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Literature / Frontlines

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The Frontlines series is an 8-book Military Science Fiction series written by German-American author Marko Kloos. The books are set in the Dystopian universe of the 22nd century, where Earth is overpopulated and countries spend taxpayer money on space fleets and colonizing far off worlds instead of on infrastructure. They follow the career of Andrew Grayson, a young man from a Public Residence Cluster located in Boston who joins the military of the North American Commonwealth for the same two reasons everyone else does: real food instead of soy-based and recycled proteins and the paycheck a soldier gets as a lump sum at the end of his or her service.

As is usually the case with these sorts of stories, Andrew gets a lot more than he's bargained for. Instead of what he expected (fighting the Sino-Russian Alliance for control of colony worlds), he gets a front row seat to First Contact with the Lankies, 20 meter tall, nigh-unkillable aliens seemingly determined to exterminate humanity.

The series consists of:

  • Terms of Enlistment (2013)
  • Lines of Departure (2014)
  • Angles of Attack (2015)
  • Chains of Command (2016)
  • Fields of Fire (2017)
  • Points of Impact (2018)
  • Orders of Battle (2020)
  • Centers of Gravity (2022)

There are also two novels written in the same universe, Lucky Thirteen and Measures of Absolution, both published in 2013. A sequel series titled “Frontlines: Evolution” is set to release in January of 2024 with its first book Scorpio released on January 1st.


  • Ace Pilot: A lot of drop ship pilots are, but Andrew's wife, Lieutenant Diana Halley, is one of the best. She is repeatedly described as a natural drop ship pilot and among her awards are several Silver Stars and Distinguished Flying Crosses for bravery in combat. She even does a long tour as a combat flight instructor and is one of the few pilots cleared to fly the most advanced dropship in the fleet, the 160th SOARnote 's Blackfly.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: A Lanky assault proceeds as follows:
    • First, a Lanky seed ship (or 20 in the case of the Solar System) appears in orbit and destroys any other ship in space, without even attempting to communicate.
    • Then, the seed ship lands pods that both release Lankies and construct giant terraforming units. At this point, they also use nerve gas to kill everyone in major settlements.
    • Finally, the terraformers exchange the atmosphere on the planet for one with far more Carbon Dioxide in it, causing anyone outside after 4 weeks who survived the nerve gas to suffocate.
    • They do not care about taking prisoners and because their ships blockade planets they've taken, anyone in shelters has either the option of eventually suffocating when their shelter's air runs out, or starving when the food does.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Averted. The standard procedure to colonize a planet requires decades of terraforming, trillions of dollars spent, and cannot be done in every planet.
  • Artificial Limbs:
    • Sergeant Fallon receives a prosthetic left leg made of Titanium alloy after the Detroit riots in the first book. It's much stronger than her old one, which makes her think about having the other one replaced as well.
    • Andrew loses two fingers in the third book after grabbing the gun of a civilian security guard. He has them replaced by near-identical prosthetics, to the point that other people can't see the difference.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Lankies are described similarly to the Cloverfield monster. They are 20-25 meter tall creatures that weigh in at around 300 tons (earlier believed to be about 1,000 tons). Their long strides mean they can also cover a kilometer in under a minute. Their tough hides prevent them from being killed by conventional small arms, thus necessitating the use of high explosive rockets, armor piercing ammo and specialized anti-Lanky bullets that work by injecting flammable gas under their hides and incinerating them from the inside out.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Mule Armoured vehicles and most Human armoured vehicles in general. While they do carry weapons that can easily take out Lankies, it is difficult to transport them from planet to planet (and said space can be used for more infantry), they can't go over mountainous terrain, and are noisy enough that they attract the Lankies.
  • Badass Boast: In Chains of Command:
    "Attention, renegade forces. Attention, renegade forces. This is Major Khaled Masoud of the NAC Defense Corps Special Operations Command. The force under my command has just detonated a kiloton-size nuclear charge right underneath terraforming plant Arcadia One, five kilometers outside of Arcadia City. The sole power source for your capital city is now a glowing radioactive cloud. This is an order to the leadership of this moon and all troops under their command. You will cease resisting the lawful and proper authority of the North American Commonwealth Defense Corps forces. You will lay down your weapons as of this moment. You will order any and all forces under your control to stand down. If you fail to do so, I will not hesitate to light off every one of the twenty-four nuclear demolition charges my teams have planted on this moon. If you choose to continue this fight, I will destroy your planetary infrastructure and your fusion power generation network irreparably. I will turn your stolen little paradise into an irradiated wasteland and leave you in it until the Lankies come for you or you all die of radiation poisoning. This is not a boast or a threat. It is a statement of fact."
  • Batman Gambit:
    • In Chains of Command, Major Khaled Masoud asks Andrew to lead a platoon in a mission to go after the remnants of the old NAC government in the distant Leonidas system. Describing the operation as a recon mission for a future Corps attack, Masoud later orders the platoon to attack an enemy airfield. A team of Masoud's SEAL team uses the ensuing chaos to sneak nuclear bombs across the moons' terraformers, knowing that the enemy forces would be busy engaging all their troops against Andrew's platoon. Masoud later uses this to force the renegade government into surrendering.
  • Battle Star: Human ships usually carry a complement of aerospace craft, primarily transports, and are heavily armed with railguns and missiles. Carriers and the newer Avenger class carry both dropships and Shrike Attack craft, along with their arsenal of Particle cannons, Orion nukes, nuclear missiles, and railguns.
  • BFG: After discovering that their current line of M-66 Assualt Rifles don't do well against the Lankies, the NAC (along with the SRA) begin developing a line of weapons to counter the Lankies. This starts off with the double barrel M-80, then moves to the semi-auto M90, then the full auto M95, and then in books 7-8, the JUMBO rifles. Compared to the M-66, these are considered very big guns for very big targets.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The NACS Washington's crew returns to the Capella system, but for everyone's POV, they were gone for the last three years instead of a few weeks. Andrew loses almost half his company, the first months of his daughter's life and (possibly) his right eye. However Halley never gave up on him, the NAC and the SRA merged into the Pacific Alliance and they figured out the Lanky stealth technology and one of their transit nodes. Humanity is no longer hopeless.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Lankies have no eyes and cannot detect visible light. The details of their senses aren’t known for certain, but they can sense radio somehow, and later books strongly imply that they “see” in infrared.
  • Book Ends: The first book ends with Andrew and the crew of the Frigate Versailles rescued by the NACS Manitoba from the world of Willoughby with air strikes on the lankies. Book eight ends with Pacific Alliance forces rescuing Andrew and the crew of the Washington from Willoughby with more airstrikes and Kinetic Bombardment.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece:
    • The NAC breaks out weapons from the 21st century to arm the Lazurus Brigades. Sergeant Fallon is noted to be carrying an old M4 carbine when she meets Andrew in book 4.
    • After five years of fighting the Lankies, the Human militaries are doing everything they can to bulk up their depleted forces. The NAC are noted to have pulled older variants of dropships from the mothball fleet and even carriers several decades old like the Midway and Treaty Class Frigates.
  • The Cavalry: This occurs many times during the series.
    • The Manitoba, a supercarrier, and her battlegroup the ones who respond to the Versaille's distress call and ends up saving the remnants with airstrikes.
    • The Ottawa in Book 6 launches a rescue mission to save the colony of New Svalbard from the lankies. While they are forced to raze the colony with nuclear weapons, the Ottawa and her crew are able to evacuate the entire population back to Sol.
    • One of the main driving forces for the invasion of Mars was to rescue over 10,000 people on the planet. A large force of Human forces drive the Lankies from Mars to save the survivors.
    • In Book 8, Pacific Alliance forces arrive in time to rescue the crew of the NACS Washington, who hold up in Capella after a Lanky Seed Ship damages the Washington's FTL drives.
    • In the first book of the new series, Scorpio, Task Force Normandy is the force extracts the Vault's survivors.
  • Conscription: Averted. Military service is voluntary. In the first book potential recruits have to apply for the position, with only ten percent of all applicants being accepted into the Armed Forces of the NAC.
  • Cool Starship: Most prominent are the stealth orbital combat ship NACS Indianapolis, on which Andrew spends half the 3rd book on a recon mission and the Super Carrier NACS Regulus, which serves as the flagship of Earth's defensive fleet at the Battle of Earth. The battleships NACS Agincourt and the SRA's Arkhangelsk also count, as the first two ships specifically designed to fight Lanky seed ships toe-to-toe.
  • Cool Plane: Dropships are basically troop ships designed to also act as close air support for the troops they drop from orbit. Dragonflies, Hornets, and their SRA counterparts all count as this. The Blackfly class takes the cake as a stealth variant piloted by the very best pilots in the force.
  • Corporal Punishment: Non-existent in the NAC, as being in the military before the Lankies meant escaping from the PRC's, eating real food, a stable low-risk career and a fat paycheck after the five years of contract.
    Sergeant Gau: We will not hit or mistreat you. You may choose to stop following orders and instructions at any time. If you fail to obey an order, you will wash out. If you fail to make a passing grade on any examination or skill test, you will wash out. If you strike a fellow recruit or a superior, you will wash out. If you steal, cheat, or display a bad attitude, you will wash out. Any of your instructors has the absolute right to wash you out for any reason.
  • Continuity Nod: During the events of Scorpio, the Washington's trip to the Lanky star system and their 3 year long disappearance is referenced and told as a tale.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Early in the series, the Human militaries are on the receiving end of this from the lankies. They can barely hold back the aliens on the ground and Human space-borne forces continuously keep getting crushed until the Lankies attempt to attack Earth.
    • This is then flipped around past book five. With the chance to build new weapons and every nation working together now, the Humans are able to deal their own blows. A single Avenger in Book 6, the Ottawa, is able to defeat three lanky seed ships.
  • Didn't See That Coming:
    • No one on the Human's during Operation Invictus (second Battle of Mars) expects the Lankies to be building their Seed ships under their settlements and launch them from the planet's surface.
    • Task Force Normandy did not expect to find any survivors during their invasion of Scorpio.
  • Death from Above: Aircraft are consistently shown to be one of the few reliable ways to kill Lankies quickly. NAC Shrikes and dropship weaponry are able to cut down swaths of Lankies from the skies.
  • Defector from Decadence: Jack, one of Grayson's squad members from Detroit, eventually leaves the NAC and joins the Lazarus Brigades.
  • Drop Pod: Special Forces like the SEALs and Combat Controllers of the NAC Defense Corps use drop pods to infiltrate enemy-held planets. The pods themselves are fired out of modified missile tubes. In Book 5 during the Human invasion of Mars, NAC, SRA and EU special forces use these pods to help secure a landing zone for the incoming invasion force.
  • Enemy Mine: What's left of Earth's national navies, particularly the NAC and SRA, come together to make one last ditched defence of Earth from the Lankies in the end of book 3. Since then, the alliance has been going strong with the nations of Earth launching a counterattack at Mars.
  • Expanded States of America: The North American Commonwealth. It comprises the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
  • Good Luck Charm: From Book 6 - 8, Andrew carries an old M17 with him or keeps it in his locker. He states that it and the standard issue M45 pistols are just this: good luck charms and gives him a feeling that he has a last-ditch option.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The SRA and NAC fit this to a T in their wars.
    • The SRA is an alliance of Russia and China, along with Indians and Koreans. For the first year of the war against the Lankies, they didn't believe the Lankies existed, and even when one of their colonies was wiped out, they still continued to attack NAC colonies instead of seeking an alliance against the Lankies. They don't treat their troops very well, with their rations being several times worse then those of the NAC, and they willingly use high explosive weaponry inside their own civilian settlements. At the same time, they have upstanding characters like Korean General Park, the commanding officer of the SRA component of the fleet that escaped to Formalhaut, and who readily allies with the NAC contingent and even provides access to the SRA Alcubierre node. The SRA is also the home of Senior Sergeant Dmitry Chistyakov, who becomes fast friends with Andrew and who fights alongside him on several occasions.
    • The NAC, despite being home to Andrew and his family and friends, is not a particularly nice country. They have no qualms about using lethal military force to put down PRC food riots or stranding a fleet full of troops and 10,000 civilians on an ice moon with not enough food. It is also home to people like the unnamed brigadier general who tried to use his SI troopers to steal civilian food stores. The icing on the cake, however is the fact that NAC leadership abandoned Earth and fled to the Leonidas system with all of the NACS heaviest warships.
  • Gunship Rescue: Happens many times throughout the series, whether from Attack craft or dropships.
    • During the crew of the Washington's last stand in Capella, this happens twice. First when Andrew and a Blackfly rescue members of the CIC crew who have ejected via escape pod. The second is when Pacific Alliance attack craft swoop in to prevent the NAC lines from breaking under the stress of constant Lanky attack.
    • Halley pulls one off when she, in her own Blackfly, shoots down a rouge Shrike that was chasing after Grayson's transport in book 4.
    • In the very first book, NAC Shrikes from the Manitoba gun down the Lankies that were pinning survivors at the terraformer.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Humanity is this in the series. Despite losing many of their colonies, including Mars, Humanity keeps on fighting long enough to down one Lanky Speed ship and begin developing weapons to counter the Lanky threat.
  • Inter-Service Rivalry: Played for Laughs in Terms of Enlistment. The North American Marines fights wars on other planets, while the Territorial Army—Andrew's branch—handles wars on Earth. There's a scene around the middle of the book where some Marines visit Andrew's base and get into a Bar Brawl with the TA grunts in the mess hall. Afterwards, the base CO reams them out and assigns additional PT because they should've been able to take that many Marines.
  • Kaiju: While significantly smaller than most examples, Lankies are still colossal creatures larger and stronger than any Earth animal. This is most clear in the last act of the third book, when a group of Lankies lands in an NAC city and rampages through it, killing thousands.
  • Home Guard: The Lazarus Brigade. it started out as an independent militia force led by ex-NAC military personnel and other supporters fighting against the NAC and its draconian policies. However when the Lankies arrived in the Sol system, the NAC and Lazarus Brigade agree to a truce so that the NAC can focus on the Lankies. Since the invasion of Earth, the Lazarus Brigades has become a sort of government-sponsored military force that helps polices the PRC's while the NAC provides a lot of old hardware so that they can standardize training and equipment.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Giant rods of depleted uranium and other hard materials are used extensively throughout the series, mainly against the Lankies, because of the Svalbard Accords.
  • Living Ship: Lanky seed ships are Organic Technology and are shown to be ‘’grown’’, not built. It is as yet unknown whether they are autonomous organisms or actively crewed by Lankies.
  • Ludicrous Speed: After the events of the second book, the NAC and the SRA create the Orion missiles, giant slabs of Pykrete attached to an engine that uses the energy release of a hundred nukes, on the rate of one per second, to propel the missiles to speeds up to 1.3 percent of light speed, reducing the Lanky ships to space dust.
  • Multinational Team: During the Human invasion of Mars in book 5, Grayson is assigned to a special operations team hailing from China, Russia, the NAC, and the EU.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: The Svalbard Accords bans the use of nukes, kinetic weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction by the power blocs of Earth, including the NAC and SRA.
    • Justified in-universe when fighting against the Lankies, as there is almost nothing that can penetrate the outer hull of their seed ships.
    • Invoked by Dmitry at a point, when fighting against the Lankies. Probably joking. Probably.
    Dmitry: "You just committed treaty violation. Svalbard Accords. We get home to Earth, I file complaint with United Nations war crimes tribunal."
  • Oh, Crap!: Happens a number of times throughout the story.
    • NAC forces in book 1 get one when they first run into the Lankies.
    • The Human forces over Earth pretty much have one of these moments when a Lanky Seed ship follows the retreating carrier fleet and all their forces are stuck in orbit.
    • Grayson and his team in book 5 when they find the Lankies are carrying off Human bodies and when a Freaking Seedship somehow launches off the surface of Mars.
    • The Bridge Crew of the Washington gets one of these moments during book 7 when they realise they are over 900 lightyears away from Earth.
  • Rogue Planet: The Lanky chute in Capella leads to one. It is a gas giant orbited by four moons. One of these, “Green,” is heated to Earth-like temperatures by tidal heating and has a thick atmosphere, but is nevertheless completely and utterly dark due to the lack of a sun. It is implied to be the Lanky home world.
  • Sergeant Rock:
    • Master Sergeant Fallon, a rare living Medal of Honor recipient and legend among the corps.
    • Senior Sergeant Dmitry Chistyakov, from the SRA.
  • Space Cold War: Up until Book three, the SRA and NAC were the only interstellar superpowers out in outerspace (with the other powers of Earth either content to stay in Sol and have all the resources they need (like the EU or Australia) or too power (like the African Union)). And they proceed to start fighting against each other over potential terraformable worlds and colonies.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Army: The NAC Marine Corps and Territorial Army (later rebranded as the Spaceborn Infantry and Homeworld Defence respectively). Both branches has your bog standard light infantry equipped with a plethora weapons, IFV's/Light tanks, and Dropships.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: The Human navies have the standard Dropships, Fightercraft (Shrikes), Frigates, Destroyers, Cruisers, and Carriers pre-war. They also have a number of Stealth ships like the stealth orbital combat ship NACS Indianapolis and various supply vessels. Later and after the battle of Earth, the Human navies introduce battleships and battle carriers that lean towards a more anti-ship role like the Avenger class.
  • Starfish Aliens: Lankies’ resemblance to Earthly life begins and ends at having four limbs. They are much larger than any land animal really should be, they have no eyes, and they thrive in atmospheres with enough carbon dioxide to kill just about anything on Earth. They’re clearly an intelligent species, but they’re so alien that nobody has any clue how they communicate or even if they know that humans are sentient.
  • Stunned Silence: In Chains of Command, the Battle of Arcadia ends when Major Khaled Masoud detonates a nuclear bomb just five kilometers east of Arcadia City. There's a dead silence in all radio channels and gunfire stops as both sides realise what happened.
  • Suicide Mission: Happens a few times.
    • The NAC Washington's plan to get back to Human space in book 8 is pretty much this. The plan is to fight their way to the Lanky jump node, hitch a ride on a Lanky seedship FTL bubble, and hope for the best. You heard that right: hitch a ride on an alien ship that can annihilate entire Human fleets and are more than capable of damaging the Avenger class. The fact that the Washington survives, returns to Capella, and manages to get most of the crew home is a mircale.
    • In book 4, things aren't going well for Andrew and NAC forces under his command. Their dropships are running low on fuel, the renegade garrison is after them, and NAC forces are slowly taking losses. The mission they come up is fly into an enemy settlement, storm the center of government, and try and capture the rogue president and his cabinet before the Garrision mobilizes armoured vehicles and Shrikes. It almost suceeds but the President is able to seal himself in a fortified bunker and the mission only succeeds when Major Khaled Masoud threatens to demolish the terraformers with nukes.
  • Theme Naming: The Avenger class of battle carriers are named after the capitals of pre-war nations. There are ships named after the cities of Ottawa, Washington, Seoul, Moscow, etc.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In book 7, Grayson mentions that the NAC would have willingly nuked a group of 17 Lankies during the early days of the war. Justified at the time as since Lanky bodies are so heavy that they can't be picked up by dropships and Humanity loses most of their major ground battles, they can't easily study Lanky corpses to make weapons until the Battle of Earth. As such, nuclear weapons are one of the few pre-Mars Invasion weapons that can kill Lankies.
  • Underground City: The Vault on the world of Scorpio, it houses the last human presence on the planet until the arrival of reinforcing NAC forces.
  • Wheresthe Kaboom: During the operation in Detroit, Andrew and his squad have to self destruct a crashed dropship. They set off the self-destruct explosives and run. After getting to a safe distance, they wait for said explosion, only for none to occur right until one of Andrew's squadmates asks this same questions. Cue massive explosion that knocks everyone off their feet.