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Godzilla Threshold / Literature

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Godzilla Thresholds in literature.

  • In the Animorphs prequel The Hork-Bajir Chronicles, the Andalite war-prince Alloran who eventually becomes Visser Three's host knew the Andalites had lost the war over the Hork-Bajir. Desperate to prevent the Yeerks from acquiring the Hork-Bajir, he unleashed a Quantum Virus, a horrific disease of space-time that breaks living beings down into molecules. He targeted the Hork-Bajir to deny the Yeerks their prize. All for naught, since the Yeerks had already captured enough Hork-Bajir to breed a sustainable population for their use. The Andalites covered up this horrific war crime to save face, and Alloran was left a bitter disgraced Shell-Shocked Veteran.
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  • Midway through The Belgariad, Ctuchik crosses the threshold — when it becomes clear that Belgarath and his posse are going to successfully reclaim the Orb of Aldur — by breaking the first law of sorcery and trying to remove it from existence entirely. Unfortunately, nothing can be unmade, so the spell backlashes and gives him a Cruel and Unusual Death that also nearly levels the entire city they were standing in at the time.
  • In The Broken Crescent, Nate Black/Azrael is the Angel of Death sent by a god who hates Mankind to bring them down. The Monarch and his Shadow College consider using him to still be a lesser evil than allowing the College of Man to continue to run things.
  • Dale Brown's books:
    • Villainous example in Sky Masters. His flotilla in shambles after a Filipino ambush, with only death or dishonourable retreat on the cards, Big Bad Admiral Yin decided to Nuke 'em. Things go downhill from there.
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    • Battle Born has two. The Korean General Ripper, seeing all conventional attempts failing to stop a Chinese invasion, carries out a coup so he can get the nuclear launch codes. In turn, to stop him from making things go nuclear, McLanahan has Dreamland forces attack his command centre even though Korea is supposed to be America's ally.
  • City of Bones by Martha Wells is set a thousand years After the End, when some supernatural catastrophe reduced most of the world to the barren Waste. It's ultimately revealed that this was a side effect of the Ancients' efforts to seal an invading army of malevolent alien spirits in their home dimension.
  • Codex Alera:
    • Tavi thrives on plans that are so crazy they might just work, reaching a peak at the final battle in which he lures the Big Bad to a place where two of the world's most powerful Furies sleep and then provoking them. His lover Kitai figures where he went by thinking of a place only an absolute fool would go to, and a lunatic would follow.
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    • In the last book, Tavi had to get all of his armies to reach a main battlefield in a few days — moving several hundred thousand almost at the speed of flight. Then Alera warns him that his plan will cause untold weather devastation thousands of years later, he concludes the devastating long-term consequences must be borne if anyone in Alera is to survive.
  • In Timothy Zahn's The Conquerors Trilogy, the arrival of a dangerous alien threat starts everyone talking about dusting off a superweapon the humans used once as a last resort and never used again on the grounds of how barbaric the results were. Subverted in that the weapon doesn't actually exist; a freak accident where a solar flare wiped out the enemy fleet was spun by the human government into the fearsome superweapon. It doesn't take long before everybody wonders why the human government doesn't use it, since the Godzilla Threshold has obviously been long passed.
  • In Crysis: Legion Alcatraz discusses this, stating that with nothing else having worked to stop the Ceph, going for the Nuclear Option is worth a shot.
  • In Tim Powers' The Drawing of the Dark, the Turkish siege of Vienna is only the visible manifestation of a magical struggle between West and East to determine which form of civilization will go on to dominate the planet. At one point Merlin the Magician considers a "desperately sure" move: summoning an arch-demon that could easily win the war, but it would forever be a taint on the West that it had stooped to using such aid.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • The second book, Fool Moon, has Harry view his use of the Hexenwulf belt this way, with its possibility of turning him into a mindless feral killer.
    • In book seven, Dead Beat, Harry is faced with several necromancers competing for the chance to be the one to perform a dark ritual that makes its performer into a new god by sucking the life from anyone unfortunate enough to live nearby. In order to bypass the protective magical barrier surrounding them, Harry creatively reinterprets the Laws of Magic, and almost literally enacts this trope, by reanimating a tyrannosaurus (on the grounds that it's not human, so he wasn't technically breaking Laws, which refer only to human beings.).
    • In book twelve, Changes, after suffering (in something of a personal best) a broken back, a kidnapped daughter, and a host of vampires old enough to qualify as gods in their own right about to perform an effectively unblockable curse that will destroy his entire family, he turns to one of his final options: swearing his allegiance to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. Harry explains to her quite bluntly that he was also desperate enough to consider performing the Darkhallow rite or becoming a Denarian if Mab didn't accept him, but that she was the least evil of his available options.
    • In book fourteen, Cold Days, Harry discovers that, in an as-yet-unused Chekhov's Armoury Demonreach is a prison created by the original Merlin for thousands of incredibly powerful and malevolent entities, so much so that there is a failsafe in place that will vaporize most of the continent should the prisoners ever escape, and it won't even kill them. All it will accomplish is to slow them down for a while, but that's still the lesser of two evils.
      • There's more. As the warden of the prison, Harry has the option of releasing any or all of the prisoners at his discretion. If the situation gets bad enough, he could open the cages and let them run free.
    • A situation dire enough to involve Harry Dresden usually means you've crossed the Threshold. When the necromancers threaten Chicago, the response of the White Council is to send every available Warden, including the Captain — who recruits Harry (a man they have been fearing is secretly a warlock for the last 10 years) the minute they see him.
    • It's been mentioned that exposing the existence of the supernatural to humanity is considered the nuclear option of the supernatural community, not least because humans have actual nukes.
  • Empire from the Ashes: In The Armageddon Inheritance, the only power source great enough to drive the incredible defensive installations that might enable Earth to survive the attack of an oncoming genocidal alien horde is nearly uncontrollable and could itself ravage the planet if containment is lost.
  • In Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity, there is a time traveling group that safeguards humanity over a period of billions of years. The problem is that humanity never leaves the Solar System, and after at least millions, maybe billions of years humanity dies out. The protagonist goes back to the twentieth century, and there manipulates the timeline so that time travel never arises, wiping out millions of years of human existence and destroying everyone and everything he ever knew.
  • In Footfall, this happens twice during an alien invasion. The first time, they nuke the territory the aliens took over (which was still populated by humans). The second, and significantly less significant time, they build and use a nuke-fueled spaceship. They did get most of the nearby area into bomb shelters before they took off, though.
  • When the Polypond attacks the Great Ship in A Well of Stars, the crew decide it's preferable to burn away the entire fuel supply of the ship by firing up all of the ship's 14 world-sized fusion rockets, rather than allowing the enemy to rendezvous and take over the ship.
  • In Hammerjack, the characters repeatedly emphasize that the highly unstable AI Lyssa must never under any circumstances be allowed to escape confinement, as she would cause a data singularity that could destroy the whole Axis. In the sequel Prodigal, however, the SEF Hive takes over the Axis and prepares to launch nuclear missiles, and Lea decides that releasing Lyssa and crashing the Axis is the least-bad of their options.
  • Harry Potter: The only situation in which any of the Unforgivable Curses can be used with impunity is during an encounter with a Death Eater, against the Death Eater, and justifiably so considering how low Lord Voldemort and his followers had proven willing to stoop by the time Barty Crouch Sr. decided to authorize use of the Unforgivable Curses specifically in such encounters.
  • The Heartstrikers: Deconstructed by crossing it with the Cycle of Revenge. Someone is backed into a corner, so they do something desperate and terrible to get themselves out of it. This makes someone else desperate, so they do something terrible as well. Around and around it goes. In the backstory, this killed the original dragon home plane as seers literally sold the entirety of the future. On Earth, a thousand years ago the human Merlins were driven so far by rampaging gods that they sealed away magic entirely. This killed all the immortal spirits—and one of these spirits was so desperate that in her last moments she called a Nameless End, inviting the slow but inevitable death of her world. It's why Julius's insistence on Forgiveness is so important, because it's the only way to break the cycle.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, when the Heart of Gold is about to be blown up, Arthur Dent decides at the last second that activating the Infinite Improbability Drive without proper calculations (which can cause literally anything to happen to the ship) can't possibly make things any worse.
  • In Honor Harrington, the Havenites cross this threshold when they realize that the Manticorans' new weapons mean inevitable defeat for the Republic of Haven, and decide to capitalize on their dwindling numerical advantage by launching a desperation attack on the Manticoran home system. The resulting battle results in over a million dead and leaves both star nations virtually unable to continue the fighting — Manticore wins, but at the cost of over half its wall of battle. Later on, things deteriorate so badly between Manticore and the Solarian League (a power that, on paper, is much bigger and more powerful than Manticore and Haven combined), that the Manticorans sue for peace with the Havenites and declare war on the League. By this point, the Manticoran and Havenite governments have both realized that they were being played by the true Big Bad, the Mesan Alignment, and have signed a military alliance. At that point, things start to go downhill for the Solarian League (and the Alignment) rather quickly.
  • Journey to Chaos
    • A Mage's Power: The shaman of Kyraa gives Eric the spirit of Dengel, an ancient and legendary mage. Then she warns him to never ever give Dengel full control of his body; not under any circumstances, because if he does, the result would be Grand Theft Me. Near the climax, Eric is imprisoned and about to be tortured and executed. Dengel explains that relinquishing full control is his only way out.
    • Tiza's mentor teaches her a Dangerous Forbidden Technique to be used in only the most dire of situations. Trapped in a Fog Cloud, chased by numerous high level monsters, and carrying a civilian, qualifies as such. The result is a crisis averted and a Heroic RRoD.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space: The protagonists of The Ringworld Engineers are faced with the problem of Ringworld's increasingly unstable "orbit". The Ringworld has, or rather had, Ramscoops fixed around its circumference to act as station-keeping jets, using the solar wind as fuel. The Ringworld's inhabitants, presumably not knowing or not caring why the ramscoops were there, had 'borrowed' most of them to use on spaceships. The remainder could no longer keep the Ringworld centered on its star. There is a solution, but even the Pak Protector who discovers it is too horrified to enact it. They use the solar magnetic controls built into the Ringworld to temporarily increase solar wind output enough to provide the remaining ramscoops with enough fuel to re-center the ring. This has the unfortunate side effect of sterilizing a third or so of the Ringworld, killing trillions of humanoids via slow, agonizing radiation poisoning.
  • The Laundry Files:
    • When CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN (a.k.a, the stars coming right) ensues SCORPION STARE is initiated, a program that loops a basilisk frequency through every CCTV camera in Britain. Similarly, in The Jennifer Morgue, Mo is given access to "a big white one" in the case that the Bond villain wannabe manages to resurrect an ancient Chthonian war god — and is none too pleased to find out "a big white one" is a tactical nuke.
    • "The Concrete Jungle", the story that dives into the origins of SCORPION STARE, shares a historical example — evidence that the Nazis were planning to weaponize gorgons (humans who produce the basilisk frequency as an observer effect due to a rare brain tumor) was enough to get the British military to threaten chemical attacks on civilian targets if they didn't knock it off.
    • Bob describes NIGHTMARE GREEN and related scenarios as "when the unthinkable... becomes thinkable."
    • The Delirium Brief sees a big one: With Reverend Schiller returned to the earth, now beholden to the Sleeper in the Pyramid and about to use his mind control powers to convince Parliament to hand him complete power, the Laundry decides to throw its loyalty behind the Black Pharaoh Nyarlathotep. Who utterly destroys Schiller... and then becomes Prime Minister.
  • Legacy of the Aldenata; in the spinoff Watch On The Rhine covering the Posleen invasion of Europe, the Germans use rejuvenation technology to mobilize Waffen SS veterans to shore up hole in their training regimes and ultimately fight off the aliens.
  • In The Lord of the Rings, it is briefly allowed that actively using the powers of the One Ring, with all its corrupting influence and built-in malice, is either never... or at utmost desperation. They never do.
  • Malazan Book of the Fallen:
    • The Imass came to a racial consensus that after the latest in a long string of Jaghut Tyrants, the Threshold had been crossed. They transformed themselves into nigh-immortal undead and proceeded to hunt down every Jaghut they could, killing or binding them.
    • High King Kallor was so hated by a cabal of wizards that they chose to summon forth and bind a god to be used as a Fantastic Nuke against him. It destroyed an entire continent, created the Crippled God, and Kallor survived.
    • In the course of the books, there can be so many gods drawn to a nexus of power that drawing in more hostile gods becomes a viable plan because they might start countering each other. This is known in-universe as a convergence.
  • In Noob, Sin is greatly against Sources (basically the universe's gods), including himself, meddling with the lives of mortals after Lys and Ark'hen isolated an entire contient from the rest of the world to cover up his existence. However, when a 1000 meter-hight Eldritch Abomination from the planet of which Olydri is a moon shows up, he ends up giving a hand in getting rid of it.
  • In David Weber's Out of the Dark, the alien commander of the forces invading Earth eventually concedes the use of genocidal bioweapons as the only option against a planetful of humans who refuse to submit, and are rapidly depleting the invader's reserves.
  • In Revelation Space, the Mademoiselle considers destroy an entire populated planet with the Nostalgia For Infinity's Hell-Class weapons to be preferable to allowing Daniel Sylveste to travel to Cerberus and unwittingly re-awaken the Inhibitors, for a very good reason.
  • The Secret of Platform 13 has a less dangerous version of this: the King and Queen are desperate to get back their son, who was kidnapped as a baby, but only have nine days before the Portal Door closes for nine more years. Though they first send a team of quirky, nice rescuers to try to bring him back willingly, when that seems to fail they finally consent to send a second team of harpies and Hellhounds to drag their son back, even though they fear traumatizing him in the process.
  • The Silmarillion:
    • Middle-Earth reached the Threshold at the end of the First Age. Morgoth ruled over all of Beleriand and to defeat him the Valar unleashed a war that sank all of Beleriand.
    • When Ar-Pharazôn sought to take Immortality from the Valar, the Valar, unwilling to actively kill men, who as Children of Ilúvatar fall under their protection, instead give up their stewardship of the world and let God handle it, and the World is changed for it.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the arrival of the Others is considered this for people on both sides of the Wall. Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, is willing to march the Free Folk south of the Wall to find shelter in the despotic Seven Kingdoms. Jon Snow, for his part, is willing to allow "Wildlings" to settle on the Night Watch's lands and even join the Night Watch to bolster their ranks against the Others. Both plans are considered pretty shocking, and not everyone agrees with them.
  • Star Trek Expanded Universe:
    • In the Destiny trilogy, the Federation president gives Captain Picard permission to do anything necessary, regardless of Starfleet regulations or Federation law, to defeat a massive Borg invasion, up to and including re-creating Shinzon's thalaron weapon. Picard is ready to do this, until Geordi flatly refuses to carry out Picard's order to construct the device and proceeds to tear into him over it. Picard, shaken, then rescinds the order and finds another way.
      LaForge: Repeat it as many times as you like, it won't make any difference. I will not resurrect that...that abomination. I won't be party to whatever atrocities it winds up being used for. When Shinzon had one, you were ready to die to stop it. Data gave his life to destroy it. For me to rebuild it now would be an insult to his memory and a betrayal of his sacrifice. I can't do that. I won't.
    • In Uhura's Song the Federation Council finds the plague sweeping across the Federation so serious that they suspend the Prime Directive and tell Kirk that they're trusting his judgement on how to get the cure that legends say exist on a planet he has only vague information about the location of. Spock misunderstands the reasoning and says they seem rather optimistic about their chances of finding the cure, despite his attempts to emphasize how flimsy their information is. Kirk explains that their apparent optimism is really grasping at straws because the situation is much worse than they (on the Enterprise) know. (It is strongly implied that the existence of the Federation and the survival of multiple member species is at stake. General Order One is not suspended lightly.)
    • In Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars Khan has a satellite in place capable of destroying the ozone layer that serves to keep the governments of the world from moving against him. Once they catch word that he is developing a biological weapon to wipe out all of humanity they decide they've got nothing to lose anyway and attack.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • Millennia ago, the Knights Radiant betrayed their oaths, severing their bonds with their spren and nearly killing whole species of them. The spren withdrew from humanity, and the powers of the Radiants were not seen for thousands of years. The spren only began to return when they sensed the True Desolation coming, giving powers to humans as a simple act of self-preservation. The few people who understand what is happening are therefore very worried; how desperate do you have to be to go back to the people who committed genocide against you? A few crazy cultists (and at least one insane Herald) have gotten it into their heads that if they can kill the new Knights Radiant before they come into their full powers, it will avert the Desolation. It probably wouldn't have worked, but they're not successful at killing them off anyway.
    • The Parshendi are a people able to morph between various "forms" for different jobs: mateform for breeding, workform to do labor, and warform to fight. Through research, they discover a new form: stormform, which will make them even stronger and tougher than they are in warform, but this will result in their possession by Odium. When faced with likely extinction by their Hopeless War with the Alethi (who are justifiably angry, as the Parshendi were forced to kill their king for very complicated reasons), the Parshendi turn to stormform as their only way out.
  • Touch, in which we are presented with a monster so far left nameless, which was so powerful that it convinced every global government to work together with one another in order to try and kill it. They still fail.
  • In The Traitor Son Cycle, when the Big Bad finally shows his hand and quickly asserts his status as a Hero Killer, the heroes respond by unleashing their not-exactly-trustworthy ally's One-Winged Angel form.
  • In The Twilights Last Gleaming, the prospect of a new Ice Age leads the rulers of Western Europe to launch a completely unprovoked invasion of South America so they can resettle their populations somewhere that won't turn into a frozen wasteland in the next few decades.
  • In Stephen King's Under the Dome, the government does everything in its power to free the town of Chester's Mill from its predicament. This includes firing a cruise missile at the invisible dome surrounding the town, then a second missile when the first one fails, using specially modified acid which can melt through two miles of bedrock, despite the possibility that it could set the dome on fire, and then attempting to use a 'pencil nuke', only to have it melt down and kill fifteen people before it could be used. The government continues, trying to build a second pencil nuke, but by that point, things are so bad they finally decide they don't have time.
  • In Vampiros do Rio Douro, the Brazilian military grows increasingly desperate as their casualties pile up fighting against seven Portuguese vampires with superpowers granted by the Devil (the group's leader can cover the entire region in snow and ice with his presence, another can raise the dead with his voice and there is another that can stop time). Their only hope of victory is using a nuke to destroy them while they are in one place. It works, but the time-stopping vampire could have survived on his own if he didn't thought it was his time to die. And even then, there was an survivor left...
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Gaunt's Ghosts:
      • In Traitor General Feygor gets very badly sick and Curth has nothing left to help him. When Ezrah offers the use of a paste that contains normally highly-toxic - as in scratch a man with it and he dies - poison as a remedy like his tribe did, the team reluctantly decides to use it. It barely works.
      • One of the flashbacks in Ghostmaker has a group of Ghosts encounter a summoned daemon in one of the buildings they're clearing. With little hesitation and less time to flee, the Ghosts promptly request that one of the kilometres-long ships in orbit fire on the building.
    • Thousand Sons:
      • In Ahriman: Exile, the titular Villain Protagonist has been captured by Amon. Astraeos wants to mount a rescue, but his four-man team is hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned by Amon’s forces. In desperation, Astraeos releases the daemonhost that was imprisoned in the ship’s hold and binds it to his very soul in order to wield its tremendous power against Amon.
      • Ctesias is forced to summon all of his bound daemons at once on two separate occasions. In The Tale of Ctesias, he does it to protect Ahriman’s fleet from the millions of daemonettes that haunt the Gates of Ruin. In Ahriman: Unchanged, he does it as part of Ahriman’s battle plan for their risky attack on the Planet of the Sorcerers. In both cases, the act of summoning so many daemons at once nearly kills Ctesias.
  • Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series: in the War of Power, the good guys constructed the Choedan Kal, two devices (one for use by a male, one for use by a female) that could draw astronomical amounts of the One Power in order to seal the Dark One away in his prison. Later used to cleanse the poisoned male half of the Power during the climax of book 9, Winter's Heart (during which the female Choedan Kal is destroyed). In The Gathering Storm, Rand at first thinks that the male Choedan Kal is the key to defeating the Dark One, but eventually realizes that it won't work. At the end of the book, he destroys it, knowing there may well be another (and better) way to defeat the Dark One this time around. He turns out to be right: the solution is (manipulating The Dragon into) using another power he had previously decided was too dangerous.
  • The Worldwar series — about an alien invasion hitting Earth right in the middle of World War 2 — is chock full of these. Allying with Nazis, sometimes used even by Jewish partisans who have to choose between the Nazis, and all of humanity getting enslaved. Nuking your own cities. Deploying chemical weapons against your own territory.
  • In World War Z, the government is so stumped as to how to fight the zombie hordes that they are forced to implement the "Redeker Plan", using large parts of the population as zombie bait to give the government a chance to regroup and plan, and it worked. The Redeker Plan itself was adapted from South Africa's own "Plan Orange", for how to deal with an all-out armed uprising by the native black Africans against the Apartheid government.
  • Worm:
    • The Endbringers are three Nigh-Invulnerable, superpowered monsters who have collectively brought humanity to its knees over the course of decades of city-destroying and superhero-slaying attacks. Nuclear weapons are the least of the measures attempted against these monstrosities, as demonstrated when one parahuman makes a plan to attack one with a weapon capable of destroying India. It doesn't work. This is codified in the "Endbringer Truce", one of the most sacred rules all superpowered people abide by: all grievances between capes are postponed during an Endbringer attack, be they factional, professional, or personal. Heroes and villains alike respect the truce because even with the total cooperation of everyone on both sides, Endbringer attacks are still universally total disasters. If the truce was broken, the infighting or villains and heroes simply not showing up for fear of betray would make the already catastrophic events event worse.
    • When a fight with Khonsu (a new Endbringer) drags out far longer than usual without humanity being able to force it to retreat, the world's power players agree to pay the tribute a powerful supervillainess demands in order to get her assistance: thousands of innocent lives.
    • The possibility of opening the Birdcage is discussed several times, as it is a super-prison containing the worst and most powerful parahumans in the world — villains sufficiently horrifying that even the aforementioned Endbringer attacks are not sufficient cause to permit their release. The characters finally agree to do it when Scion pulls a Face–Heel Turn and begins wiping out humanity, with the reasoning that even if the villains from the Birdcage betray them, they can't possibly make the situation worse.
    • After the above event, Taylor and company manage to recruit the Endbringers. Collateral damage aside (and there is quite a bit of that), it's thankfully easier than expected and they require no appeasement. Their (accidental) creator dies, and Scion is the only being on the planet actually capable of killing them, so they may as well join the fight..
    • In turn, it demonstrates just how dangerous the Sleeper must be that even as the world is ending, everyone agrees that trying to bring him into the fight will almost certainly just make it worse.
    • The Slaughterhouse 9 and various other "S-class" threats are a slightly lesser version of this. Such groups have Kill Orders, meaning that anyone who kills them will be considered justified in doing so. When villains are discussing killing such targets, it's mentioned that the only response they would expect from the heroes for doing so is a thank-you card. And indeed when one of the 9 is captured by some villains who contact the heroes, the latter respond by saying that they should just kill the captive and save everyone the trouble.
  • Starcraft One People One Purpose deconstructs this. In Starcraft II Legacy Of The Void, The Protoss had to cut themselves off from the Khala, a pshycic link between all Protoss that allows them to communicate via telepathy, because Amon had taken control of it. However, even if they had to cut off their access to the Khala because the alternative- being thrall to Amon's hatred- was so horrible as to be unthinkable, it's shown here that the Khala was such an integral part of Protoss society (for those who used it before) that nobody was particularly joyous they had to abandon it, with some of the radical elements even trying to get it back without regards to the consequences.


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