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Literature / Mother of Demons

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A science fiction novel by Eric Flint, Mother of Demons follows the establishment of a human colony on an alien planet... well, more or less. It also follows the native sentients as they reach the tipping point of empire formation, and the linked point of the establishment of a new religion.

Somewhat unusually for an aliens-meet-humans novel, there is almost no effort to establish which species is superior and which is inferior, and neither is there any immediate humans-versus-aliens conflict. Instead, the book integrates the few surviving adults and the multitude of children from Earth with the less aggressive sentient species.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Technically, Action Gukuy. Nukurren, Kopporu, and Guo are examples of this that are named in the story, although it can be assumed that just about every member of the all-female gukuy armies is this.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Many of the gukuy Pilgrims learn English, for a variety of reasons.
  • Bee People: Socially and reproduction-wise, not physically.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Gukuy are initially puzzled by a number of traits the humans exhibit, examples being the way they move and manipulate objects (Gukuy see it as unusually fast and difficult to understand), the means by which humans convey emotion (Gukuy change colors of their mantles to do this, with certain colours indicating certain emotions and initially mistake humans' skin color as their expression, leading to some misunderstandings) and the fact that all males and females appear to be fertile (Gukuy have four sexes: sterile females, Mothers, sterile males and Truemales).
    • Partially subverted with humans' reaction to the Gukuy and Owoc. Although they are initially taken aback by their size and appearance, humans quickly see that Gukuyan biology is quite similar to that of molluscs found on Earth early in its history.
  • Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: In both gukuy and owoc, the females are very large (owoc are about the size of a buffalo, gukuy are a little smaller), while the males are a fraction of the size, with much longer arms. Males usually travel by riding inside the mantle of the female. Guo being a Mother, four males can fit into her mantle.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Among the tribes that allow fertile females to take to the field, being part of the 8-strong group assigned to prevent her being flanked and force the enemy into position to be flattened by her is seen as being a high-honor/high-risk position.
  • Covers Always Lie: The book cover is intentionally misleading in that it makes it appear that Gukuy are the strange demons that humans are fighting, and that a Battlemother we can presume is Guo is the titular Mother of Demons. In actuality, it is humans who are considered demons by the Gukuy and their leader Indira Toledo thus referred to as the Mother of Demons. Also while there is a brief tense moment later in the book, Guo and her tribe only encounter humans toward the end and are eventually allied with them.
  • Dual Wielding: The standard weapon of a battle-mother is a mace and shield. However, Guo fights with two maces.
  • Explosive Breeder: Owoc are reproductive r-strategists: One Mother can produce hundreds if not thousands of babies — the ecological expectation being that the vast majority of them will die. Once the survivors are old enough to vocalize, the adult owoc abruptly recognise them, and will start to protect them. Gukuy reproduction is only mentioned, but appears to be virtually identical.
    • The owoc population also starts to increase due to the humans protecting the very young owoc; the adults seem surprised by the number of surviving babies.
  • Fantastic Measurement System: Gukuy mathematics are based on the number eight instead of ten, due to the analogy with octopi. When they say "eighty" what they are really saying is "eight times eight" or sixty-four. This is the same as 100 being ten times ten.
  • Fantastic Racism: Many Gukuy see other intelligent species on their planet (such as the Owoc) as lesser beings, and refer to them as "sub-gukuy".
  • Glass Cannon: The humans are this in the setting as they are able to move faster than the gukuy and inflict lethal blows gukuy are incapable of doing, but are a lot more fragile and smaller than the latter.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Kopporu. Ruthless, practical, tactical genius.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu / Humans Through Alien Eyes: Humans are initially seen as demons (the title refers to them) by the native inhabitants since they move faster than any local species and their jointed limbs allow them to use hand-thrown projectiles—something which the tentacled locals cannot do. The impression as otherworldly demons generally dissipated as the locals learned more about humans and their origins (although there is still some religious element for them).
  • Humans Are Special: Sort of. Humans are effective, due to their method of locomotion allowing them to move more swiftly and through rougher terrain, compared to the natives. However, Nukurren later states that an army from her home state would work out how to counter them in three battles; human biology grants an edge, but no more than that.
  • Humans Need Aliens: At least on Ishtar, where owoc vomit is the only viable (i.e. non-toxic) food source.
  • Innocent Aliens: The owoc, a closely-related species to the gukuy, but larger and with lower intelligence, as well as being far more peaceful. (Though a human character notes that owoc may not be less intelligent; the way they think is simply very different to the way humans — and gukuy — think.)
  • Inscrutable Aliens: Humans, to owoc and gukuy, due to our skin colour not reflecting our emotions. This problem is reduced by exposure.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: According to Ushulubang, Goloku turned into this when she got drunk. May also intersect with Hard-Drinking Party Girl because she was apparently drunk a lot.
  • Mighty Glacier: Any Battlemother, but Guo in particular. Mothers are a lot larger, slower, and stronger than females, but Guo is exceptionally large and powerful even for a mother. Their lack of speed requires special battle tactics to keep the enemy corralled so the Battlemother can crush them.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted. Meat from any creature on Ishtar is highly poisonous to humans, and vice versa; one of the first gukuy encountered dies after biting a human colonist. Raw plant food is not poisonous, but passes straight through the guts without being digested. The human colony is therefore dependent on the 'childfood' (partially digested plant material) which the owoc regurgitate.
  • Slave Liberation: Some Gukuy travel the land enslaving the more passive and timid owoc. Whenever humans encounter a gukuy slave caravan, they promptly slaughter the guards and free the owoc slaves.
  • Starfish Aliens: The native intelligent species are vaguely equivalent to land-dwelling mollusks, using modified "feet" for movement, having thick mantles as "shells" and squid-like faces. There are absolutely no instances of vertebrates. There are also four sexes; sterile females, breeding mothers, "truemales" who breed with the mothers, and eumales who are pretty much eunuchs. To top it off, their emotions show clearly in their mantle color.