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The Dred Chronicles are a series of Science Fiction novels by Ann Aguirre. They're set in the same universe as her earlier Sirantha Jax series - they feature a different protagonist, but also prominently feature a character from the original series.
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There are three books:

  • Perdition
  • Havoc
  • Breakout

The books are set on a chaotic, lawless Prison Ship called Perdition, and focus on Dresdemona "Dred" Devos. Dred has the ability to psychically read the crimes of people she meets, and used it to go on a killing spree of people whose guilt she could sense but not prove. The authorities took a predictably dim view of that, and after being captured and sent to Perdition, she ended up overthrowing one of the gang leaders and taking his place — she's nicknamed the Dread Queen, a corruption (albeit a fairly apt one) of her nickname. Between rival warlords and the none-too-sweet natures of her "subjects", survival is... tricky. Into this walks Jael, a mysteriously hard-to-kill new prisoner who'll be familiar to people who read The Sirantha Jax Series. Dred and Jael form a mistrustful alliance, aimed initially at survival and then at escape.

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This series provides examples of:

  • Air-Vent Passageway: Tam, Dred's advisor, uses these to get around the ship and eavesdrop on rival gangs. This allows him to provide Dred with useful intelligence, which both protects the gang and encourages Dred to rely on him.
  • Atop a Mountain of Corpses: Silence, leader of what's basically a death cult, runs her territory with this in mind.
  • The Big Guy: Einar, one of Dred's lieutenants. He can act the Gentle Giant when he wants, but as Dred notes, people like that don't end up on Perdition and survive.
  • Blood Sport: Dred's gang, being mostly brutal criminals, get restless if there hasn't been any violence for a while. To stave off trouble, she allows them to stage fights to the death (often for things like the settling of disputes which would otherwise be dealt with less permanently).
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  • Chain Pain: Chains are Dred's signature weapon. When she's not fighting with them, she has them wrapped around her arms, treating them almost as a sort of fashion statement. It's thematically appropriate for a gang boss on a prison ship.
  • Challenging the Chief: This is how you get to be a gang boss on Perdition. Dred did it to Artan to take power, and people try to do it to her.
  • Character Development: The protagonist, Dred, undergoes a certain amount of development as she learns to trust, but the bigger change is for Jael (especially for readers who know what he did in The Sirantha Jax Series). In part, it comes from being on the other end of the sort of thing he used to do (specifically, betray people — he specifically compares his situation to that he left other people).
  • The Chessmaster: Tameron, Dred's chief advisor, is always consciously trying to manipulate the people around him, including Dred. He prefers to work that way over trying to gain open control of the gang himself, and helped Dred taking over from the previous boss for that reason. Tam claims to have been a spymaster for a royal dynasty before getting shipped to Perdition.
  • The Consigliere: Tam fills this role for Dred — she's tougher than him, but he's generally better at politics. He does have his own agenda, but he pursues through making himself indispensable to Dred rather than trying to take over himself.
  • Cult: Two of the six gangs on Perdition are basically cults. One, led by a guy just known as Priest, essentially worships its leader. The other is led by a woman called Silence, and are essentially death-worshippers.
  • Death Seeker: Jael's super-human healing and general attitude combine to make him actively curious about anything he thinks might genuinely be able to kill him (since most things can't). However, he does stop short of actually letting anything kill him — it's part of his Character Development as he comes to actually believe there's a point to being alive.
  • The Dreaded: Dred herself — enough so that her nickname is commonly misinterpreted as Dread, and people call her the Dread Queen. She actively works to maintain people's fear of her, since that's the only way to stay at the top on Perdition.
  • Dumb Muscle: Grigor, one of the gang leaders, is noted for favouring this kind of prisoner to recruit (and really, being it himself). He doesn't get subtlety, and tends to kill people who try to explain it to him.
  • Fantastic Ghetto: Most prisoners aboard Perdition are human, but those who are aliens keep to themselves in their own isolated gang patch.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Dred notes that even if people were sent to Perdition on false convictions, they soon picked up the same way of doing things as the real criminals (or else they just died).
  • Healing Factor: Jael has this, recovering from serious injuries quite quickly. This becomes useful not just to himself but to Dred, thanks to transfusion. He's not immortal, however — enough damage too quickly, or the wrong kind of damage (e.g. beheading, or asphyxiation due to a hull breach) would still kill him.
  • Hellhole Prison: Perdition isn't exactly a nice place to be. The "neutral zone" where new prisoners are dropped off is the worst, as there's absolutely no law there. The gang-controlled areas might be better, depending on who the local warlord is and what rules they care to enforce.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Depending on definitions, some prisoners fit this. Dred's gang and Mungo's gang both have access to machines which break down organic matter for re-use, and given the general lack of resources, "organic matter" includes corpses. Dred's people turn corpses into fertiliser for hydroponics, but Mungo lacks both hydroponics and any kind of squeamishness, and so turns corpses directly into edible roasts. From a scientific perspective, the machines have transformed the matter too much for it to still be considered human meat, but Dred still finds the idea unacceptably creepy.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: The initial attraction between Dred and Jael is mostly admiration for each other's ability and readiness to fight.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Wills, one of Dred's people, pretends to be a lot less stable than he really is, so as to be overlooked. Mind you, his real belief is worshipping death, so perhaps he's just insane in a different way than he pretends.
  • Penal Colony: Perdition is a ship, but the fact that it doesn't go anywhere and doesn't have cells means that it essentially functions as a prison colony in space. New prisoners, robotic guards to protect sensitive ship functions, and a few basic supplies are ferried in by automated ships, with no direct person-to-person contact with the outside world.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Grigor's gang fights using these. Dred recalls nearly dying of a mere scratch when she first came aboard Perdition. Jael gets incapacitated by these weapons too — his super healing can counteract the poison eventually, but until it does, he has to be guarded by the others.
  • Prison Ship: The setting, the Conglomerate prison ship Perdition. It's where they send the worst of the worst, and is largely lawless — there are no cells and no human guards. There are deadly robotic sentries which keep prisoners from getting too close to anything deemed too sensitive, but they don't interfere in gang warfare or non-lethal degradation of conditions.
  • Removable Turret Gun: Dred and her guys help themselves to a couple of these during a daring raid to scavenge weapons from Perdition. Plus a killer robot's shredder gun and laser into the bargain.
  • The Quiet One: The cook for Dred's gang is known for very seldom speaking — Tam can count on his fingers the number of words he's heard the cook say.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: There are rats on Perdition, but they're mutant varieties — it's noted that the adults are now too big to fit in the ducts which people use.
  • Super Senses: Jael has superhuman hearing. Among other things, it enables him to read people fairly well by listening to things like breathing and heartbeat. The downside is that he seldom gets any quiet.

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