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A novel (and podcast) written by Robert Evans of It Could Happen Here and Behind the Bastards and building on many of the themes presented in the former, available for free here. The book is being released in text and audiobook instalments read by Evans himself throughout the summer of 2021, with a complete ebook version eventually being released in August 2021 and a printed version coming at some point in 2022.

Twenty years after the Second American Civil War, the Texas Republic, a failing Libertarian rump state, is embroiled in its own civil war between a loose coalition of militias and the Dominionist Heavenly Kingdom. We see this conflict through the eyes of three characters: Manny, a fixer who makes a living showing foreign journalists the horrors of war, and now just wants to escape to Europe; Sasha, a suburban teenager determined to join the Dominionists; and Roland, a drug-addled amnesiac super-soldier who's been dragged into one last mission.

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Evans has revealed that he has a sequel in the works, and is seeking to have it crowdfunded.

Compare and contrast with Victoria, set in a similar time range but from a very different perspective.


Tropes:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The book is set in 2070, with the Second American Civil War lasting from 2041 to around 2050.
  • Above Good and Evil: Jim says that he no longer believes in morality because he saw too many people with supposed codes of honor end up serving the ends of corrupt states anyway. He just believes in tearing established, corrupt orders down, however violently and to whatever end—as long the old is destroyed to make way for the new.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: From what we can glimpse from what passes for "justice" in the Heavenly Kingdom capital offences include: Stealing some of the food coming in, being captured while fighting against the Heavenly Kingdom, being gay and/or transgender. There are also more "minor" crimes although the Heavenly Kingdom doesn't think of them as "crime and punishment" and more as "the way things are". Those include being female Punishment: being forcibly married (i.e. raped) to one of the polygamist soldiers and being denied a last name, being nonwhite and mildly inconveniencing one of those with authority being turned into a Brain in a Jar for suicide missions whether there are other such "crimes" hasn't been revealed yet.
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  • Ambiguous Gender: Topaz thanks to the marvels of modern technology shows up to the final battle as a man after having previously been a woman. He doesn't say much about why, aside from just that he felt like it (what with there being a battle on, there's not exactly the time for a nuanced discussion of nonbinary identity).
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Roland now enjoys violence but doesn't want to, and so tries his hardest to avoid situations where it's necessary. Roland then killed far, far more than his kill counter's last mark of twelve thousand, including his own brother and hundreds of protestors, was responsible for the Lakewood nuke, and liked most of it. When he kills enough people that his memory comes back fully, he decides he can't let himself be that person and shoots himself in the head. (This is strongly implied to be what happened the first time around.)
  • Amnesiac Hero: Downplayed with Roland. He has a pretty good idea of his own identity, but most of the information of his service history in the US military, his role in the rebellion against the US government, who he was before being chromed, and his interpersonal relationships are all very much a haze to him, of which he can only clearly remember few scattered fragments, and many of the things he does remember are often devoid of context and lacks a through-line connecting them.
  • Amnesiac Lover: Roland was once heavily in love with Topaz. His general amnesia, however, means that he cannot remember very much else besides the feeling of having been deeply in love with her; all his memories of their actual relationship is gone, which is something that pains him very much.
  • Animated Tattoo: One of the more cosmetic cybernetic modifications out there. Jim in particular has a tattoo of snakes that respond to his emotional state. Or rather, he can manipulate them to display whichever emotional state serves his ends
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Partially namechecked by Roland. When he maims a military officer from the Kingdom, he notices that he doesn't feel too bad about it because the guy was a boorish racist and all-around "asshole".
    • Everyone consoles Sasha about her shooting Darryl by saying that as people to kill go, armed Heavenly Kingdom devotees are fairly blame-free and nothing to feel bad about.
  • Attack Drone: In common use by everyone in Texas. The SDF uses autonomous drones with AI but the Kingdom considers them blasphemous so they have humans pilot them remotely. The susceptibility of Kingdom drones to jamming was one of the few things holding them back and then they started putting brain jars in them.
  • Ate His Gun: Roland after single-handedly massacring the Martyr army at the battle of Waco, and remembering his role in the nuking of Dallas, using a grenade launcher. He still manages to survive it, though loses his memory again.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Roland's implants have a sensory suit that grants him near-omniscience about anything happening around a kilometre or less around him, and access to several Petabytes worth of information that lets him contextualize it on the fly. He is capable of limited precognition through extrapolation alone.
  • Awful Truth: Roland realizes that even his hazy memory fragments are full of pretty dark and traumatizing stuff, and when Manny at one point questions him on whether he actually wants to get his memories back by pointing this out to him, Roland cannot help but ponder that he might have a point. When Roland eventually starts getting more parts of his memory back during his climactic battle with the Heavenly Kingdom's army, he simply cannot bear the weight of it and decides to attempt suicide.
  • Banana Republic: Several of the successor nations of the old USA is described as such to varying degrees, though the Republic of Florida is seen as the worst of the bunch; having been given the unofficial title of "North America's Banana-est Republic".
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Alexander was loving and friendly online. But once Sasha actually meets him, the facade quickly drops, revealing him to be a smug and controlling misogynist who sees her as nothing more than a possession and a baby factory.
    • Helen acts nice and motherly, but she's completely fine with young women under her care being forcibly "married" (ie, dragged off to be raped) by Heavenly Kingdom soldiers. She just talks about how it's "God's will" and everyone must be willing to make sacrifices.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Heavy on the bitter. The Heavenly Kingdom is severely damaged, the surviving hostages are home, Sasha has escaped the cult, and Manny has found a new purpose other than "run away as fast possible". But Roland's lost all his memories and split (again), the Kingdom still holds most of Texas and the war is far from over, and Jim has apparently manipulated Sasha into working for him.
  • Blood Knight: Enforced by Roland's enhancements, which flood him with serotonin and other reward chemicals when he hurts people, and even when he gets hurt himself. He and other characters treat it like an addiction; he refers to killing people as "falling off the wagon". When he's in full form, he simply can't stop, even though the enemy's in full retreat and his better instincts and allies are begging him to.
  • Blunt "Yes": When a reluctant Manny has been convinced to attend a rave in "Rolling Fuck" with Donald Farris and Skullfucker Mike, he notices that the entrance to the place where the rave is held and is made of some sort of strange living metal that lovingly caresses the guests as they walk past it. An exasperated Manny asks Donald "Is this whole damned city build around drugs and fondling?" In response, Donald flashes him a wide grin and says "Yes."
  • Brain–Computer Interface: Ubiquitous "decks", one of the few forms of cyberware that are accepted by practically everyone. Though Sasha still has hers' removed by the Dominionist coyotes who get her across the AmFed border so her parents can't use it to track her.
  • Brain in a Jar: The "Storming Battalion" turn out to be the brains of Martyrs (or rather, non-white Martyrs) installed in drones or autonomous cars that can bypass jamming and drive through checkpoints that scan for human drivers.
  • Breeding Cult: Sasha's internet boyfriend Alexander turns out to be part of a special unit called "Jacobians" or "The Sons of Jacob", who are tasked with "seeding the next generation of martyrs," and already has two wives with children by the time he meets Sasha in person.
  • Brutal Honesty: The basic m.o. of Roland is to only speak when he deems it necessary and to be blunt, terse and honest. After the Rescues Manny from becoming a Brain In Jar suicide bomber and Sasha from becoming a kind of human brood-mare he basically tells them "Yeah this sucks, your situation sucks but moping about it won't make it better, so let's get on with the mission". Both of the other people present are too stunned to respond much. He also has no qualms about telling Sasha that in his opinion Manny was manipulating her because she had information they could use. Manny notably doesn't protest.
  • British Stuffiness: Reggie, the English journalist who has hired Manny as his guide, has some touches of it; he is a bit uptight and reserved, as opposed to Manny who can take some of the stranger situations the two of them end up finding themselves in more or less in stride. Reggie notably gets quite flustered about undressing in front of Topaz, while neither Manny nor Topaz treat nudity as any kind of big deal. And when Skullfucker Mike offers the duo some of his blood in shot glasses, to use the medical nanobots in it as a way of healing the injuries they have sustained, Manny is quick to accept the idea and downs the shot of blood after only some brief hesitation, while Reggie is quite revolted by the thought and Manny needs to coax him into it for several minutes before he goes through with it.
  • Bungled Suicide: Faced with the Awful Truth contained in his returning memories, Roland attempts to commit suicide but fails, only succeeding in scrambling his memory again. Not that he didn't try very, very hard, by attempting to pull off a messy combination of Ate His Gun and Your Head A-Splode with a grenade launcher in the hopes that it could bypass both his Super Toughness and Healing Factor. It couldn't.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: The nicest place shown so far is the anarchosocialist Rolling Fuck. AmFed is at least functional, in that citizens can go about their lives without fear of being bombed by fundamentalists, but it's also the kind of place that has so many teenage suicides that it's commonplace for Sasha to lose a few classmates that way every year. Most characters generally agree that capitalism has failed. Incidentally that is also the real-life belief of Robert Evans.
  • Catfishing: The Heavenly Kingdom uses a group of charismatic young men calling themselves the "Sons of Jacob" to lure girls to their territory online, much like ISIS in real life. Sasha even claims that Alexander catfished her after she discovers he already has multiple wives.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Sasha once took 3 semesters of pre-med in high school; from how she describes it, it seems to have given her some knowledge regarding anatomy and how to perform some more advanced kinds of first aid, which she fully admits isn't that much. Regardless, she quickly finds herself recruited as an assistant by Dr Brandt, one of the few local doctors, who admits up front that the Heavenly Kingdom suffers from a woeful lack of medical professionals and even her rudimentary medical training makes her about as much as a doctor as the majority of his colleagues.
  • Consummate Liar: At least implied with Jim. Roland notices that Jim's cybernetic implants are constantly working towards making his body language as ambiguous as possible, so even a heavily chromed person like himself has an extraordinarily hard time getting a read on him. And despite his amnesia, Roland still remembers bits and pieces of his past encounters with Jim; a common theme for all of these memories fragments is that the fellow cyborg has tended to never be completely forthcoming with him. Just before the final battle of the book Jim works his "charms" on Sasha to try and recruit her. It is left ambiguous whether it worked, but it definitely affected her
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Who is the king of Albuquerque? What makes Florida the bana-est of banana Republics? What's going on in California and Cascadia? What are the "some interesting things" going on in Mormon-land Jim mentions? The reader/listener can only guess.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Dr. Brandt was correct to be very, very afraid of the day the Rolling Fuck hostages no longer protected the Heavenly Kingdom from their compatriots. When the battle finally comes, the Heavenly Kingdom is utterly decimated and doesn't manage to kill a single person. (Admittedly, the battle is tilted somewhat by the fact Roland is there, but even without him, the damage ratio would have been severely skewed, as evidenced by the Fuckian cavalry in action.) Rolling Fuck has but one casualty—Roland, who only gets hurt because he shoots himself.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Played with. Most cyborgs are actually quite affable and animated people, but their functional semi-immortality and vastly enhanced senses and reflexes mean that they simply don't really register average human sensations anymore, and as such they are compelled to seek out more extreme and weirder ways to get their kicks, often causing them to indulge in more extreme kinds of hedonism that simply comes across as disturbing to baseline humans. They also find it hard to deal with people who aren't enhanced; Topaz and Skullfucker Mike completely forget that Manny and Reggie actually need treatment for their injuries, or that they might find it weird for that treatment to be drinking Skullfucker Mike's blood (for the nanobots).
  • The Dead Have Names: The Rolling Fuckians have developed a unique battle ritual, they send out micro-drones to identify their enemies, and begin playing their social media feeds on a big theater screen before they’re killed. This reminds the posthuman warriors that the humans they’re killing are people too.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Roland remains completely calm under fire and spends his first firefight with the squad smoking a joint and chatting to them while they're diving for cover. His inhuman toughness, combined with his ability to predict the trajectory and potential impact damage of guns and explosives before they're even fired, means he hasn't got much to fear outside of serious military hardware.
  • Divided States of America: Known successor states to the USA include California, Texas, Florida, Cascadia, the Christian States of America, the American Federation or AmFed, and the Kingdom of Albuquerque.
    • Fans on the subreddit have attempted to draw up a map, though it's difficult due to contested borders.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Evans has covered wars and rebellions in Ukraine and Syria and what little we glimpse from before the revolution sounds a lot like the Maidan uprisings and the war in Texas with "western" aligned "SDF"note  of mostly secular fighters against a monotheistic fundamentalist group that seems to have come out of nowhere are all reminiscent of the fight against ISIS in the Syrian Civil War. Even the cynical gamble by the Republic of Texas to let the fundamentalists have free reign coming back to bite them is akin to what Assad did in Syria.
    • Storming Battalion is the ISIL term for suicide bomber forces.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Manny is notably uncomfortable with getting called by his full first name of Emmanuel. We never find out why. Likewise it's Skullfucker Mike, thank you very much.
  • Drugs Are Good: Given who wrote this are you really surprised that by the end of the book all pov characters are happy to take pretty much any of the various psychoactive substances readily available? Heck, Rolling Fuck is basically built on drugs and sex.
  • Due to the Dead: Rolling Fuck takes this very seriously, both for their own and for the other side. It's their practice to deploy facial recognition drones at the start of a fight so they can make sure to properly memorialize everybody they're about to kill, to keep the enemy from becoming faceless. They also all engage in a city-wide Skyward Scream when they learn Marigold is dead.
  • Enemy Eats Your Lunch: After having his subordinates take Manny away to "join the Storm Battalion", Alexander smugly sits down at the table Manny and Sasha was sitting at and begins drinking the former's cup of coffee.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Well not everyone, but it seems at least everyone in Rolling Fuck. Roland also seems to have no problem swinging both ways.
  • The Face: During his and Roland's infiltration mission into the Heavenly Kingdom, the affable Manny fills this role, as Roland is generally a bit too much of a gruff and impatient Terse Talker to be much for diplomacy. They eventually settle on a routine where Roland employs plenty of Obfuscating Stupidity to appear like a big and strong guy who isn't all there mentally, while Manny is his best friend and caretaker who does the talking for both of them.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Roland's plan to break out the three captives could have gone swimmingly if Alexander and his goons hadn't been equipped with power armor Roland's deck had no data on he might have been able to see them had his deck been online or had he had the option of direct visual but the way it went down, he only detected them when it was too late
  • Fallen States of America: The continuation of the old US federal government, known as the American Federation (or just "AmFed"), still holds on to the old New England and Mid-Atlantic states. They also claim de jure control over the Great Lakes area, but it is de facto a protectorate under the Canadian government, and claim control as far out west as the state of Missouri, though it is known to be a heavily contested area. The Federation itself is noted to be a rather unstable construction and borderline rump state in and of itself, bogged down by severe socio-economic issues, although its state of dysfunction is not quite as bad as some of the other American successor states, especially the failing Republic of Texas.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: The Heavenly Kingdom in many ways seems to be bringing about its own downfall. Even ignoring their propensity to be hated by pretty much every other faction or their foreign policy blunders (holding people from a previously politically neutral colony of superhumans one of whom is enough to shred a battalion in seconds hostage is probably not all that smart a move), their openly aggressive motto "remain and expand"note  and their recruitment being mostly based on brainwashing the citizens of other polities, they also have some cruel policies that are just plain stupidity. For example, the Breeding Cult that treats women as little more than birthing machines robs them of easily half their potential talent (to say nothing of being one of the reasons Sasha defects), their racism does them no favors either and the result can be seen in their abysmal medical capabilities and their appalling casualty rates. Basically every reason that leads to Sasha's defection is a case of Stupid Evil. And they can't even get proper supplies going — not even of necessities in a teetotaler state like real coffee.
  • The Fixer: Manny's job is to serve as one for foreign journalists who want to report on the state of Texas and Ciudad de Muerta in particular.
  • Flashback Echo: Roland has PTSD (though he blames it more on defects in his chrome) and thus gets bits and pieces of his past at times. It's not pretty.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Downplayed with Jim. While he doesn't walk around naked, per se, his choice of legwear is a pair of chaps that leaves his crotch area completely exposed at pretty much all times, even in combat situations.
  • Functional Addict: Roland is usually high as a kite on multiple types of drugs when he fights. His heavy cybernetic upgrades more than compensates for any hindrance it would have on his ability to fight, so it makes any fight against him no less of a Curbstomp Battle.
  • The Fundamentalist: Sasha is a sympathetic version. While she firmly believes in the words of the Sinister Minister at the head of the Heavenly Kingdom — such as the idea that unbelievers are all going to hell, or that it's always a woman's job to calm a man's anger and never talk back—it's because she's a teenager in a broken society, manipulated and taken advantage of by this cult.
  • Former Regime Personnel: Roland is from a company of former special-ops soldiers from the US military, who was heavily modified with advanced military cybernetics, as they were a desperate attempt from the US federal government to turn the tide against the country rapidly tearing itself apart. The cyborg soldiers would themselves eventually turn on the government, however. From what little Roland remembers from his service history, he was involved in several atrocities on both sides of the conflict; both in violently suppressing rebellions on behalf of the government, but also in violently overthrowing the government.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Tule snaps at Sasha to stop freaking out and pull herself together because much worse things are happening than Sasha shooting Darryl (who, as nice as he was to Sasha, is part of the Heavenly Kingdom and actively supports its actions) for his car and they don't have time for her to lose her shit.
    I don't know where you came from, girl, but you're in a hard-ass part of the world now. It's time to fortify.
  • Gone Horribly Right: This is the truth about Roland's chrome. He was a subject of Project Orange, a US military initiative to create the perfect soldiers who would be unstoppable and unhesitating killing machines. They were. And they saw no reason they should stand down just because they were told to, or because their targets were civilians. One of their massacres was so massive and bloody that the government covered it up by saying multiple ammunition depots exploded.
  • Here We Go Again!: Roland starts the book in pretty much the same place namely a hut in Arizona with most of his memories gone as he is confirmed to be headed by the time the epilogue rolls around. A botched suicide attempt that leaves your memory wiped will do that to you.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: Amongst others, the Heavenly Kingdom holds public executions of those it considers "deviants" and "fags". Sasha witness one such execution, where the victims are a group of transsexual youths who have committed the "sin" of changing the gender they were assigned by birth.
  • Hidden Depths: Sasha is much more than what is apparent at first glance. Not only is she the quickest thinker in a crisis of all the non-chromed characters, but she also translates three semesters of high school pre-med into a medical career, is perceptive enough to notice someone walks with a limp at a distance and delivers the crucial death blow to someone she was hopelessly in love with perhaps two weeks prior when it counts.
  • Holier Than Thou: Mae, one of the other girls in Sasha's living unit, gives all the others a hard time whenever they're not as "Godly" as she would like. Though she aggravates the dorm matron Helen as much as she does Sasha.
  • Honey Trap: Similarly to one of its real-life inspirations (ISIS), the Heavenly Kingdom uses handsome young men to seduce women from outside its borders and coax them into immigrating so they can be used as soldiers' wives.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Quadrophacts, Boston Dynamics robots meant to transport men and supplies up steep Afghan mountains. Rolling Fuck's militia has a cavalry unit mounted on them.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Because the citizens of "Rolling Fuck" tend to enjoy their alcohol laced with drugs, Manny accidentally gets himself a heavy dose of high-grade LSD when he visits one of the city's bars and mixes up one local beer brand for another due to semi-illegible writing on the beer tap.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Since Lakewood got nuked during the Civil War, Dallas has become more commonly known as "Ciudad de Muerte"note 
  • I'll Take Two Beers Too: Manny is sitting in a bar with Reggie and Skullfucker Mike, when the latter orders three shots of bourbon. Manny is just about to politely reject the gesture before he sees Skullfucker Mike drinking all three shots himself in one go.
  • Indy Ploy:
    • While it might seem every combat situation Roland is in is this, he actually always goes in with a plan, but as he quotes a Prussian military mind "No plan survives contact with the enemy". Still, a plan is a nice thing to guide one when things go pear-shaped.
    • Also invoked by Manny, who says that if Plan A to rescue the hostages doesn't work, Plan B is "shut your eyes and hide behind Roland".
  • The Infiltration: The leading citizens of The City of Wheels aka "Rolling Fuck" offer to help Manny out with his visa, if he in return helps them by infiltrating the Kingdom of Heaven to free three comrades of theirs, who've been captured and held hostage to make sure Rolling Fuck stays out of the war. They figure that Manny, as a baseline human and a local, and with his job requiring him to be a good talker, would have an easier time not attracting any undue attention. They also recruit Roland to help, as his hardware is now so unusual the Heavenly Kingdom won't be able to detect it, and he has a special enhancement that lets him shapeshift.
  • Insistent Terminology: Skullfucker Mike repeatedly corrects anyone who calls him "Mike", he also insists that The City of Wheels is a city, not a "road tribe" (that term is reserved for the actual indigenous tribes).
  • In-Universe Catharsis: When Manny is transferred while he is away, and the commanders of the local martyrs refuse to tell him where exactly he has been taken, Roland decides that he has had enough of keeping up the ruse of being a normal soldier and that he has to force it out of them. He starts by casually breaking Matyr Ditmar's wrist, noting that the act of inflicting violence upon the racist and overbearing officer, combined with the dawning look of terror and pain on the man's is the best high he has gotten in days.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: An anti-hero version. Roland tells Dr. Brandt that if he doesn't help them, Roland will start slicing his way through the city, going after everyone but this character, so that they can watch the results of their refusal to cooperate. It works.
  • Kill Tally: According to Roland, he and his fellow cyborg soldiers had a kill-count tracker installed along with all their other cybernetic hardware, but Roland personally burned his tracker out because he couldn't stand to be constantly reminded of exactly how many people he had killed. Before he got rid of it, it was sitting at about twelve thousand.
  • The Leader: Nana Yazziee is one of the levelheaded types of The City of Wheels. She doesn't hold any formal office — the very loose and anarchic nature of the city does not allow for such a thing to exist — but because of her experience, many people in the city still hold her advice and opinions in high regard, and as such tend to follow her lead.
  • Longevity Treatment: JuvEn treatments are subsidized by many of the remaining governments, the POV characters are repeatedly surprised when they encounter people who actually look old.
  • Mercy Kill: Roland ends up giving this to Oscar during the latter's public execution by mob violence in the Heavenly Kingdom, to spare Manny from having to watch the martyr recruits kill him even slower and messier.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Played for Black Comedy. When Roland gets rid of his white person disguise, he has to pull the white skin off the regrowth of his normal skin, which freaks Sasha out. He says that this would be a bad time for her to turn out to be racist, and Manny has to explain that most people aren't able to casually tear their whole faces off.
  • Mobile City: The City of Wheels, aka "Rolling Fuck", mobile mining complex turned nomadic anarcho-transhumanist commune. The main vehicle looks like a skyscraper-sized spider made of scaffolding and cranes on a massive set of treads.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong:
    • Helen genuinely finds some of the Heavenly Kingdom's heinous actions, such as the recent state-sanctioned empowerment of the misogynistic "Sons of Jacob" organization into a sort of Church Police, to be rather despicable, but she as personally distasteful as she finds such acts, she still quietly accepts them, believing that they are necessary to ensure the Kingdom's survival.
    • Downplayed a bit with Sasha; while she isn't as willing to turn a blind eye to things as Helen, she is still willing to put up with a lot of the overt signs of corruption and authoritarianism she witnesses in the Kingdom on a near-daily basis. In the end, though, it eventually becomes enough to disillusion her, and make her join Roland and Manny's efforts to rescue the Rolling Fuck hostages.
  • Mysterious Past: Roland has lived a long life and remembers little of it. It comes back to him in bits and pieces particularly during the climactic battle in chapter 23 before he blows his head off, resetting his memories but most of it is never revealed to other characters and even the reader/listener is left with many open questions.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Alexander's smug flex of having Manny dragged off to join the Storm Battalion turns out to be possibly his worst idea. First, because it gives Manny—the guy who makes his living by networking with journalists, remember—a firsthand look at the Heavenly Kingdom's biggest secret. Second, because sending Manny away to have his brain scooped out ensures Roland, who's a One-Man Army on his bad days, will follow him. Right to the Heavenly Kingdom's most important weapons facility, where he does what he's best at, ie, mass destruction and mayhem. Thanks, Alexander!
  • Nigh-Invulnerability: Roland has a killer combo of Super Toughness and Healing Factor, thanks to his chrome. It takes some serious firepower to so much as make him bleed. At one point he takes multiple bullets to the head, is set on fire, has half his face ripped off, and gets a huge holeshot in his stomach, and all it does is slow him down a little. He just uses the hole as storage space. Even a point-blank shot to the head with a high-calibre rifle only knocks him out and re-scrambles his memories. The other Project Orange subjects were killed by an accident in space, which suggests that the only thing which could put him down for good is extended exposure to hard vacuum and/or unprotected re-entry into the atmosphere.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • Manny is "recruited" to the Brain in a Jar battalion mostly because he pissed off Alexander. His crime? Hanging out with Sasha so that Alexander and his goons can't abduct and rape her.
    • Similarly Dr. Brandt for taking the option that (for all he knows) ends with fewer corpses when abducted by Roland is unceremoniously torn apart by gunshots of his own people. It's not like he could've chosen a path that wouldn't have ended with him dead, but this is just adding insult to injury.
    • Roland decides to fight against the Heavenly Kingdom after initially refusing, to protect his friends and Texas as a whole. This causes his chrome's pro-killing reward system to hijack his brain, which results in him mowing down so many people so quickly that he decides he's too dangerous to be allowed to live and tries to kill himself.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Roland's combat cybernetics makes him scarily efficient at delivering these, being able to take out entire squads of soldiers in a manner of seconds using just his bare hands. A much more dramatic one happens when Sasha manages to catch Alexander unaware and proceeds to beat his skull in with a helmet she took off one of his fallen soldiers.
  • Not Good with People: Roland due to simply not understanding how a non-chromed brain operates and having a difficult time telling when he says something out loud (highlights include asking "Are eight minutes long for you people?" during a tense situation). He notices how Manny can often smooth things over by intervening and wonders how many violent misunderstandings he could've avoided with Manny at his side and whether he should invite him to become his neighbor when the heist has gone down.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution:
    • Roland takes the job reluctantly and only because he wants his memories back. Helping Topaz might be a bonus, but then he can barely remember why cares or once cared about her. He's certainly not about to violate his Thou Shalt Not Kill rule to tear apart the Heavenly Kingdom - as much as he hates many aspects of it, he just thinks the majority of their infantry are just young men who don't know any better and got suckered into something.
    • Rolling Fuck doesn't believe in getting involved in wars; they promise to fight against the Heavenly Kingdom for a single day, as vengeance for Marigold, but after they've gotten their due, they plan to withdraw.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Played with, after the Second American Civil War most stable nations imposed restrictions on more advanced forms of cybernetics. Decks and other lower-level enhancements are allowed and quite commonplace, but people like Roland are barred from a lot of countries.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: The plot is set into motion by The Heavenly Kingdom going on a major offensive in Texas after months of being contained by the Republic and the militias that control Ciudad de Muerta (what's left of Dallas). Neither the Republic nor the SDF was taking it very seriously due to their refusal to engage in drone warfare, and are therefore caught completely off-guard.
  • Older Than They Look: The general access to the JuvEn treatment has meant that this is in play to some degree for most of the world's population, to a degree where actually looking older than middle-aged is something considered a novelty or even an oddity by most people. It is in play to a more drastic degree for cyborgs, whose medical implants appears to be slowing down their ageing process to a dramatic degree; Roland in particular is met with scepticism by pretty much everyone when he talks about the few fragments he remembers about his service history back in the Civil War, but, no, he really is that old.
  • Only One Name: Encouraged, if not outright enforced by The Heavenly Kingdom. Shortly after her arrival, Sasha is told that no one in the Kingdom has a surname and everybody just goes by their first name. Prompted by Marigold, however, Sasha notices the sinister detail that it actually only applies to women in the Kingdom, as her boss, Dr. Brandt, still goes primarily by his last name, and that Alexander also happens to still have a last name.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Heavenly Kingdom as a whole, given their mass executions of trans and gay people. A number of their officers are also blatant racists and/or anti-Semites too. While the Kingdom doesn't officially bar non-white people from joining, this appears to be just because it always needs more cannon fodder, and they're treated as lesser and given more dangerous jobs. Including being turned into a Brain in a Jar for a suicide mission
  • Powered Armor: Roland's first serious battle sees him, and the team he is sent in with, face off against three martyrs in reappropriated US Army power armor suits of an older model. While the powered armor gives the martyrs a serious edge against the baseline humans on the team, offering them both ample protection against firearms and explosives and hardware-enhanced aiming, the cybernetically upgraded Roland still proves more than a match for them. Roland and the group are later caught off-guard by a couple of martyrs equipped with more advanced sets of armor, that also has a built-in Invisibility Cloak. The fact that Roland's deck is not connected to the Internet means his databank does not know this model as it was released after Roland went offline.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: Roland, upon realizing that Manny has been taken away to "join the Storming Battalion" while he was out doing reconnaissance, demands of the local Commandant, Dawkins, to know Manny's location. Martyr Ditmar intervenes by putting a hand on Roland's thigh and telling him that it isn't his concern adding that "Just do what you do best and we'll handle the rest." Roland's response:
    Roland: OK... (grabs Ditmar's wist and then squeezes it hard to audibly crack the bone) I'll do what I do best, then.
  • Profiling: In keeping with their Politically Incorrect Villain status, the Heavenly Kingdom often engages in this. Manny and Roland's infiltration attempt is at first almost ruined when an officer at a checkpoint decides to give Manny trouble simply for being of Hispanic descent. Inside the Kingdom, Manny also finds himself constantly attracting several suspicious looks from the locals, who he notices are overwhelmingly white. Roland, meanwhile, can slip in under the radar, despite being black, because some of his more advanced and unique implants allow him to drastically alter his appearance to a degree where he can disguise himself as a white person.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Like most people in the Heavenly Kingdom, Dr. Brandt is a Christian fundamentalist. Unlike them, however, he is still close enough to earth to prioritize the importance of medical work and helping people over religious dogma, recruiting Sasha as a nurse and assistant because of her medical skills, rather than demanding that she Stay in the Kitchen. He is also not willing to throw lives needlessly away just to prove his devotion, and agrees to help Manny and Roland execute their plan to rescue the three hostages from Rolling Fuck, as long as they are willing to try to do the thing as bloodlessly as possible.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: The Heavenly Kingdom, also known as the Martyrs. The Christian States are a more moderate theocracy based in the Deep South. Meanwhile, a loose coalition of vaguely leftist militias collectively known as Secular Defense Forces has been holding the Martyrs back.
  • Scary Black Man: Deconstructed. Roland is pretty scary, particularly if you're the unfortunate goon on the other end of a drug-fueled wrench rampage, but it takes an incredible toll on him. The things that make him frightening hurt him almost as much as they hurt other people; he's deeply traumatized and will never be okay again, even if the surgery to restore his memories works.
  • Second American Civil War: Resulted in the breakup of the United States of America into multiple successor states, and now Texas is fighting its own civil war.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Sasha chooses to believe that the nastier posts she's seen from other Heavenly Kingdom supporters are actually sockpuppets run by people trying to make the dominionists look bad. This later translates into ignoring red flags in the flesh as well.
  • Sequel Hook: If (in case you listened to the podcast-audiobook) hearing Robert Evans announce his decision to write a sequel 22 times didn't do it, the fact that Roland is back where he started and Sasha has been hired by Jim as part of his little army might clue you in that there's a sequel planned.
  • Shaped Like Itself: The most succinct description of Roland's fighting style any of the non-chromed characters has thus far come up with is "Roland doing Roland things"
  • Shellshocked Veteran: Roland very much so. Including random flashbacks to events, he otherwise doesn't remember.
  • Shout-Out: During the battle for Waco, Roland loses his head (figuratively) and finds an old Thompson Gun.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Although Sasha is allowed to run a drone gun, once she actually arrives in Heavenly Kingdom territory it's very clear that women are restricted to very narrow roles there: cooking, cleaning and having babies. Sasha finds herself put on a women-only team of new arrivals that perform menial tasks, such as sewing uniforms for the martyr soldiers or clearing out disused houses. For a double-whammy, her boyfriend Alex makes it clear that he expects her to stop working at all once she's pregnant with his child.
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: Sasha notices that she cannot help feeling somewhat uncomfortable when fellow Christians express anti-Semitic or homophobic opinions, believing that it makes the Christian movement appear backwards and overly paranoid by association. (Sasha has a very...rosy view of the Heavenly Kingdom, due to being seventeen.)
  • Super Soldier: During the Second Civil War the US government tried using soldiers heavily modified with advanced cybernetics to maintain some sense of order. But the resulting cyborg soldiers rebelled and turned on the feds in (nominal) favor of the various rebel factions. Many of them have since wound up in the secular militias, often said to be the only thing keeping the Martyrs at bay.
  • The Theocracy: The Heavenly Kingdom leans into the dystopian version; Evans has even said that some of its darker elements are overtly inspired by the Real Life Islamic State/Daesh, just with extremist Christianity instead of extremist Islam.
    • There is also the United Christian States, which on the surface at least, claims to be a nice and friendly version. Also worth mentioning is "Mormonland", the informal name for the entire former state of Utah with some parts of northern Nevada where two competing sects of local Mormons have taken control.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Roland, for some reason he cannot quite recall due to his general amnesia, holds himself to a rule of not killing people in combat. Something much harder than it sounds, because his combat-centric wiring is primed to release endorphins into his blood whenever he commits violence. That said, he has no problem with taking an extraneous body part to establish dominance, hence his rather sizeable foreskin collection at the time we're introduced to him.
  • Tiger by the Tail: Namechecked by Dr. Brandt when he explains to Sasha how bad a position the Heavenly Kingdom is in because they took Rolling Fuck's envoys prisoner. While holding the three hostage means the posthumans probably won't attack right now, in the long term this move put the Kingdom in direct conflict with a heavily-armed polity who already hated them on principle. And he's entirely correct. The imprisonment of the trio blows up in the Kingdom's faces in every way possible.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Very, very toxic. Jim keeps promising Roland he won't have to kill anyone, but obviously knew and was counting on the fact that the "sabotage mission" would require violence. He outright says that he wants Roland to go back to the way he used to be, when Roland was more like Jim, even though Roland hates being like that.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Ultimately downplayed. During the Second Civil War, the US military used advanced cybernetics to convert hundreds of men and women into powerful cyborg soldiers, in the hopes that they could effectively crackdown on the multiple rebellions and unrests tearing the country apart and save the federal government from collapsing. Instead, the cyborgs ended up deserting en mass, and some of them even joined the various rebel factions and helped to usher in the federal government's downfall. Manny thinks no one should have been surprised when they all deserted because men shouldn't expect gods to fight their battles. Following the war, it is not an uncommon viewpoint amongst the surviving cyborgs to consider themselves superior to baseline humans, but they also by and large tend to lead pretty peaceful lives and keep to themselves and are generally not interested in taking over the world or killing all meatbags. Only Jim has thoughts even vaguely in that direction.
  • Uncanny Valley: In-Universe. Most baseline humans cannot help but find something rather disturbing and emotionally upsetting about more heavily "chromed" people; there is no real unified theory on why this happens, but most scientists studying the phenomenon believe it has something to do with the cyborgs' ability to move and react much faster than the average human that makes them come off as "wrong" in some strange primordial way.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Before the final heist, Manny lays out a "Plan A" (which of course goes sour pretty fast) as well as a "Plan B" ("Close your eyes and hide behind Roland") interestingly the heist might have failed if Sasha had followed "Plan B" instead of busting in Alexander's skull with a helmet she took off one of his comrades
  • War Is Hell: The book depicts war as brutal, bloody, and dehumanizing for everyone involved—even those who can easily survive physically are psychologically damaged beyond repair, especially Roland.
  • Wham Line: From Roland, at the end of Chapter 23: "Who the fuck are you people?"
  • White Like Me: Played for Drama. The black Roland uses his advanced infiltration cybernetics to alter his appearance and disguise himself as a white man when going undercover in the Heavenly Kingdom alongside Manny. This only serves to strengthen Roland's contempt for the Kingdom and its adherents, as he notices that while he flies under the radar, Manny, being of Hispanic descent, is near-constantly subjected to varying degrees of racism by the inhabitants, both of the casual and the more serious kind.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Jim and Roland were part of a group who murdered a huge gathering of the richest business people in the world — and then killed all their children, too. Roland regrets this (at least as much as he can, since he doesn't really remember it). Jim, however, callously says they were "heirs", not children, and if they'd been allowed to live they would just have taken over for their parents.

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