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Literature / Council Wars

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In the front: Bast the Wood Elf (cover art by Clyde Caldwell)
A series of books by John Ringo that takes place in the 41st century. Advanced nanotechnology, teleportation, and other technologies which are essentially Clarke's law made real have created a utopian society. All of this is controlled and coordinated by an Artificial Intelligence called Mother.

A factional split between two groups within the Council, the group that partially controls Mother, results in all-out war, including cutting off power to the rest of the world, which in turn results in everyone being Brought Down to Normal. Some people die instantly when their protection or systems fail. Others die from the ensuing battles with the Social Darwinist faction of New Destiny.

The series follows the Council members as they fight the New Destiny faction, and the Muggles who just try to survive the Fallen world, using methods vaguely remembered from historical reenactments.

The series thus far includes:

  • There Will Be Dragons (2003)
  • Emerald Sea (2004)
  • Against the Tide (2005)
  • East of the Sun, West of the Moon (2006)

The series is not to be confused with the other Council Wars, which is what happened when racism met Chicago's machine politics in the worst possible way.

These books provide examples of:

  • Always Chaotic Evil: Although most of New Destiny's forces were Changed against their will and are innocent victims, Celine designed them this way and so they get no mercy from the Good Guys because there's no way to Change them back unless the war is won.
  • Anyone Can Die: And does. None of the primary protagonists (yet), but some have had some very close calls. Some have the hope of being brought back, once the Net is back up, although there's no guarantee of that. Most everyone else is Deader than Dead, though.
  • Author Appeal: The story stops at some length so Herzer can go into a rambling discourse about his extremely dominant heterosexuality in the sack.
  • Author Filibuster: Emerald Sea has a scene with Edmund lecturing over the campfire about how people were stupid in the early 21st century for believing in human-caused climate change, which is extremely ironic considering Ringo has created a setting where humans (through Mother) can control the climate at will. Ringo's explanation for what he thinks is the mechanism for global warming is, incidentally, hilariously wrong.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Mother, when a force bubble-imprisoned Dionys McCannock demands "all the power necessary to break this shield", doesn't hesitate to comply. About two kilotons of the energy leaks out in a fireball.
  • Becoming the Mask: Miles "Gunny" Rutherford has been roleplaying a Marine Drill Sergeant Nasty for 150 years, and had previously been roleplaying a Roman Centurion Nasty for an unspecified time.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Rachel, non-combatant and doctor dedicated to saving lives clinically describes how many ways she and Azure just killed her captor. To his face.
  • But Liquor Is Quicker: Inverted; Bast uses this approach to rape counseling.
  • The Chessmaster: Edmund, who seems to have a prescient ability to predict events in battles, and plans accordingly. Lampshaded later in the series by Bast, discussing the elven term "gaslan".
  • Children Are a Waste: Mentioned as the reason for the human population dwindling; with god-like technology available to everyone, most people have better things to do than look after kids.
  • Combat Tentacles: Courtesy of the krakens working for New Destiny.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: To a jarring degree. Not only is humanity by and large fine (less a world war), but the fall only killed 13% of the population.
  • Days of Future Past: Everything from Fascist states and feudalism to Swiss-style confederacies and even a tribe of hunter-gatherers (the Mer).
  • D-Cup Distress: In the first book, the current teenage fashion is for girls to look boyish with single-digit body fat, which causes Rachel to moan that her "boobs are huge and [her] butt is the size of Mount Evert.", to which Daneh counters that her body mass index is right in the center of ideal.
  • Dragon Rider: In Emerald Sea, there's one sapient dragon that reluctantly allows herself to be ridden by the main protagonist, who leads a squadron of nonsapient wyverns carrying human riders that are used along the lines of real life horses, with the obvious addition of being able to fly. The beasts fly from a specially designed sailing ship, in an obvious fantasy analog to modern aircraft carriers.
  • Drop The Hammer: The preferred weapon of Edmund, aka Charles the Hammer, former ruler of Anarchia. Given that he started as a blacksmith, this probably isn't surprising.
  • Elective Broken Language: Bast sometimes speaks in broken language or Yoda-like grammar; this is obviously by choice, since at other times she talks completely normally.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Played straight; Mother siphons off the energy of any explosion or other release of energy beyond a certain level, rendering guns useless.
  • Finders Rulers: Membership in the council is simply a matter of holding a Key. At least two people have made it to the council by stealing a Key.
  • Fur Bikini: Justified, as it can be a way to distract men, while they are in freezing temperatures that don't have any effect on the wood elf Bast.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Averted. Change is a common method of trying out something new, and common, and in fact so common it's basically the cause for the war.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Changed (and non-Changed) characters on both sides are technically human, but depending on the situation may be be either the dinner or the diner. Lampshaded several times in Emerald Sea.
  • Immortality Immorality: Played with. Immortality via downloading was available for all, but "live forever or till someone kills you" biological immortality was specifically illegal for most humans, and only available for the bio-engineered Elves and Greater Dragons. Furthermore, it was noted that most people chose to die natural deaths of old age after two or three centuries, rather than download.
  • Interspecies Romance: Between a horse and a Changed human unicorn. Also implied between some mer and humans
  • I Shall Taunt You: Dionys McCannock tries this, in the climactic battle of There Will Be Dragons, but it's brushed aside by Edmund Talbot, who then replies with sheer awesomeness.
  • Mad Scientist:
    • Celine Reinshafen (vampire hamster, anyone?)
    • The creator of Bun Bun.
    • The scientist responsible for creating one of the ancestors for a dragon carrier's captains. She's a cat-girl, non-Changed. Her several-times great-grandmother was an actual cat, Changed to a humanoid cat-girl. The scientist responsible did this for exactly the reasons one would assume. The uplifted cat-woman did not respond well to discovering she'd been named "Muffins" and ended up breaking his heart by leaving for someone else — from which relationship the captain was indirectly produced
  • Magic from Technology: The series is described as "Clarke's Law made real".
  • Master Computer: Mother. Who, due to a bit of cleverness by her initial programmers, is specifically set up to not care about the fate of humanity, only to run and maintain the Net. It's implied she cares, but is limited in what she's allowed to do. Ringo has let slip that eventually she has to take a much larger role as both humanity and Mother are dependent on each other. Unfortunately the only way to let her get around the restrictions will be to get 13 council votes AND a Kernel Programmer, all of whom have been dead except one, named Arthur King, who mysteriously disappeared...
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Subverted by Barb, a Changed unicorn who chooses to herd with the horses because being captured and "used" by Dionys McCannock gave her a distaste for humans, not because of any biological imperatives. Inverted by the orcas who assumed their forms as outward expressions of their inner savagery.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Celine, again. Her whole reason for joining New Destiny
  • Off Screen Villain Dark Matter: No matter how many times they lose the New Destiny forces never seen to be lacking for power or resources.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Both sides acknowledge that if the elves stopped being neutral the war would be effectively over, with an individual elf being by design about equal to a platoon of humans in combat.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Lampshaded; Angus had himself Changed to fit the trope.
  • Our Wyverns Are Different: Wyverns were genetically engineered alongside their Greater Dragon relatives in the 21st Century by Disney Genegeneers, and like them are only able to fly at all because of muscles and bones made from incredibly strong and light "bioextruded carbon-nanotube". While Greater Dragons are sapient, wyverns are about as smart as a horse.
  • Parental Abandonment: Herzer was emancipated at fourteen (i.e. as soon as the law would allow), but it's heavily implied that while still legally responsible for him, his parents hadn't really had much to do with him since he was about six.
  • Pun: What do you call a small group of selkie commandos trained to infiltrate and secure an enemy beach? A seal team.
  • Rescue Romance: Diablo and Barb. Rachel is squicked but Barb is even willing to be his mare (with all that implies) as long as he protects her.
  • Sapient Cetaceans: "Delphinos", humans who have used advanced genetic engineering to turn themselves into dolphins and have lost all sense of their own humanity as a result.
  • Scary Scorpions: In East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon. Giant ones. At first, we don't even see them, only the results of their work. One character, based on evidence left behind initially confuses them for Solifugae, better known to 21st century audiences as Camel Spiders. They turn up later when sent to try and kill the protagonists, and again in the book's climax.
  • Schizo Tech: Although the overall technology level of most of the world has been reduced to pre-industrial levels, they do have some equipment made pre-Fall that still works if it doesn't depend on power from the Net, and the Council members on each side supply their allies with the odd useful tool. Also, while most people are limited in what technology they can implement, what they can use is often vastly improved over what was historically available due to the accumulated knowledge humanity has acquired: better metal alloys and ways of working it, more efficient farming techniques (with genetically engineered crops), compound bow designs, sailing ships with flush toilets, and so on.
    • The giant spaceship in orbit. It is kinda hard to get to, though.
    • The pre-fall Renn faire involved "medieval" twentieth century garb and disco.
  • Self-Deprecation: At one point in "Emerald Sea", a character picks up a book that is, effectively, the first book in the series. He even notes how much time it spent on the Blood Lords' training, notes it's habit of introducing characters for no reason just to kill them off, yet finds it curiously engrossing. It's selected by picking the one with the most lurid cover.
    He also had clunky prose and a really strange sense of humor. This guy was never going to win any awards.
  • Selkies and Wereseals: In Against the Tide, selkies are used with tongue-in-cheek humor, as the fantasy counterpart of Real Life U.S. Navy SEALs.
  • Shape Shifter Mode Lock: People Changed when the war began are pretty much stuck for the duration, which really sucks if their Changed form wasn't intended to be permanent or isn't particularly practical. For instance, many people who'd Changed their metabolisms to prevent excess fat storage ended up starving to death.
  • Shout-Out: several, most notably Bun-bun from Sluggy Freelance.
    • The wyverns in the Council Wars universe will eat anything if there's enough ketchup on it — probably a reference to the well known take-off on Tolkien's line about wizards.
    • The mountain containing the dwarven colony was seeded with metal ores with a semirandom generator, including a nanotech-based material dubbed Adamantine deep in the mountain. Exactly like world generation in Dwarf Fortress.
  • Standard Fantasy Setting: Slowly emerging from an After the End scenario during the course of the books, complete with characters growing into specific plot stereotypes. Repeatedly lampshaded by characters, especially regarding how unlikely some developments are.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Paul admits he's intentionally set up his harem so that this will happen.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: Bast occasionally slips into a Mr. Miyagi or Yoda-like syntax. Sometimes she also refers to herself in the third person.
  • Stupid Evil: Seen all over the place.
    • Explicitly called out by Rachel when a New Destiny officer with an amputated leg is killed as being "useless", without, as she points out, first finding out if he had skills or abilities that might have been useful.
    • If the elves stop being neutral the war will be over for whichever side they turn on. Let's go ahead and kidnap some and change them into trolls. That certainly won't piss them off, no siree.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dionys McCanock
  • The Spartan Way: The Blood Lords, who are an interesting combination of Roman legions and English longbowmen.
  • Unit Confusion: Either several characters are incredibly short or Ringo didn't look up how long a meter is. Paul clocks in at 5ft nothing, as does Mike; Bast is four feet tall; Herzer is 6ft 10.6in tall and only weighs 264 lbs, which is skeletally thin.
  • We Have Reserves: Explicitly named as the military strategy of New Destiny.
  • We Will All Be History Buffs in the Future: In There Will Be Dragons, the section of the world the protagonists live in is kept from sliding into total barbarism after the tech supporting the decadence got turned off. Justified in that the people who know the most are all re-enactors who've been living the life (or an idealized version of it, at least).
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Quite a lot of Emerald Sea and Against the Tide are about 40th century recreations of this era, due to the Fall and restrictions imposed by Mother, that make combustion-based engines beyond a certain low power output unavailable.
  • Worthy Opponent: Edmund complains about the lack of these in There Will Be Dragons.
  • Writer on Board: Aside from the examples of Author Appeal and Author Filibuster mentioned above, the reader will learn John Ringo's views on gun control, welfare, sexual equality, the US invasion of Iraq, Global Warming...