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Literature / Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars

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"To surpass nature, one must be crueler than nature."
Dr. Sarina Kaur

Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars is a trilogy written by Greg Cox about the life of Khan Noonien Singh. It covers the superman's rise to power, subsequent fall and his exile on Ceti Alpha V. Along with "Space Seed" and The Wrath of Khan, we are given Khan's life story, showing how he rose to power and became the monster that his is.

Sarina Kaur, a brilliant scientist from India, wants to make a superior breed of humanity. To do this, she gathers several other brilliant scientists from around the world and takes them to Chrysalis, an underground research facility in India where they can work without government interference. The missing scientists are noticed by Gary Seven, prompting an investigation into the worldwide disappearances. Unfortunately, Chrysalis has already produced several super children, including Khan. Drawing the line at murder, Gary and Roberta evacuate the facility and activate the self destruct mechanism, scattering the children around the world in the hopes that they will grow up and live normal lives. Unfortunately, superior ability breeds superior ambition.


The story makes extensive use of actual history, veiling the Eugenics Wars behind the brushfire conflicts of the 1990s. Author's notes for almost every chapter are in the back of the book, which help provide context for events that happened or are referenced and how they fit into the secret wars between superhumans.

The series shows examples of:

  • Action Girl: Roberta Lincoln spends a lot of time running around saving the world. She's even fought two superhumans at once and come out on top.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Khan stages an attack on Gary's base of operations twice; once as the Cold War is ending to find the other children of Chrysalis and Dr. Evergreen's ozone manipulation technology, then again in London to wipe out Gary and Roberta. The second attempt prompts Gary to relocate to out in the country to minimize possible civilian casualties.
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  • Affably Evil: Both Kaur and Khan are polite, well spoken and willing to debate those they disagree with.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Sarina, Roberta, and Gary Seven all refer to Khan as "Noon" when he's younger. This doesn't last.
  • Ax-Crazy: Joaquin is fond of throwing knives at people he doesn't like.
  • Amazon Brigade: Chen Tiejun and her group of superwomen. They even call themselves the Amazons.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Superior ability breeds superior ambition, after all.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: The nuclear reactor used by Chrysalis has several rods that can, with proper authorization, meld together to form critical mass, which will made them explode. In reality, several rods of uranium slowly sliding together will simply produce a large lump of uranium rods.
  • Artistic License – Space: Dr. Wilson Evergreen's weather satellite, meant to fix the hole in the ozone layer, is stated by Seven to be "in a geostationary orbit above the South Pole". An object orbiting the Earth has to follow a full elliptical path around the planet's center of mass. Geostationary orbits can only be over the Equator, and an orbit that went over the South Pole — whether geosynchronous or not — would be at right-angles to the planet's rotation. An object permanently located over the South Pole wouldn't be orbiting at all — it would just be defying gravity.
  • Asshole Victim: All the superhumans apart from Khan die in pretty horrible fashion. But they cause so much suffering to their ordinary human subjects, they absolutely deserve their fates. The worst (or best depending on how you look at it) has to be Vasily Hunyadi, who's killed in a sarin gas attack. Any sympathy you might feel is mitigated by the fact that when the attack took place, Hunyadi was in the middle of a speech defending his policy of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans.
  • Badass Normal:
    • Roberta Lincoln, who keeps the world at large safe from Khan and his kin.
    • Possibly Gary Seven, but given that he was selectively bred and raised on an alien planet, it's up to debate just how normal he is.
  • Batman Gambit: After Gary realizes how dangerous Khan really is, he enters Isis under the name of Ament in the list of superhumans he has on the Beta-5, knowing that Khan will attempt to hack it and recruit as many superhumans as he can.
  • Beauty Is Bad: All the supermen are described as very charismatic.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Even before the Eugenics Wars, Khan was around for a lot and helped shape much of the late 20th century. He was caught up in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, saw the Bhopal Disaster firsthand, incited the 1987 pro-democracy riots in South Korea, fought alongside Afghan rebels in their war with the Soviets, and may have personally arranged for the deaths of both Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and Ayatollah Khomeini.
  • Beware the Superman: Gary cites a few cases of aliens who tried messing with their genes and ended up extinct or devastated in the aftermath. Sure enough, many of the superhumans cause nothing but trouble for the world at large.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Khan is stopped and the world is saved but Isis dies and Khan is still alive, ready to cause trouble when and wherever he wakes up.
  • Call-Back: The second book opens with Roberta trying to sabotage a rocket, just like Gary Seven did in "Assignment: Earth".
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Khan is more than willing to kill the world. His only regret is that he has to be secretive about it.
  • The Chessmaster: Gary Seven shows shades of this, playing the superhumans against each other and outwitting Khan in the long run.
  • Close-Range Combatant: Isis takes down two trained guards before they even notice they're under attack with her bare hands.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Poor Gary is thrown in the back of a flatbed and driven across part of India during the middle of the day, chained up in a cage and injected with a truth serum that causes constant pain until secrets are divulged.
  • The Comically Serious: Gary is never anything but brusque and professional. This can sometimes border on absurdity, like when he disguises himself as Lenin's corpse and is still utterly deadpan.
  • Continuity Porn:
  • Creepy Child: Some of the children at Project Chrysalis are not... well. The fact that they're also inhumanly strong makes it dangerous, and the fact that Chrysalis keeps on using the methods knowing they get these results is the first clue they're not even close to good guys.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Dr. Donald Williams, who delivered the modified strep-A recipe to Khan is then used to test it. A few agonizing minutes later, he's dead.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Gary drops these from time to time, usually as a justification for what agenda he's working on at the time. Discussed by Roberta, who complains that Gary constantly cites examples she's never heard of and can hardly check up on.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Khan effortlessly takes out several Soviet soldiers in Moscow while trying to uncover a plot to assassinate Gorbachev.
  • Designer Babies: The children of Chrysalis are born naturally, though the embryos are altered and spliced with new DNA.
  • Doomsday Device: A couple pop up, both in Khan's hands:
    • Chrysalis engineered a virulent strain of streptococcus to cleanse the world of flawed humanity so the superhumans can take over quickly and cleanly. Khan later gets the formula and attempts to carry out the ultimate plan, but is stopped by another group of superhumans.
    • A device created to close holes in the ozone layer is repurposed to open holes in the ozone layer, allowing Khan to, in his own words, "slit the world's throat."
  • Driven to Suicide: Randy Morrison ends up completely insane and kills himself to evade capture from imaginary foes.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Chrysalis base is a giant underground research facility with labs, a nuclear reactor, an underground garden and even several classrooms. Great lengths have been taken to make it a nice place to live to the scientists there.
  • Elective Mute: Roberta strongly suspects that Isis is this in her human form, simply preferring not to speak, particularly in Roberta's own presence. She's proven right in the second book, when we learn that Khan's adviser Ament — who has spoken at length numerous times — is actually Isis undercover.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The modified strand of strep-A would kill every human on the planet to make way for the new breed of humanity.
  • Enemy Civil War: Gary Seven does his best to play the supermen against each other. None of them trust each other, so it works quite well.
  • Evil Overlord: The supermen all try to become one. Khan is the most successful, controlling much of Asia.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: Chrysalis seeks to create a new breed of humanity to inherit the world.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The superhumans seem to spend more time fighting each other than they do fighting the rest of humanity.
  • Eye Scream: One woman who was caught in the Bhopal Disaster is described as having horizontal bars running across her eyes. They're ocular burns caused by her squinting as she tried to move through the toxic clouds of chemicals.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Ultimately, Khan is Saved by Canon and put into cyro sleep at the end of the Eugenics Wars to wake up and give Kirk a headache in the future before meeting his end in Wrath of Khan.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Once the news about his biological weapons research comes out, the U.S. and Russia begin to openly attack Khan, despite his warnings about the Morning Star weapon. Considering that he'd already shown his intention to wipe out all regular humans anyways, they've got nothing left to lose.
  • The Good Chancellor: Ament tries to be this for Khan and at first it works. But after Khan begins his war with the other supers, he begins to ignore her advice more and more. Predictably, this ends poorly for him.
  • The Illuminati: Roberta is accused of being sent by the Illuminati. Roberta thinks to herself how she and Seven shut down the Illuminati years ago.
  • Karmic Death: Vasily Hunyadi is killed in a sarin gas attack, the same type of gas he'd been using in his ethnic cleansing campaign in the Balkans. He even remarks on the irony shortly before he dies.
  • Kill 'Em All: Chrysalis develops a modified strand of strep-A that the superhumans are immune to with the intent of killing off all of humanity to make way for them. Khan later acquires the formula and begins mass producing it to continue that goal.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Gary Seven. He cares deeply for Isis and can understand her. It's implied he can understand other earth felines as well.
  • Lady Land: Chen Tiejun, as a result of her separatist feminist ideology, founds a matriarchal colony on a small island off New Zealand.
  • LEGO Genetics: One of Chrysalis' early experiments involved splicing ape DNA into a human prisoner they'd freed. It somehow worked, making him larger, stronger, and sterile.
  • Like Reality, Unless Noted: Khan and the first generation of augments was conceived and born circa 1969-1970. The text shows its work when referring to real life science techniques such as PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), Restriction Enzymes, gene splicing, and sequencing in relation to Project Chrysalis. In reality, the first time scientists were able to read the genetic code was in 1977 with the development of Sanger Sequencing. PCR (a method of making Xerox copies of DNA) was developed in 1983, and restriction enzymes (used to create recombinant DNA) were actually discovered in 1970 with the first recombinant DNA created in 1972. Although the general technique of gel electrophoresis (a method for molecular analysis and separation using electrocurrent) has been around since the 1930s, it was first used on DNA in 1977. It has always been plausible in the Star Trek universe that many scientific methods actually exist earlier than publicly known due to the commonplace of Imported Alien Phlebotinum and E.T. giving us Wi-Fi.
  • Mark of the Beast: General Morrison views his avian eyes as proof that the New World Order exists.
  • Meaningful Name: Ament. As Gary Seven explains, "Ament means 'hidden goddess' and is just one of many alternative names for the Egyptian goddess, Isis."
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: As is typical for Star Trek. Gary is very adamant that attempts to genetically "improve" the species will end in disaster for humanity, which is rich considering he is himself the product of enhancement. note 
  • Oh, Crap!: Early on when Roberta and Gary are separately infiltrating Chrysalis, Roberta's servo beeps, signaling a call from Gary's servo. She answers, reporting that she'd infiltrated Chrysalis and discovered a few secrets and asked him to advise. A pause, followed by Dr. Kaur's voice signals that the jig is up and all that's left is the running and the shooting.
  • Plot Hole: Cox does an admirable job turning the Eugenics Wars into a secret war veiled by the real events of the 1990s. But this raises the question of how the Enterprise crew knows about these events centuries later. Most of the world governments weren't even aware of the true threat that Khan represented, so who told people what really happened and made it so public that by the 23rd Century it's common knowledge?
  • Real Event, Fictional Cause: Many events in the late 20th century are revealed to have actually been products of the Eugenics Wars.
    • Smiling Buddha, India's first successful nuclear test, was actually Gary and Roberta successfully triggering the Chrysalis facility's self-destruct. In fact, the story that it was a nuclear test is used as a cover story, which Gary says no one will question in an era of mass nuclear proliferation.
    • The expansion of the ozone hole over Antarctica in the summer of 1992 was the product of Khan's Morning Star weapon.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: Gary Seven's job is to slow the proliferation of any technology that could incite global war. He stays out of fixing social and economic problems. This becomes a sore point for Khan after the Bhopal chemical disaster (where simple corporate neglect and corruption led to thousands of deaths).
  • Retcon:
    • To Reign in Hell spends a lot of time fixing up the disparities and errors, both big and small, in "Space Seed" and The Wrath of Khan:
      • Why does Khan recognize Chekov, who never appeared in "Space Seed", in Wrath of Khan? Because Chekov led him and his crew down to Ceti Alpha V.
      • Why does Khan call "Revenge is a dish best served cold" a Klingon proverb? Because Marla told him it was.
      • How did Starfleet mistake Ceti Alpha V for VI? Because they were relying on an earlier, outdated survey of the system and thus Captain Terrell thought the remains of VI were an asteroid belt described in said survey.
      • Why did Starfleet seemingly forget that Khan was marooned in the Ceti Alpha system? Because the events of "Space Seed" were kept under wraps, to the point where Terrell had no idea about it. And as for Chekov, he assumed the trip to what he and Terrell thought was VI would be a short one, not knowing this was the planet where Khan was marooned.
      • How did Ceti Alpha VI explode, why did that also shift Ceti Alpha V's orbit, and how did Starfleet not notice such a disaster? A miniature black hole passed through the system, which tore VI apart and shifted the orbit of V as well. Khan, despite his brilliant mind, only had so much to go off of. And as for Starfleet, the nature of a miniature black hole meant that such a thing wouldn't be detected by their devices, thus it passed by unnoticed.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog:
    • Isis is a very competent agent, helped by the fact that nobody besides Gary and Roberta knows how intelligent she really is.
    • Roberta gets one of her own when she takes over at the end of the second book. Ramses, along with Isis, is presumably from the same alien planet Gary Seven is from.
  • The Right of a Superior Species: The children of Chrysalis believe that they're entitled to rule (and later be the sole inhabitants of) the planet because they are superior to humanity.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: One of the superhumans, Randy "Hawkeye" Morrison, becomes one out due to paranoid fear of the UN New World Order who he firmly believes exist and have it out for free Americans.
  • Save the Villain: Gary Seven refuses to outright murder anyone.
  • Saving the World: The ultimate goal of Gary Seven and the Aegis.
  • Secret War: The Eugenics Wars went unnoticed by the population at large, mostly being dismissed as one of the many brushfire conflicts of the 1990s.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: Chrysalis has a nuclear fission reactor that can double as this if the need arises.
  • Shout-Out:
    • At a diplomatic summit in Iceland, Roberta encounters a blond woman with a surprisingly strong grip named Sommers. This description matches Jaime Sommers, The Bionic Woman.
    • There's mention of an Indian delegate who wears a ruby in his turban and exclaims "Sim sala bim!", all implying this is Hadji from Jonny Quest.
    • Some throwaway lines suggest that Gary Seven had some past business with The Stepford Wives.
    • Gary Seven and Roberta are implied to have met the pagan cult seen in The Wicker Man (1973).
    • When Khan welcomes Roberta to his island base in a white suit, it's hard not to think of Ricardo Montalban's other famous TV role, Fantasy Island.
    • Walter Takagi is described as wearing Franchise/Godzilla and Astro Boy t-shirts, and is part of the official Gamera fan club.
  • Shown Their Work: Most chapters have author's notes in the back of the book explaining how what happened fits in with historical events of the time.
  • Smug Super:
    • All of the superhumans, but Khan takes the cake.
    • The inhabitants of the Paragon Colony, in the 23rd century storyline, have a Condescending Compassion form of this, as it rapidly becomes clear they aren't anywhere near as superior to their genetically-unmodified cousins as they imagine. They serve both the Federation and Klingon delegations completely tasteless food because they're worried about overtaxing their inferior taste buds, and are still concerned that it might be too rich or spicy for them.
  • The Social Darwinist: An attitude by the scientists regarding their new breed of humanity. The superhumans share this view, reasoning that they're superior and thus more worthy to inherit the planet.
  • Start of Darkness: Khan was already pretty bloodthirsty and ambitious, but witnessing the Bhopal Disaster firsthand is the event that ultimately leads to him concluding that humanity needs strong, superior leaders like him. This is what leads Gary Seven to abandon his attempts to recruit him and for Khan to adopt his title.
  • Suicide Mission: Chen Tiejun and her Amazons undertake one to destroy Chrysalis Island and the modified strep-A.
  • Super Strength: Something the children of Chrysalis have in common. One of the toddlers almost broke Robertas fingers by accident.
  • Swiss-Army Weapon: The Servo can tranquilize people, communicate with other servos, interface with the Beta-5, teleport people and gunpowder, vaporize sections of catwalk, cut through a metal door and functions as a pen.
  • Synthetic Plague: Chrysalis was working on one intended to wipe out humanity to clear the way. Khan later acquires the recipe for it and begins manufacturing it.
  • Take Over the World: Kaur's ultimate goal for the superhumans, later taken up by Khan.
  • Taking You with Me: The whole point of the Morning Star weapon. Should anyone try to depose Khan, he'll activate the system and set it to destroy all of Earth's ozone layer.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Roberta Lincoln. When seen in "Assignment: Earth", she was a somewhat ditzy, albeit apparently intelligent, young woman employed as a secretary, whose most impressive feat was hitting Gary Seven over the head with a box. However, after several years unter his tutelage — not to mention encounters with an assortment of interplanetary threats, ranging from radioactive mutants to Devidians to the freakin' Borg — she has become a highly capable agent and a full-fledged Action Girl in her own right. Heck, her first scene has her beating the crap out of what is strongly implied to be Redjac, although neither she nor Seven realize that he's anything more than a "run-of-the-mill mad slasher".
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: The Chrysalis kids started as cute, precocious, good-natured kids. Then in the real world, they grew up to become despots, warlords or just plain insane.
  • Uterine Replicator: Zegzagged. The superhumans are conceived artificially and genetically screened for any abnormalities during their initial development before being implanted into a willing surrogate mother to finish developing.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Isis can turn into an (apparently) human woman, though she stays in cat form most of the time. She spends most of the second volume pretending to be Ament, one of Khan's most trusted advisers.
  • We Can Rule Together: Khan attempts to rally the other superhumans to his cause, preaching his vision of a new world with them at the front. The others are not impressed and chafe at the idea of submitting to Khan.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Khan starts out as one when he rises to power in India. He wants to overthrow all world governments, wipe out his rival supers, and bring ordinary humans under his heel. All in the name of uniting humanity, overcoming our ethnic/religious/political differences and creating a world paradise from which to explore the stars.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: By the time Gary and Roberta infiltrate Chrysalis, they're already got several classes of superchildren and modified strep-A is being produced.
  • You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good!: Gary attempted to recruit Khan as an agent. Khan proved too bloodthirsty and unpredictable.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Upon getting the recipe for the new strain of streptococcus, Khan has his scientist test it on the man who delivered it to him.