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Literature / Depth

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Depth (original title Głębia; as of today the book is still unprinted in English) is a series of hard science-fiction books by Polish author Marcin Podlewski. The first volume, subtitled Jumper ("Skokowiec") was released in 2015, followed by The Return ("Powrót") in 2016 and Inrush ("Napór") in 2017, with the final book, "Vastness" ("Bezkres"), to be released during summer 2018.

Depth tells the story of the Milky Way in a distant future where, following human extra-solar expansion thanks to the titular Depth transit subspace, and two galaxy-wide wars, it is more commonly known as the Scorched Galaxy due to the vast majority of it being thoroughly ravaged and unsuitable for supporting life. What's left of the Galaxy is currently united under the banner of Unity, an alliance comprised of The State, The League and The Federation, with the outer layer occupied by Border Principalities. While it housed alien life in the past, it is currently inhabited only by humanity as the aliens were driven out during one of the main wars; as a result, they are now referred to as Those That Departed.


While the books follow multiple characters and organisations, often offering their individual points of view on shared events, arguably the main characters consist of the crew of jumper-class spaceship "Ribbon": the captain with a traumatic past Myrton Grunwald, Grunwald's only real friend and medical officer on his previous ship Harpago Jones, ex-military first pilot Erin Hakl, brilliant but psychologically fragile astronavigator Pinsleep Wise, lecherous and obese mechanic Monsieur and enigmatic genius computer specialist Hub Tansky.

Aside of dealing with the main events which "Ribbon" is involuntary dragged into, Depth often explores the topics of human social interactions, what it means to be human and outcast, as well as the ever-growing technological progress and its implications for the at-the-time modern civilisation. Each volume consists of around 700-800 pages, and the full story is expected to be over 3000 pages long upon its conclusion.


Depth provides examples of:

  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Because of bad experience with Machines in the past, Unity has banned heavily developed artificial intelligence and most AIs seen in the books are "castrated", with heavy penalties set up for anyone trying to use more advance variants.
  • The Alcoholic: Myrton Grunwald is this for the majority of the first book as means of numbing the pain of his various memories, much to the chagrin of his crew. With their help, he slowly finds other ways of dealing with them.
  • Badass Grandpa: the entire crew of Principality Of Gatlark's destroyer-class ship "Flame". It consists entirely of old people and while they sometimes indulge in stereotypes associated with the elderly, they are still one of the more competent and hardy crews portrayed in the books, especially captain Kayt Talses, who often remarks that the experience gained with age is an invaluable asset for any military unit.
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  • Arc Words: "All hail the Pale King".
  • The Assimilator: One of the main reasons STRIPS have such a bad reputation in Scorched Galaxy is that they tend to convert the majority of beings they come across into more STRIPS, never with their consent.
  • Brain–Computer Interface: Nearly every human dweller of the Scorched Galaxy has a computer called Personal that is literally spread throughout the entirety of their bodies like a second nervous system. Among its multitude of functions, it can expand and preserve the user's memory, help in maintaining a healthy body through moderating biological functions (for example, reducing the hangover after heavy drinking), access the Stream, and allow the host to interact with everyday devices and machines. Originating during the Empire era, it is now so common that it no longer has to be manually implanted - the seed nanites from which it grows are transferred to a new human during the insemination where the nanites from both parents mix to create a unique Personal structure. Not having a Personal in one's body is treated by society like an extremely rare stigma and can result in a very difficult life with children being bullied by their peers and adults being unable to use even the simplest electronic devices, let alone machines such as starships. One of the reasons why so many parties are interested in capturing Myrton Grunwald is because even though he is one of those Personal-less humans, he is capable of functioning normally in a Personal-oriented environment when it shouldn't be possible.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: When Erin Hakl was still a child, living in an orphanage and being bullied for her dream of becoming a starship pilot, one of the friendly caretakers encourages her to keep standing up and fighting for her dreams, believing that if she stays strong, one day she will find someone willing to fight her battles. Erin thinks that Myrton punching the lights out of her former, hateful stalker commander when he threatens to kill her qualifies.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Hub Tansky, "Ribbon's" software supervisor. He's excellent at his job, but also prefers to stay in his designated operation room, the ship's "heart", where he can freely smoke and generally not be bothered with anything else or checked on by the other crewmembers most of the time. He doesn't react well to any changes of the pace unless the ship's survival depends on it.
  • The Casanova: Monsieur aspires to be this, and it determined many of his life choices. The reason he applied for the position of "Ribbon's" mechanic is because he saw Pinsleep Wise's picture in the pool of already sent applications, and initially his main objective as a crewmember was to bed her. He even jokes to himself that he'd rather not have it recorded in his resume that his career path was partly decided by his penis.
  • The Chosen One: Myrton Grunwald may turn out to be this, though not willingly.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Thoroughly averted. If there is a named character, their ultimate fate will always be explained; if you haven't seen them for a long while, you can be sure they will appear or be mentioned by others sooner or later.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Zachary Lem, one of the astronavigators on Unity's Control Super Prototype cruiser "Nanny". He looks and acts like an incompetent elderly man-child, but this is all a ruse and in reality he is a highly-skilled undercover agent of the Lore organisation, smart and strong enough to kill a crewmember with his bare hands and leave no traces of the murder. And to force one of his Control higher-ups into submission and then cooperation.
  • Deadly Upgrade: There is disease called psychophisia that gradually increases para-normal abilities of the affected, granting them increased spatial and Depth awareness as well as the ability to remotely control elements of machines as large as starships. On the other hand, it also slowly weakens the body and brings it closer to a non-corporal Phantom state where it can no longer interact with the physical world. Due to its rarity and the way it affects humans, people who suffer from it are highly sought by the transhumanism-obsessed Collective sect. Prince Natrium of Gatlark was diagnosed with it as a child and it made the rest of his life miserable, both in terms of his relationship with the Gatlark royal family and his health; as an adult Natrium can no longer use his legs and is bound to an anti-gravity chair and the more he tries to control his powers the more it is implied one day the disease will kill him or turn him into a full Phantom entity.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Depth is named after the titular subspace that can be "jumped into" with the use of deep drives. In theory, Depth can instantly connect any two points in the universe, but due to immense power and navigational calculations required to perform a jump, the most commonly practiced limit is traveling 15 light years per jump. The technology also has various limitations that have to be taken into account when planning a journey; the main one being that living beings have to be rendered unconscious using Stasis drug for the duration of the jump, as traveling through Depth awake almost always drives organic lifeforms insane.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Most people in Scorched Galaxy would gladly choose death over receiving the gift of "technological salvation" from the STRIPS caste.
  • Ghost Ship: "Ribbon" was previously known as "Black Band", and built by one of the Depth-obsessed castes that equipped it with machinery allegedly responsible for some very bizarre accidents involving previous crews. In fact, this is the reason Myrton could afford it in the aftermarket - he convinced the seller that no one else would ever consider buying such an infamous vessel. Of course, aside from Myrton and Harpago Jones, the crew is unaware of its legacy. At least until later books, where its secrets begin to resurface again.
  • Hillbilly Moonshiner: The elderly crewmembers of Gatlark destroyer "Flame" built and maintain an illegal moonshine apparatus on the lower deck of the ship, and Captain Telses, who is fully aware of its existence, often has to make sure it's not found out by their superiors or that it doesn't affect the ship's performance.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Among the various post/trans-human groups roaming the Scorched Galaxy, the STRIPS compete for the cherry topping of the cake, as they are technology-obsessed, heavily and crudely modified cyborgs who want to become as machine-like as they can and share their gift of "technological salvation" with as many people as possible... which leads to their very unpopular habit of converting any human they can get their hands on into new STRIPS. Basically, they are the Depth version of Borgs, and as a result it's very hard to find a single person that is comfortable with their nearby presence.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: A lot of people fit this, but Hub Tansky is the champion of this trope among the protagonists.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Many examples but Monsieur probably fits it the best. He was a completely unlikable wannabe-rapist in the first book, but as the story went on he gained some redeemable qualities, including loyalty to the "Ribbon" crew; especially Harpago Jones who at one point saved his life. As a result, Monsieur became very protective of him.
  • One-Hit Kill: Due to their military training, every commanding officer in the Unity fleet needs only one, precisely aimed shot to kill an attacker with their guns. If the attacker is a human, that is.
  • One-Word Title: Each novel's title, in their native language of Polish, is one word:
    • Jumper ("Skokowiec")
    • The Return ("Powrót")
    • Inrush ("Napór")
    • Vastness ("Bezkres")
    • The series as a whole, is named after the transit subspace.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: 4th generation Machines, commonly nicknamed Fours. They are designed to have both extreme computing capabilities (it is mentioned that their brains are tesseract computers) and effortlessly blend in with humans, down to the ability to simulate breathing, eat, and even have intercourse. On the other hand, their deception is instantly noticeable to every human being, as Fours are just too perfect for their own good: having ideal musculature and proportions, flawless beauty and presence that makes it very hard to take your eyes off of them, no one believes they are real humans even for a second.
  • The Don: The Perseus Arm is the home to Paliative, often known as the greatest crime boss of the Scorched Galaxy. Also, he's the one directly responsible for Myrton's traumatic past experiences.
  • Took A Levelin Badass: Erin Hakl was once a mostly obedient pilot on a Unity military ship. When she discovered her captain tricked her into opening fire on what he already knew was an unarmed civilian vessel, she delivered her resignation through the means of punching him in the face.
  • The Internet: There is a galaxy-wide information network known as The Stream (later upgraded to no-time-lag Synchron. It is said that once you make an appearance in it, it is impossible to truly vanish from it without any trace.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Myrton Grunwald's last crew had a rather unpleasant final adventure: after accidentally breaching the contract terms of their last illegal transport assignment, they were ambushed by their crime lord employer's top goons and offered three options: either cover the damages (which they didn't have money for), try to fight their way out (for which they were significantly underarmed) or perform a Depth jump and never return to their contractor's turf. The catch was that the said contractor bribed one of the transit stations on their path to poison the crew's Stasis drug supply, giving them only a small chance of surviving the jump. After trying to outmaneuver the goons' ship, Myrton decides to make the jump, arguing it was better than being outright killed on the spot. In the process, he didn't manage to put himself under and saw what's inside the Depth and everyone except him and Harpago Jones developed Afterdepth Disease due to bad Stasis...after the ship crashed on one of the planets along the way, where he had to watch his friends slowly go insane and die one by one. To make things even worse, Grunwald and the first pilot were lovers. And after all of that, the main plot of the book attacked.
  • True Companions:
    • Myrton Grunwald and Harpago Jones have known each other for many years and are extremely loyal to each other; Harpago often staunchly defends Myrton's behaviour, and Myrton will do anything he can to ensure Harpago's survival unless it threatens the lives of the whole crew.
    • Myrton at one point begins to consider the crew of "Ribbon" his family, and afterwards starts putting their collective best interests before his own.
  • Wave Motion Gun: Machines' Weapon, technology that was used during their war with humanity to turn the space it affected into areas of literal uninhabitable nothingness, which was dubbed "Scorch". Scorch is extremely dangerous to fly through and it is impossible to plot Depth jumps through it, forcing starships to make big detours to avoid it. What is even worse, it can randomly expand to consume even more space. The fact that people almost always refer to the Milky Way as Scorched Galaxy shows the monstrous scale of devastation the Weapon caused, and it is hinted at several points that with enough time, it may consume the whole galaxy. So, naturally every human in this setting shivers at the very thought of being in proximity of Weapon units or being caught in their firing range during the Second Xeno War.
  • Will They or Won't They?: At first Myrton Grunwald and Erin Hakl consider each other only business partners stationed on the same ship, especially due to Grunwald being an alcoholic jerk and both of them having trust issues. However, as the plot progresses and they have to battle more and more obstacles to survive, Myrton slowly opens up to her and persuades her to allow them to trust each other. After that, he is seemingly nicer to her than to rest of the crew (at that point he already Took a Level in Kindness towards them) and in return Erin often stands up for him whenever he can't and it's quite easy to assume at one point they may become a couple if the circumstances surrounding them allow.

Example of: