is a Science Fiction
novel by Poul Anderson
, in which ships of interstellar traveling humans return home and find it utterly destroyed. It recounts their efforts to survive, locate other humans, and discover what happened.
- Adam and Eve Plot: The women on one ship are aware this doesn't work and that if humanity is to survive, each woman will need to have children by several men, to increase the gene pool.
- Aliens Are Bastards: Turns out the Laothaung, one of the more ruthless factions of Monvaing, decided that Earth was a threat; not because Humans Are Warriors but because it occupied a strategic sector and could threaten their own world if the Kandemirians seized it. So they decided to turn Earth into a radioactive wasteland to prevent this.
- Artistic License Physics: The crew rigs up some kinda space/time manipulator watchacallit to allow sound in space by vibrating other ship's hulls.
- Attack Drones: Automated missiles are orbiting the Earth, attacking any ship that turns up. The missiles were Kandemirian, casting them as an obvious suspect for the xenocide. It's later suggested the missiles were placed there mainly as a deterrent so the guilty party could claim the planet for themselves once the radiation had died down.
- Ballad of X: The Ballad of Brandobar is written in the Common Tongue of the sector, and taught to aliens as a drinking song in hopes that other humans will hear it and come to the Ben Franklin's position.
- Brandishment Bluff: The Kandemirians force the captive humans to work on technical projects for them, but keep a strict eye on every component to ensure they don't build tools or weapons to escape. However the humans construct a fake rifle using the non-essential chassis used to house and support the components, and use it to bluff them into handing over real weapons.
- Bury Your Gays: A crewman is murdered in cold blood for proposing to another. The murderer wasn't sanctioned and will have a Heroic Sacrifice later on.
- But What About the Astronauts?: The central plot
- The Captain: On the men's ship, he falls apart; on the women's, she leads the ship onward.
- Chekhov's Gun: The crew of the Europa find a conversion table scrawled inside one of the missiles that eventually exposes the real culprits.
- Chromosome Casting: Played with in the book, which has a Two Lines, No Waiting plot involving an all-male spaceship crew and an all-female crew on another spaceship, who are the only survivors after Earth is destroyed. Naturally the survival of the species depends on them finding each other.
- Divide and Conquer: Earth has been apparently destroyed by the Kandemir in retaliation for a secret aid agreement between the Soviet government and their enemies the Vorlakka (the Soviets will build weapons in exchange for secret instruction in Vorlakkan technology). When one of the human survivors confronts a Kandemiran intelligence officer with the accusation, he points out that they'd hardly go to the trouble when there's a more efficient method they've used before—approach the United States and tell them what the Soviets are doing. Why expend Kandemirian lives to conquer Earth when humans would be willing to do half the job for them?
- Epic Hail: Knowing that space is too vast to find the other human expeditions, and they can't hang around Earth waiting for survivors to turn up because of the missiles, the crew of the Franklin decide to win an epic battle and then distribute a ballad among the alien races telling of their deed, in the hope that other humans will hear it and know where to look for them. The ballard is carefully designed so it makes an appealing drinking song yet can't be easily changed so the message won't be distorted beyond recognition.
- Evil Virtues: The Kandemirians rule their subject races fairly and have very strong loyalties within their own clans.
- False Flag Operation: Turns out the Kandemirian missiles had been bought secondhand, and a faction of the Monvaing is responsible. The ruse is exposed by a conversion table scrawled on the interior of the missile by a Laothaung technician, so he can convert numbers written in the base 12 arithmetic used by the Kandemirians to their base 6 system.
- Hope Is Scary: The alien Ramri tries to calm Donnan as the plan to escape comes to fruition; he admits that he never understood why humans find hope more terrifying than despair.
- Humans Are Superior: This is handwaved as being due to humans simply being different from other cultures, so they can think up new angles in technology or business.
- Humans Are White: The male survivors are from the US and there is no mention of any being black or Asian. The women are from Europe, though there's mention of Russian and Chinese expeditions.
- The Leader: Donnan. He even orders the captain about at first, and later takes the captaincy.
- Mutually Assured Destruction: It's reported that an alien trader sold a Doomsday Device to several Earth nations that would detonate automatically in event of an attack. This raises the possibility that Earth basically committed suicide. However it's pointed out that if the report is true, wouldn't the nations concerned establish off-world colonies as a precaution?
- My God, What Have I Done?: The reaction of the humans when exposing the real culprits will lead to Civil War that will likely destroy the Monvaing motherworld.
- Mystery Fiction: Recycled IN SPACE! with the murder being not of a person, but an entire planet.
- Planet of Hats: Averted when Ramri explains how the Monvaing are not a homogeneous culture. This turns out to be a Chekhov's Lecture when a faction of the Monvaing turns out to be responsible for the destruction of Earth. Then again, all members of a given Monvaingian culture apparently think and feel alike, or so it is assumed.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The vorlakka. Averted as it's mostly their warrior caste, which has come to the fore; it's assumed their peacefully-inclined bureaucrats will be back in control when the war ends.
- Shout-Out: After being captured, there's a line over how the humans aren't just going to "turn a micro-ultrafiltmeter into a Von Krockmeier hyperspace lever" and escape. This refers a joke by Theodore Sturgeon on the overblown Science Heroes of the genre.
- This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Ramri rejects the idea that the human survivors go to war with the Laothaung who are behind the destruction of Earth. He returns to his planet to expose the culprits to the other Monvaing factions, knowing this will lead to a devastating civil war.
- Token Nonhuman: Ramri of Tantha; justified as humans are new to interstellar exploration so he's serving as the Franklin's advisor. No such advisor serves on board the Europa, apparently because the women are seeking to prove that they can do it all themselves.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: The storylines of the two spaceships — the all-male Franklin and the all-female Europa.
- Worthy Opponent: Tarkamat of Kandemir.
- You Are in Command Now: The second officer on the men's ship can not cope.