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Literature / Antares

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A trilogy of sci-fi novels by Michael McCollum dealing with humanity's war against a genocidal alien race.

Central to the novels is the concept of "foldpoints". These natural stargates connect the stars and allow interstellar travel. The vast majority of stars have no foldpoints, and are therefore effectively out of reach. All human-colonised solar-systems have at least one. Generally speaking the more massive a star is, the more foldpoints will form around it. The novels focus mostly on the colony of Alta, which has been isolated for over a century after its system's single foldpoint disappears when the star Antares (previously a hub of human commerce thanks to its six foldpoints) goes supernova.

The first book, Antares Dawn, is set 125 years after the supernova. The nova shockwave has reached Alta. Theories regarding whether or not the foldpoint would restore itself are rendered moot when a crippled terrestrial warship running completely on autopilot limps through. Captain Richard Drake leads an expedition through, eventually discovering that the supernova also brought humanity into conflict with the genocidal Ryall. The nearest colony, Sandar, has reverted to a monarchy, has been in a state of continuous warfare for over a century, and has been cut off from Earth for the last 15 years. The Altans also get a chance to fight alongside the Sandarians when the Ryall attack.

The second novel, Antares Passage, takes place two years later. Alta and Sandar make an alliance and spend tons of money on radiation shields so they can brave the nova and reach Earth. On the way, they stumble onto a Ryall mining colony and discover a complete star chart of the Ryall Hegemony.

The final novel, Antares Victory, focuses on the human assault on the central Ryall system of Spica, and their subsequent struggle to hold it against counterattacks. It ends with the humans trying to convince the Ryall to give up their attempts at genocide.

The series is notable for its faithful obedience of the laws of physics. Lasers are invisible (except in one battle where the Ryall unleash a cloud of oxygen onto the battlefield), ships have to deal with the effects of high acceleration, and destroyed spaceships are reduced to hunks of metal.

Contains examples of:

  • Absolute Xenophobe: The Ryall do not believe that intelligent aliens can be anything other than a threat to their existence.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Averted. The Ryall learn English from human prisoners, and we also learn their language from Ryall prisoners.
  • Arranged Marriage: Practiced on Sandar, with the added element of backups in case the bride or groom dies before the wedding (a non-trivial possibility when they have been at war for over a century). Philip was betrothed at the age of three, and it seems to be a Perfectly Arranged Marriage, since Philip has fallen in love with his intended by now.
  • Covers Always Spoil: There is no mention of aliens for the first half of Antares Dawn, and the revelation that they exist is supposed to come as a surprise. However, the blurb on the back spoils it.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Averted without going into Starfish Aliens. Ryall are centauroids - they have six legs.
  • Humans by Any Other Name: The Ryall call humans Biped Monsters or just Monsters for short.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Varlan has difficulty understanding why the humans persist in their belief that two intelligent species can coexist. Or why we keep our lawns mowed.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The series goes:
    • Antares Dawn
    • Antares Passage
    • Antares Victory
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Missiles are major weapons in this universe. Attack carriers particularly are jammed to the bulkheads with nuclear missiles, and designed to overwhelm any planetary defense system.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Played with. Bethany states that Ryall diseases cannot infect humans, which is why she's okay with letting Varlan feed her baby. On the other hand, Corlis had diseases that could infect Ryall. Hearing this, the humans decide not to stay long enough to find out if they can also infect humans.
  • Reassignment Backfire: After being forced to accept Philip Walkirk (aka the Sandarian Crown Prince) as an exchange officer on board the Discovery, Captain Drake assigns him to command the Marines, in hopes of keeping him safe. Later, the Marines end up having to board a Ryall transport.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Sandarian monarchy. Crown Prince Philip Walkirk serves on the front lines. He does rise from ensign in Antares Passage to getting a minor command in Antares Victory, but it's implied that he's simply a competent officer. The only special treatment he gets is that he is universally addressed as "Your Highness" even by superior officers giving him orders.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: Partially subverted. The Ryall are trying to wipe out the human race, no bones about it. But they aren't psychotic savages - they simply believe that the extermination of one sentient species by another is one of the hard facts of life, due to an encounter with sentient amphibious sharks in their Stone Age. The humans argue, however, that was competition with these "Swift Eaters" that drove the Ryall's own development.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Averted. Transiting a star system can take days. In Antares Dawn, Captain Drake has time to take a shower while his ship heads into a battle where the odds are against him.
  • Shown Their Work: The books take great pains to, for the most part, stay within the current known laws of physics.
  • Space Station: Foldpoints are defended by massive orbital fortresses.
  • Spoiler Title: The third book in the series is Antares Victory.
  • Translation Convention: In scenes from the perspective of Ryall, the Ryall speak English, and humans are incomprehensible without the use of translators, except when it is made explicit that everybody is speaking a particular language.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Averted. It takes two years and a ton of money spent on developing anti-radiation shielding, but the Sandarians and Altans do make it back to Earth.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: The nature of interstellar travel through foldpoints means that many of the space battles involve defending these natural choke-points against enemy fleets. The Battle of Sandar invokes this trope against an enemy force that manages to break through the blockade.