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Literature / Northworld

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The Northworld trilogy by David Drake consists of Northworld (1990), Vengeance (1991), and Justice (1992).

Retelling of selected Norse myth as sci fi using powered armor. The name's a pun. North for a cold world like the frozen north of Norse myth. "Norse" itself probably ultimately derived from Middle Dutch nort for, what else, "north." Also for "North's World" for the Expy of Odin, who in the books is named North and commanded a team sent to explore the planet.

This series contains examples of:

  • Abduction Is Love: Sparrow the Smith kidnaps the android princess Mala for his god employer Saburo.
  • A Father to His Men: Hansen blames himself for the deaths of anyone who fought on his side—because either they died following his orders, in which case he got them killed, or they died not following his orders, in which case he got them killed by not being able to make them see that what he ordered was the right thing to do.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Sparrow's revenge on those who enslaved him. He murders children and has a teenager raped. Author David Drake notes that, even for the people whose legends these are based on, Volund (or Wayland) the Smith was more a force of nature than a man, and not necessarily to be admired or emulated.
  • The Dog Bites Back: King Hermann and his family casually abuse their subordinates at every opportunity. After Hermann enslaves Sparrow the Smith, in time Sparrow kills or drives mad the entire royal family and makes the kingdom collapse in civil war.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Ritter.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Race the Searcher. Notably, she doesn't need to change her name in a scene where she's pretending to be a man, unlike the other two named Searchers in the trilogy.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: A variant not involving death. Hansen comes to visit Gadgeteer Genius Ritter, who's working on a project for him. Ritter isn't getting very far on the project, and he snappishly says something about Hansen checking up on him. Hansen, who's been given godlike powers, thinks, If I wanted to check on you — and demonstrates that his powers would let him spy on Ritter completely undetected.
  • Lensman Arms Race: A planet of "giants" (basically, people who are five feet tall and five feet wide, strong as can be, smarter than normal people) who live in isolated citadel-cities, and who are constantly at war with one another, building more powerful weapons, tanks, etc. The engineer, Ritter, is a super-genius who could win the war for his citadel yesterday, but he only designs slightly better weapons because if he did it wouldn't be fun any more.
  • Literal Genie: In Justice, when Emperor Venkatna hears of the imminent Miralese invasion, he demands that Race and Julia use the power of the Web to subdue them. When they tell him that is not within their powers, he goes into a rage and forces them back into the Web, denying their pleas for rest. His last order is: "No peace!"
  • Made a Slave: King Hermann does this to Sparrow in the second book, and King/Emperor Venkatna to Race and Julia in the third. In neither case does it end well for the responsible party.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: The Consensus sent a fleet to investigate the disappearance of the newly colonized planet Northworld. The fleet vanished too, so they sent another one, and then a third when the second was lost — and of course, number three disappeared as well. And then they got serious — and sent Nils Hansen, a police special operations officer. Subverted, because as of the end of the trilogy, he hasn't returned to the Consensus either. However, he has become a god.
  • Only One Name: Nils Hansen is the only person in the trilogy who ever gets more than one name. Among the various mononyms, some are obviously given names, some are surnames and some are ambiguous.
  • Physical God: Hansen gains godlike powers.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: The legendary smith Volund shows up, as "Sparrow". As with the myth, he's more a force of nature than a man, whose creative abilities border on godlike.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Nils Hansen is sent to investigate a newly-discovered world where every previous expedition has mysteriously vanished (into Northworld, as he learns when he ends up there too). For Hansen and the people back home, it's a been a few years since the first people crossed over; on the Northworld side, it's been roughly ten thousand years. Also, Northworld consists of nine interlinked universes, and time spent in one world has no relation to the passage of time in another: you could transfer out of one universe as a bullet flies toward you, spend years flitting about the other eight, and finally return to the first while the bullet is still in flight.