatorship with him as supreme leader for life. And all of that with his people's blessing and by the time everyone realized what he did, it was already too late...
  • Predecessor Villain: At least during the time the main narrative takes place, since he is long dead by nearly a century.
  • President Evil: A combination of President Insane and President Evil. He manages to become The Emperor in-name only when he repeals the constitution granting him unlimited terms.
  • Strawman Political: Basically, Buckman is a caricature of the Left's perennial fear of "Literally Hitler!" Republican candidates: a dark horse populist presidential hopeful who is elected following a domestic crisis, turns the country into an Alt-Lite, civic nationalist dictatorship and uses bad language in public.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: During the first three years of his term, Buckman was capable of successfully eroding democracy and freedom in the United States with complete support from both the senate and the American public, galvanized by the loss and desire for retribution against the terrorists.
  • The Unfettered: Will do anything in his power to eradicate Islam, from internment camps encouraging emigration to terror bombings, Einsatzgruppen-style purges, from invading Latin America to establishing a confederation from said countries to purge Islamic communities in their borders.

John Hamilton

An American soldier-turned-CIA agent, he is charged of infiltrating the Caliphate to locate a trio of renegade scientists.
  • Action Genre Hero Guy: Hamilton fits just about every criterion on the list on the trope page, from his background to Laurie's death and his post-military career. His attitude is also by and large the one which is to be expected of this sort of protagonist.
  • Anti-Hero: Even though Hamilton is a Nice Guy and his mission is fundamentally to save mankind, one has to keep in mind he is in the service of The Empire and he has to do many morally ambiguous stuff like pretending to be a slaver to complete his mission, even if he very tormented by it.
  • Badass Normal: With several biomods and cyborgs making appearances, Hamilton is nonetheless the toughest operator on the Caliphate mission, and he is fully human in every sense. At one point, the OSI want to upgrade him with a skill chip, but he rejects this out of hand.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: He starts out as an ISA military officer, then becomes an OSI agent after mustering out. OSI is basically the Thought Police—though in this setting, they are perhaps the closest thing there is to a "good guy" faction in the international intelligence war.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: He expresses nostalgia for America when it was a free, democratic country a century before his actual birth set in a time it's an autocratic regime instead.
  • The Captain: He is promoted to the rank of Captain after his mission in the Philippines.
  • The Cynic: Doesn't have a strong sense of patriotism because he knows the ISA is an horribly repressive empire.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: When he loses Laurie, his drinking increases.
  • Has a Type: He is attracted to blondes, something one of his colleagues points out.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Briefly descends into this after Laurie's horrible death, but he manages to pull himself out of it, partly through his own effort and partly thanks to concerned friends. His default characterization is more a Knight in Sour Armor.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Feels this way due to giving the detonation to explode area where Laurie is being kept prisoner.
  • "Join the Army," They Said: Privately monologues at the start of the story that he never planned on making out a military career and only wanted to use it as an foundation for something else.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Hamilton knows that the world sucks, and that he's far from perfect, himself—and neither are his superiors. Nonetheless, he keeps trying to do the right thing whenever he can, even if it's hard and usually thankless.
  • May–December Romance: A downplayed one with Petra, who is at least an decade younger than him. (More specifically, Petra is seventeen at the time—Hamilton's age isn't specifically stated, but he should be roughly in his early thirties if one works back from his career track and the in-story dates that are given.) Hamilton himself notices this and feels some awkwardness over it, but goes along with it when he is convinced that Petra is serious about it.
  • Military Academy: He enters the story as a cadet at the Imperial Military Academy at West Point, New York, and spends some chapters there finishing his military education before being commissioned as a lieutenant in the Mobile Infantry.
  • Nice Guy: Relatively speaking, but yes.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Due to upbringing and personal tragedy, he loathes Muslims. Having said that he is willing to rescue Besma at Petra's request because she was her friend.
  • Powered Armor: Hamilton commands a platoon, and later a company in the ISA Mobile Infantry during the pacification campaign in the Philippines, and so makes use of one of these. This type of armor is relatively more "realistic" than many others in fiction, amounting to a lightweight powered exoskeleton with various optional bits of armor and weaponry that can be attached to fit different mission profiles (or, to some extent, according to the operator's personal preferences).
  • Tragic Bigot: He hates Muslims, but he is the product of an society that adopted an hardline anti-Islamic stance and he had lost at least a loved one in conflict with them.
  • Vague Age: His age is never specified in the story, but he is implied to be in his mid-20s when he is introduced as an Private.

Laura "Laurie" Hodger

Hamilton's girlfriend and fellow soldier.
  • Attempted Rape: By the Moro rebels when she is taken prisoner. Its only stopped by a thermobaric explosion that killed everyone.
  • Action Girl: To be a given for an female combat soldier in the Mobile Infantry.
  • Consummate Professional: She seems to take her work somewhat more seriously than Hamilton—not so that she's a martinet or anything, but she doesn't want to leave anything half done.
  • Cultured Badass: Downplayed, but she is interested in history and quotes General Patton verbatim.
  • Defiant Captive: When one of the Moros prepares to rape her, she laughs at his small penis just before the explosion kills them all.
  • The Lad-ette: Laurie has a fairly tough, masculine personality (with assorted interests) and is sort-of considered "one of the boys" at the Imperial Academy, though she can also occasionally show a more feminine and vulnerable style.
  • The Lost Lenore: To Hamilton, who mourns her death for many years. He lets go of her when he falls for Petra.
  • Love Interest: To Hamilton. They flirt as classmates, then become lovers when they have graduated and been established in their respective chains of command.
  • New Meat: She goes to the Philippines as a young lieutenant, not quite straight out of the Academy but still without combat command experience. Her platoon sergeant thinks she makes typical newbie mistakes, but is smart and will probably go on to great things in years to come. Though unfortunately, that's not how things turn out in the end.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Throughout at least the first half of the book, she is the most developed ISA character other than Hamilton himself, but gets killed in action long before his story is finished to further hammer home the brutality and horror of the Empire's wars.
  • The Squadette: Women combat soldiers appear to remain fairly rare in the Imperial States Army, and Laurie is the main one in the early ISA storyline, both at the Academy and later on deployment.


Hamilton's superior in the Office of Strategic Intelligence, or OSI (the reconstituted CIA of the Imperial States).
  • Dirty Business: Caruthers is unhappy about at least some of the things he must approve and supervise in order to keep the ISA safe, and to all appearances sincerely so. He will nonetheless keep on doing his job, however, out of a sense of duty and knowledge of the dangers that threaten if he doesn't.
  • Mr. Exposition: He provides mission briefings to Hamilton and explains a lot of interesting tidbits about the world.
  • The Spook: As befitting a CIA agent, he is said to be completely non-descript (besides being black) and "Caruthers" might not even be his real name.


Full name Bonginkosi Mathebula. An ISA agent stationed in South Africa, who accompanies Hamilton as he infiltrates the Caliphate.
  • Colonel Badass: Although undercover as a civilian, he's really a lieutenant-colonel, and a pretty competent one when he and Hamilton launch their scheme.
  • Cultured Badass: His real personality, as opposed to the mask of stupid servility he puts on in his slave persona. When he leads the slave rebellion, he quotes from the story of Spartacus.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Late in the book, it's revealed that not only is he a spy, everything about Bongo is a fictional identity. His real name is Bernard Matheson, a New Yorker.
  • Electronic Telepathy: He is one of the rare American agents who have been implanted with a mindlink device, similar to the ones Ling and Lee have. This becomes important when the OSI use it to remote-operate him at one point.
  • Good Counterpart: To Lee, the Chinese agent. Both are secret agents and cyborgs working for their respective governments on the Noisvastei mission—though whereas Bongo is sober and mildly depressed, Lee is zany. Also, Bongo hates transhumanist technology, which Lee doesn't.
  • Guns Akimbo: This is part of his style sometimes, though more for the psychological effect than because it's very effective in material terms.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Much like Hamilton, Bongo tries his best to be as decent as possible while working for a morally dubious agency in a horrible Crapsack World—though he is older in the service, and thus also significantly more jaded. However, he is still very happy about getting to do something unambiguously good when the opportunity comes up.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: He poses as a slave factotum, and behaves like a typical cringing nobody to make the opposition ignore/underestimate him when he and Hamilton infiltrate the Caliphate. It works.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Everyone always calls him Bongo, whether they know his real name or not. The only exception is Retief, who sticks fairly consistently to "Mr. Mathebula" when they interact.
  • Straight Man and Wise Guy: Develops this sort of dynamic with the crazy Lee when they are teamed up for the exfiltration.
  • You Are What You Hate: Bongo is massively creeped out by the Chinese and their transhumanist technology, and is a hardliner on rooting out their infiltrators in the ISA. However, it turns out that he has himself been implanted with similar technology by the OSI.


    The Caliphate 


The Caliphate Triumphant was established in the early 21th Century when a influx of Muslim refugees relocated to Europe and using their superior numbers, they hijacked the governments of several European countries which were combined into a single entity that covers Western Europe and North Africa. The Caliphate operates like a particularly brutal Islamic state inspired by the Taliban while reviving ancient Ottoman practices like taking boys as slaves to brainwash them into soldiers.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Subverted. While the Caliphate is painted in a extremely negative light (even more so than the ISA), it's also shown that individual people can be good such as Besma, Ishmaill, Reitif and even her own father Abdul.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Caliphate is extremely brutal in the enforcement of its laws, using corporal punishment for most crimes and the death penalty for more serious ones. Those who are deemed to have opposed Islam and caused disorder in the world are crucified, in accordance with ancient Islamic law.
  • Culture Police: The mutaween enforce Islamic law and what it considers decent comportment, such as the wearing of fully body-covering clothes for women in public. However, they are also notoriously corrupt, so some (or many) of the fines they hand out amount to little more than shakedowns.
  • Days of Future Past: The Caliphate's social structure is literally medieval, or close to it, in a lot of ways. Technology is somewhat more advanced, but declining. The baseline for consumer goods is perhaps 1950s or thereabouts, with some more advanced tech (military aircraft and cyborging, for example) imported from abroad.
  • Dystopia: This fundamentalist regime is broken on every conceivable level, its culturally stagnant, only barely surviving due to exploiting the slave class and outside help from an equally repulsive regime.
  • Elite Mooks: The janissaries are actually more effective than the average native forces.
  • The Empire: A caliphate constitutes as an empire after all and they definitely earn those evil points in this book.
  • Eurabia: With the exception of Great Britain and Switzerland, most of Western Europe is under their control whereas Eastern Europe and the Balkans are part of the new Russian Empire.
  • Evil Reactionary: They want to return the whole world to an imagined medieval paradise of pure Islam, and have partially implemented that agenda in the countries they control.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: It's pointed out in-universe that for all their brutality, they are still very behind technologically to others. The whole apparatus of the Caliphate is so phlegmatic and corrupt that everything is in a state of slow but relentless decline—sort of like the stereotype of the late Soviet Union in real life, only more so.
  • The Fatalist: Caliphate culture is extremely fatalistic, and especially its military. Testing or even maintenance of equipment is spotty at best, and personal initiative almost unheard of—after all, Allah decides in the end whether something will work, not human effort. The exception is the Janissaries, who as a rule are more the Determined Defeatist type.
  • The Fundamentalist: To be expected. Having said that, they do make some minor concessions like allowing brothels to operate whereas prostitution is illegal in regimes like the Taliban.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Hans mentions that a couple of janissaries were executed for being caught having homosexual relationship. The houris in the brothels have sex with each other in attempt to keep themselves sane and deal the mental, physical and sexual abuse they endure, but they do it secretly in order to not get caught though it's implied their master knows, but willingly turns a blind eye to it or else he'd be out of business due to having killed all his girls.
  • Illegal Religion: Downplayed. Christians are tolerated by necessity, but are granted second-class status. Preaching Christianity is forbidden (and so is for a Muslim to convert to it) and punishable by death.
  • Made a Slave: A frequent fate for Christian children.
  • No Woman's Land: Sexism, misogyny, and violence against women and girls is extremely rampant. Any woman walking outside without their veil will be raped and/disfigured as it happened to Gabrielle's daughter. If any woman gets "unjustly" raped, they are locked up for life for being Defiled Forever while their rapist merely gets flogged. Besma states she is very lucky to have a good man for a father, since she implies that other girls are sexually abused by their fathers. While female education isn't explicitly forbidden (considering Besma is well-learned), it's not encouraged either.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: They merely tolerate a non-Muslim minority because their state economy is reliant on their dhimmi status and they cannot afford non-Muslims to be annihilated or forcibly converted, or else their economy will collapse.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Janissaries, even a slave trader is one of these, telling Petra to just smile a little so she has a nice house, and lets a kind old man buy her with discount, completely used to the institution.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: The only respectable role for a woman in this place is that of wives and mothers. If they fail that, they are turned into whores.
  • The Theocracy: The Caliphate is explicitly ruled by sharia law to control every aspect of their citizens.

Petra bint Miden

A Christian girl of German origin, she was taken as an slave, first to an merchant's household and then to a brothel.
  • Action Survivor: Petra has no military training or the like, and indeed has spent pretty much her whole life being oppressed and tyrannized. However, she is still willing to do her part when she gets a chance to make a difference, and does manage to get through some close calls through natural ability and luck.
  • Beautiful Slave Girl: She was enslaved at an early age and grows up to become an very beautiful young woman.
  • Broken Bird: Life has not be kind to this poor girl.
  • The Chick: Being the main protagonist's crush and all that. Though Petra doesn't have many useful skills besides The Oldest Profession trade, so she tries to make up for it by Show Some Leg... with mixed results.
  • Defiled Forever: When she is raped by Fudail, she is sentenced to be sold as an slave and gets bought by an pimp who makes an whore out of her.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: She is repeatedly mentioned to have blonde hair, which makes her attractive to her masters. Hamilton falls too easy for her too.
  • Hidden Depths: For all the abuse she endures and stating that she never had faith, she never considers abandoning Christianity and converting to Islam to make it stop because that is part of her identity and one of the few things she won't let others take it from her.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Though she believes herself filthy and defiled, she is still an fundamentally good person.
  • May–December Romance: With Hamilton, who was already an Lieutenant in the army while she was just a little girl.
  • Ms. Fanservice: In a very twisted manner, she is this as an houri. She is specifically instructed by her bosses to wear a crucifix when servicing Muslim costumers because they find appealing the notion of "fucking Christian women" since "it asserts their dominance".
  • Never Learned to Read: She was never taught because of the Caliphate disencourages women from being educated. She only begins learning when she is 10 with Besma and though she barely knows how to write or read, it's sadly one of her few skills she is versed to which makes her extremely dejected to hear that in America women are taught to do so which doesn't make her any special.
  • Prone to Tears: Since childhood, she had a tendency to cry and be easily spooked. Considering the kind of life she leads, its understandable.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Part of the reason Hamilton falls for her is that Petra resembles Laurie very closely to the point he comments she could pass off as an younger sister.
  • Second Love: To Hamilton, helping him get over Laurie's death.
  • Sex Slave: After becoming a houri.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: To her eternal detriment. When Besma realizes she will be sold to slavery for being damaged goods, she desperately tries to buy her back to freedom because she knows what they will do to her.

Hans ibn Minden

Petra's brother, he is also enslaved and turned into a janissary soldier.
  • Beta Couple: With Ling.
  • Child Soldiers: Became a janissary as part of the jizya tax. He was not that much older than his sister was when she was sold when he got conscripted. By the "present" of the main story, though, he is an adult.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: As part of his training, he is taught how to perform crucifixions on priests from an early age. While he grows more desensitized to violence, seeing the abuse perpetrated to his people only feeds more of his resentment against the Caliphate.
  • Cultural Rebel: Even though he technically converted to Islam, he is still deep down a Christian and retains his faith as an form of protest against the Caliphate.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: His family suffered the typical life of oppression under the feudalism and tyranny of the Caliphate, with tax farming, humiliations and enslavement. And then he got grabbed by a press gang and thrown into a harsh military existence while still a child. His past is not quite as dark as his sister's, but still qualifies for this by any measure.
  • Exceptionally Tolerant: He is initially weirded out when his lover Ling reveals to him that she is Not Even Human, as is realistically to be expected of someone grown up in the tech-regressive and superstitious Caliphate. However, he then decides that he loves her anyway with surprisingly little drama, and never has any more trouble with this.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Pulls one at the end to ensure that others survive.
  • The Men First: He is successful as an officer in the Janissaries because he is both tough and fair. Hans drives his men far harder than many others, but also sees to it that they are well taken care of.
  • New Meat: Early on, when he has been conscripted into the janissaries and just made it through their version of basic training. He grows from there into a respected young officer.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Or the somewhat archaizing Caliphate equivalent, though with some rough edges appropriate for a "mustang" officer.
  • Pragmatic Hero: He is a good guy, one of the most decent in the book, in fact, but he knows enough of the Caliphate, as well as the stakes in the Noisvastei mission, to be willing to use rather harsh methods to ensure its success.
  • The Mole: Thanks to the example of a tortured priest, he overcomes his janissary indoctrination and begins to work against the Caliphate from within.
  • Up Through the Ranks: Like all janissary officers, he is first an ordinary soldier in the ranks before being promoted to their equivalent of the officer corps.
  • A World Half Full: Hans is notably more optimistic, positive and even noble than most other major characters. This isn't because he is ignorant of what a horrible world he lives in—he could hardly be, given what he and his family have been through—but he still keeps trying to make the things he can do anything about better, and has a lighter attitude about it than the tiredness of someone like Hamilton.

Abdul Mohsem

An rich merchant in the French province of the Caliphate. He is noted for being benevolent towards his slaves.
  • Good Parents: To his daughter Besma, who clearly inherited his better qualities.
  • Noble Bigot: He is an slave owner yes, but he is noted to be very honorable and treats his slaves well, letting them buy freedom early and encouraging smiles.
  • Parental Favoritism: In contrast to gender norms of the place he lives, he favors his elder daughter Besma despite having a son from a Muslim wife, while Besma was born from a Christian concubine.
  • The Patriarch: Of his household as expected of every rich Muslim male.
  • Pet the Dog: Though he initially refuses to prevent Petra from being sent away after being raped, he does give some money to Ishmail so he can buy her back. It doesn't work, but this act makes his daughter forgive him.

Besma bint Abdul

Abdul's daughter and Petra's childhood friend.
  • Cain and Abel: Borderline example with her half-brother Fudail. Soon turns full-blown murderous after she kills him in self-defense.
  • Cool Big Sis: Has this relationship with Petra, taking her over her wing and teaching her how to read. She also viciously attacks her own half-brother after he rapes Petra.
  • Daddy's Girl: Besma has always been close to her father. Though the incident that leads to Petra being sold into slavery strains their relationship, she forgives him after he tried to buy her back.
  • Heroic Bastard: Technically speaking, her mother was a Christian concubine and not married to her father Abdul, and Besma herself is one of the most decent and kindest people in the novel. Unusually for this trope, she is her father's favorite in contrast to his legitimate son Fudail.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: She already has a fiery and determined personality as a child, and becomes this when she grows older, taking a terrible revenge on her relatives for the way they mistreated her and Petra.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When she discovers Petra was raped by Fudail, she slaps, kicks and tries to geld him in full view of their parents.

Fudail ibn Abdul

Abdul's son with al Khalifa and Besma's half-brother.
  • Asshole Victim: Besma kills him in self-defense in a very gruesome manner, but nobody (except his mother) mourns his death. Petra is relieved to find out she had been done justice after her rapist was killed, and even his own father Abdul believes he had it coming.
  • Eye Scream: Besma apparently ripped out his eyes when he tried to rape her into submission like he did to Petra.
  • Groin Attack: On the receiving end of this by Besma when she tries to rip out his genitals with her barehands.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: He gets off relatively scot free for gangraping Petra along with his friends, being sentenced to only 30 lashes while she is sold into sexual slavery. However, he later tries to rape Besma, but she retaliates by ripping out his eyes and stabbing him.
  • Spoiled Brat: In a stark contrast to her half-sister, he is an entitled bastard.
  • Slut-Shaming: He does admit raping Petra because she is a "Nazrani slut who lead him on".
  • Teens Are Monsters: Him and his friends gang-rape Petra in one occasion and later on, he tries to force himself in his sister.
  • The Unfavorite: Though he doesn't admit it out loud, Abdul knows that Fudail is a monster.

Dr. Claude O. Meara

One of the three renegade American that defected to the Caliphate, he is a microbiologist.
  • Asshole Victim: He is slowly strangled by one of the boys he sexually abused after Hamilton left him tied up in a chair as his sister helped twist the noose.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: With his two other partners.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Meara is noted for being rewarded by the Caliphate with an supply of sex slaves of both genders, and he also has a thing for children.
  • Fat Bastard: The narration explicitly refers to this way, and he is one sick bastard that sexually targets kids and loves to see his victims die.
  • Pædo Hunt: Meara is an sex offender with a predilection for pederasty. In fact, he fled America when they discovered his dark secret.
  • Sadist: Of the incredibly depraved type, who loves to watch infected test subjects dying painfully in the lab.

Dr. Guilhaume Sands

One of the three American scientists that defected to the Caliphate, he is a biochemist.
  • French Jerk: Sands is technically Canadian from Montreal since France as we know no longer exists (it is now part of the Caliphate). He still occasionally speaks in French or with an accent and is derisively called a "frog" by the Americans.
  • Freudian Excuse: His personal reason for defecting is that the Americans invaded his country, forcibly annexed it and brutally repressed its culture.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Unlike Meara, he had no sexual use for children nor did he took no particular joy in watching his victims die slowly. That said, he doesn't express any sympathy for his cohort's victims.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: He believes the American Empire must be destroyed, so he is willing to work with monsters like Meara or defect to another equally oppressive and totalitarian empire (the Caliphate) to achieve that for the good of everyone else. Some innocents might die, but that is just the price.

Dr. John Johnston

One of the three American scientists that defected to the Caliphate, he is a epidemiologist.
  • Alliterative Name: JJ = John Johnston.
  • The Generic Guy: He doesn't really stand out in personality from the others.
  • Satellite Character: None of the trio is a very major character, but Johnston gets almost no characterization beyond being a cohort to Meara and Sands, and never appears without one of the others also present.

The Priest

A Christian priest who is crucified for unspecified crimes against the Caliphate, and inspires Hans to renew his own resistance to its tyranny through his example.
  • Badass Pacifist: While he resists the Caliphate by speaking out against it, knowing full well what will be the results of this, he does not use violence, and is collected and even polite to his executioners when he is crucified.
  • Badass Preacher: A Christian priest who shows determination and courage worthy of the martyrs of ancient days.
  • Cultured Badass: As a priest, he is an educated man as well as an incredibly brave one personally. His conversation with Hans shows that he knows the Quran well, as well as the Bible, and he also references some fairly obscure history, such as the story of the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: The Caliphate authorities can kill him, but not break him, and his dignified death inspires others to resist them after he is gone.
  • Inspirational Martyr: The priest is willing to die for his beliefs, and becomes a moral example to others in so doing.
  • No Name Given: Hans is never told his name, and so thinks of him simply as "the priest" throughout.
  • Take Up My Sword: He reminds Hans of his family and his Christian upbringing, and encourages him to carry on his own battle against the Caliphate. As a sign of this, he gives him his crucifix.
  • The Unfettered: Against the traditional teachings of Christianity, he advises Hans that in the present situation, it might be permissible to lie about his true religious commitment, so he can work against the Caliphate from within as a janissary officer. He justifies this by pointing out that Islam permits lying to infidels, so turnabout is fair play.

    The Celestial Kingdom 


The former People's Republic of China, now apparently a Communist-Imperial hybrid state, as well as a borderline post-human nation that is super advanced in genetic engineering and cyborging. It's clear they want to replace the ISA as the major superpower in the world, but for now, the Caliphate represents a bigger danger.
  • Ambiguously Human: Due to their extreme biotech and cyborg technologies, including stuff that mucks around with the brain, and/or soul, it's not immediately obvious if any given Chinese still qualifies as entirely human.
  • Anachronism Stew: They combine hyper-advanced technology with the trappings of millennia-old Chinese traditions. There is also some friction between different elements of their synthesis of Maoism and the ancient Chinese monarchy—for example, their state is called the Celestial Kingdom, but their armed forces are still the People's Liberation Army.
  • Techno Dystopia: The Celestial Kingdom is never seen from the inside, but described by others in ways that suggest this. The degrading applications we do see of their biotech and mind control technologies also imply that their society might well be more horrifying than that of the Caliphate.
  • They Look Like Us Now: It turns out that the Chinese infiltration units have become more advanced than they used to be. It used to be that they looked more or less Chinese (like Ling, for example), but nowadays they can copy other racial types as well.
  • Transhumanism: China seems to be the most transhumanist power in the setting (though India is said to be not very far behind, and there are hints that Japan might also be in the race). They have a number of science fiction technologies that are at least sufficiently safe for the military to use, including Electronic Telepathy, Neural Implanting, Body Backup Drives for operatives and the ability to create tailor-made fully Artificial Humans for a given assignment. The Imperial States also has at least some of this technology, but theirs is less advanced, and their attitude toward it is also quite different: they use it as a last resort when nothing else works and generally view it with horror, whereas the Chinese rather seem to embrace it.
  • Uterine Replicator: Ling was gestated in one, not born of woman. Since she was part of a government program, though, it's unclear how widespread this is in their society in general.
  • Yellow Peril: Subverted. They are very sinister and amoral, but they are secretly allied with America to fight against the Caliphate's threat.

Zheng Ling

A Chinese-born prostitute in the brothel Petra is sent to, who becomes her friend and mentor of sorts. However, there is more to her than meets the eye.
  • Aroused by Their Voice: As part of her general design and education, Ling has a voice that is considered very sexy. At one time, a radio operator falls in love with her based on that alone.
  • Artificial Human: She was artificially bred by the Celestial Kingdom to be an spy vessel. She explains she is human in all senses, but wasn't actually born naturally.
  • Beta Couple: With Hans.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Between her own Dark and Troubled Past as a laboratory-grown Artificial Human and her subsequent fate in the Caliphate, Ling has learned to endure all manner of things that will sound quite horrible to ordinary citizens in the Imperial States.
  • Deep Cover Agent: She was only a small child when she was brought to the Caliphate. However, thanks to her mindlink, she remains in constant contact with her Chinese minders.
  • Electronic Telepathy: Ling has a hidden brain implant which effectively functions as this, working as a seemingly limitless-bandwidth communications link that relays her thoughts and sensory input to Beijing in real time. Her superiors can also send information the other way to update her orders, educate her or even remote-operate her in emergencies.
  • Emotionless Girl: Downplayed a little at first, when she does not appear entirely emotionless, but nonetheless displays very subdued emotion. Later subverted, however, as subsequent events show that she can indeed feel strongly and even passionately about things and people that matter to her.
  • Got Volunteered: All the way back from birth, in her case. This comes up in a conversation late in the book:
    You knew it was dangerous when you volunteered.
    I didn't volunteer. I was bred, chipped, and sold.
    We all have these little issues.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: She is feminine and downright Head-Turning Beauty beautiful, and so a completely straight example—except that she eventually falls in love with a man.
  • Meaningful Name: Zheng is a common surname in Chinese, and can mean many different things depending on context, but one that is relevant for Ling signifies being on a long journey far from home. Ling itself means soul or spirit, and is thus very relevant to the question of her humanity.
  • The Mole: She is this for the Chinese government.
  • Ms. Fanservice: In-universe. Hamilton notes she has a rather exaggerated figure and this was invoked by her superiors, since they designed her to be as sexually appealing as possible.
  • Not Quite Human: Discussed. Her lover Hans is initially horrified when Ling reveals her true nature to him; she tries to calm him by emphasizing that her genetics at least are fully Homo sapiens, even if unnaturally configured. In the end, though, he accepts her as a human being.
  • Not So Above It All: Ling thinks it's impossible for the prostitutes at the castle ever to honestly fall in love with a man, given their traumatic and dehumanizing experiences there: they will inevitably become too emotionally damaged and deeply cynical, even if they don't come to outright hate men. And on top of that, she personally has her own conditioning and partly inhuman nature from the Chinese military, which further reinforce such tendencies. However, she nonetheless does fall in love with the young officer Hans—to her own great surprise.
  • Sex Slave: Just like Petra, though in her case, she was sold at an even younger age.
  • Tyke Bomb: Played with. Ling is an intelligence agent, rather than a standard Super Soldier, but otherwise created and raised in roughly the same stereotypical, dehumanizing way.
  • Ultimate Life Form: She was designed by the Chinese genetic engineers to be an ultimately attractive woman, combining the best White European and East Asian physical characteristics. Apart from this, she is also quite intelligent, observant and remarkably resilient mentally, though not obviously superhuman in any respect.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: No one in the Caliphate thinks she is anything other than the helpless girl she appears to be, as opposed to a well-drilled spy. Additionally, Chinese State Security can provide her with more or less any additional knowledge or skillset they like, more or less in real time, thanks to her mindlink with their headquarters.

Lee Gen

A lieutenant-colonel in one of the Celestial Kingdom's military intelligence agencies, who aids Hamilton and the others in their escape from the castle.
  • Ace Pilot: He is not technically a combat ace (or if so, it's not noted), but still an expert pilot whose ability saves the mission.
  • Anti-Hero: While not at all a good moral example, he is competent and helps the more heroic heroes save the day.
  • Artificial Human: The vat-grown body he uses for this mission, at least. It's not said whether his original incarnation is one, or if he was born naturally.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Thanks to transhumanist Chinese technology, he appears in a form that is both female and stunningly gorgeous.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: When it really matters, he can shut down most of his weirdness and wacky humor and be serious and professional about things.
  • Camp Gay: Although he doesn't show this right away, Lee can't hide for very long how much he loves the idea of getting to dress up in Ling's sexy clothes and makeup and being a girl with the hot white male officers on the Boer airship —incidentally creeping Bongo out in the process.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He always has a sarcastic or mocking comment ready for any occasion, whether the situation is humorous or dead serious.
  • Dirty Coward: Specifically defied, with words to the effect that while he might be a nancy, he's no sissy.
  • Electronic Telepathy: Thanks to the same kind of technology that Ling was implanted with.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Bongo, though Lee's evil is relatively downplayed. Both are secret agents and cyborgs working for their respective governments on the Noisvastei mission—though whereas Lee is wild and crazy, Bongo is The Eeyore.
  • Fully-Embraced Fiend: He has no problem with the transhumanist technology he uses, seeing it as a good thing to be able to avoid death, be more efficient and have unusual sorts of fun, instead of viewing its implications with horror like the Caliphate and ISA characters.
  • Guile Hero: Uses deception and deceit on multiple levels. He can fight, but prefers other methods when practicable.
  • Meaningful Name: The given name Gen can be read as different characters in Chinese. One of them means clone (which Lee is), while another can, in different combinations, mean something like bride, or else be used as an elevated way of referring to male anatomy (which is also relevant to Lee). For the later senses, the author probably intends some sort of ambiguous wordplay, similar to the Japanese slang term otokonoko.
  • Military Maverick: Disobeys direct orders from his controllers in Beijing at one point to help the heroes save innocent people. More generally, one wonders how he fits into the military with his general attitude and style.
  • Pet the Dog: Though he is often a jerk, he also does some nice things. For example, he promises to personally make sure Ling gets a new body if hers gets destroyed before they can reach safety—even offering to let her have his own personal one for private use outside work, if his superiors won't cover the bill for a fresh one.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Lee, who is male and gay, uses Chinese technology to present himself as a gorgeous girl and trick straight men he's attracted to into letting "her" sleep with them.
  • Really Gets Around: At least on this mission. Effectively: an enthusiastic gay guy gets to wear an absolutely perfect disguise as a stunningly beautiful young woman, and is then let loose among manly military men on deployment. Hilarity Ensues.

    The Boer Free State 


The European refugees fleeing from the Islamic takeover resettled in South Africa and feeling extremely bitter about the loss of their homes, they overthrew the black majority rule and revived apartheid, this time bringing slavery back.
  • Amoral Afrikaner: Like all other countries in the Caliphate dystopia, South Africa has become an exaggerated, high-tech version of its own darkest historical traits: in this case, a powerful empire of overt slavery and racism. The preeminent personal example of the trope is the captain of the airship the protagonist travels with on his mission to infiltrate the Caliphate, who is a rapist and a jerk generally.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: To the Congo Free State, an European controlled colony in Africa that enslaves and horribly mistreats its local natives. Though the State depicted here is far more orderly than that sort of colonial exploitation. In terms of fiction, it's rather reminiscent of the scientific slaveholder culture of the Draka.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Downplayed. They are as racist as you'd expect of any white slaver, but they grant a level of autonomy for the Zulu to have their own land so long as they serve as Elite Mooks.
  • Mirroring Factions: They are essentially a European Christian version of the Caliphate, formed from bitter Invading Refugees who relocated somewhere else and began oppressing the local natives and tolerate people from the other religion, but they are to be treated like second-class citizens.
  • Odd Friendship: As hard it's to believe, but the Free State is the closest thing to an ally that the Caliphate has since they openly trade slaves among each other and provide them with technological services that the others can't. Which is rather ironic considering how brutally each regime persecutes members of their respective religions.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The Boer Free State is a tad disingenous when they openly deal with slavery.


Flight engineer aboard the airship Hamilton and Bongo travel with as they infiltrate the Caliphate.
  • Action Survivor: As a South African citizen, he has training in their national service, and so knows basic military drill and can handle a rifle, but he's very far from an action hero or superspy like most of the protagonists.
  • Driven to Villainy: He doesn't like the slavery he indirectly enables through his work, but what can he do about it? He needs his job, and besides, the only ones he would hurt by stirring up trouble would be himself—and his family.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Doesn't want anything to do with the prostitutes at Noisvastei, both because he's married and because he wouldn't want to take advantage of enslaved women anyway. There's still nothing he can do about it if other officers do, but he doesn't like it one bit.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In his case, being nice even to seemingly powerless people worked out in the end. Not being a jerk to Bongo led to him being spared when the ISA team took over the airship, and when he later assisted their escape, the OSI brokered a deal for him so he and his family could move to the Imperial States.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Retief treats Bongo courteously, even when he believes he is only Hamilton's indentured servant/slave factotum, reasoning that he is also a human being that deserves respect.
  • Not Always Evil: Or the token good South African, since the others we see tend to adhere more to the Amoral Afrikaner stereotype.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Basically, he's just a technician who loves flying, does his job, and does his best to mind his own business when the airship he works on has to ferry ethically objectionable cargoes.
  • Shout-Out: Though Retief is a fairly common Boer name in real life, given Kratman's habit of putting classic sci-fi references into his works, he is probably intended at least in part to invoke Keith Laumer's stories about Anglo-Boer space explorer Jame Retief.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Downplayed a little. He does find having his airship hijacked upsetting, but reacts remarkably calmly to some of the creepy Chinese biotech Lee uses.
  • Workaholic: A kind that is not played for laughs. He does love flying and aeronautics, and puts his soul into his work for this reason, but also buries himself in it to avoid uglier parts of reality as much as possible.

    Past Characters 

Gabrielle von Minden

A German artist in the 21th Century, she is Petra and Hans' ancestor.
  • Adult Fear: Her daughter is one day attacked, raped and disfigured so horribly by misogynists because she was dressed improperly. When they try to get asylum in the US, they are rejected and basically abandoned in a No Woman's Land.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Her diary functions as this, since it records the slow downfall of German civilization, as well as her family's disintegration.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: A very cruel variation of this trope. The American ambassador turns down her immigration because he believes Europe is to blame for not curbing Islamic fundamentalism and deciding to cuddle it instead.
  • Straw Liberal: She is portrayed as an left-leaning European with disdain for America, whose naivety brings about her downfall.
  • Uncertain Doom: Its unclear what ultimately became of her, but her story ended with her trapped inside the Caliphate where she will live a presumably miserable life.

Mahmoud al Beshay

An Egyptian immigrant to Germany on the 21th Century.
  • Crisis of Faith: Initially a very relaxed about his faith, he experiences this as Islamic fanaticism begins to creep up on Europe not helped by his decision to convert to Christianity.
  • Disappeared Dad: Leaves his girlfriend and daughter behind when he moves on his own to America and they remain trapped in Europe under Islamic occupation.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: He decides to move to America and adapts to it very well.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Mahmoud doesn't feel safe in Germany when Muslim thugs begin attacking everyone and fears he will be killed for apostasy, so he moves to the USA.


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