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Literature / Terra Trilogy

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Terra is a science fiction novel by Mitch Benn, which tells the story of a young human girl growing up on the planet Fnrr, where she was taken when a Fnrrn scientist believed her (constantly arguing) parents had abandoned her. It was published in July 2013. The sequel, Terra's World, was published in July 2014. A third book, Terra's War was released in 2021.

The first book, Terra, is not to be confused with the comic book or webcomic of the same name.

Tropes found in this series include:

  • Academic Athlete: Fthfth, one of the Lyceum's best students and also one of its best gshkth players.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Billy in Terra's World is a huge Space Opera fan, who resents that knowledge that there were actual aliens meant space opera became unfashionable. He finds himself on a journey to Fnrr.
  • Alien Blood: When Terra sees a dark blue grav-bubble, her first thought is that it's the colour of Fnrrn blood.
  • The Alternet: Fnrrn society has the Source, a planet-wide information network accessed through the tablets everyone carries. The scientist who invented gravity-manipulation published his work on the Source, so that no one group would have access to it. In Terra's World, Terra tells Billy it's like the internet "in the same way a jet fighter is like a steam train".
  • Big Bad Friend: In Terra's War, The Extrapolator is revealed to be in league with the Big Bad, sabotaging efforts to defend Fnrr. Lbpp postulates that the Extrapolator was promised an entire extra universe's worth of knowledge in the bargain.
  • The B Grade: After she's done her homework, Fthfth calls her academic record up and spends her evenings glaring at the two occasions she only got a single star instead of a double, and vowing it will never happen again.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Defied Trope. Someone suggests this to Mrs Bradbury and turns out to be completely wrong. The baby just gave them new things to argue about, to the extent that they never actually gave her a name.
  • Badass in Distress: In Terra's War, Hardison is taken prisoner by two aliens and rescued by his wife, who takes them both out with an exploding wedding ring.
  • Becoming the Mask: In Terra's World Bfgsh, with a bit of manipulation by Lppb, starts to think he really is the reincarnation of the Gfkj-Hhh. It doesn't make him a better ruler, but it gives him an obsession with being seen to be a better ruler.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The FaZoon Soup that only Pktk was willing to try turns out to be a Super Serum.
  • Deflector Shields: Terra waits until they unexpectedly find themselves in a space battle to break some bad news to Billy about the state of their ship:
    Terra: Billy, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. Don’t be alarmed, but...
    Billy: What?
    Terra: There’s no such thing as deflector shields.
  • Dramatic Irony: It is revealed in Terra's War that The Occluded Ones are very real and trying to drive the sapient species of the galaxy to mutual extermination. Nobody tells the G'grk, who end up rallying to defend Fnrr against this wave of aggression even while continuing to pray to the Occluded Ones, with the exception of a single G'grk imprisoned on Earth who figures it out on his own.
  • Fantastic Racism: It's suggested in the first book, and made explicit in the second, that while the G'grk have certainly got problems as a society, the smugly superior attitude some other Fnrrns have about them isn't great either.
  • Fictional Sport: Fthfth plays gshkth, which seems to be like field hockey. The G'grk play Kkh-St'grrss, which Colonel Harrison compares to polo, except more violent and after a polo match, the winners don't eat the losers' horses.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: In Terra's World Bfgsh was a Brilliant, but Lazy Fnrrn who was employed at the Forum as a cleaner, until he discovered the human concept of "lying" and used it to take over Mlml by claiming to be the legendary Gfkj-Hhh.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: The Fnrrns (except the G'grk) create food with "protein manipulators", and view "eating animals" with distaste (although they do prepare real vegetable dishes on occasion, such as the famous soup.)
  • The Greys: The Fnrrns fit the physical description, apart from being tall: Lppb is "a tall, thin figure with a large bald grey head, large shiny black eyes, and a lipless mouth, clad in a shimmering one piece garment. They don't do Alien Abductions though, unless you count rescuing Terra.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: The second chapter is Lppb's perspective on planet Rrth. His main conclusion about the dominant life form is that Ymns Are Bastards.
  • Identity Denial: At the end of Terra, Lbbp finds himself growing weary of being a celebrity, and decides on the novel idea of claiming not to be Lbbp to avoid talking to a stranger. This has consequences in Terra's World.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: "Terra's [W-word]", which is "War" and then "World" except for the first book, which is just Terra.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Compositor Vstj is an academic rival to Lppb who disapproves of him bringing Terra to Fnrr, and is later rather detached and sarcastic when dealing with her. It becomes apparent by halfway through the book that he doesn't really bear her any animosity as such, and has his own problems. (This gets foreshadowed in Terra's play, where she carefully doesn't write the rival to Fnnr's greatest scientist as a villain, and the student playing him seems to be doing an impression of Vstj.)
  • King in the Mountain: In Terra's World, eons ago, before the Fnrrns lost the concept of saying things that were untrue, someone claimed the deceased founder of Mlml, the Gfkj-Hhh would return. Bfgsh revives the idea, much to Terra's confusion.
    Terra: This is Fnrr! This is Mlml! You don't do prophecies!
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: Fnrrns Love Shakespeare: Once the Fnrrns realise people can make up things that never happened and write them down, they become fascinated with the one planet that already does this.
  • The Klutz: Terra's friend Pktk, who can be relied upon to lose control of his grav-bubble, drop his computer slate, and get tongue-tied when asked a question. He eventually becomes much more coordinated after drinking FaZoom Soup for several years.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the second book Lbbp, who's grasped some human concepts other Fnrrns haven't, denies being Lbbp to avoid talking to Bfgsh. Bfgsh thereby gets the idea of lying, and goes on to take over the planet. When he has Lbbp captured, Bfgsh visits him regularly, just to remind him that this is all his fault.
  • No Accounting for Taste: The Bradburys' friends can't understand why they're still married.
    Some of them came to the conclusion that the Bradburys must like it that way. Arguing all the time was the thing that made them happy. But it didn't seem to make them happy at all.
  • Old Master: In Terra's War, K'zsht ends up in a duel with his disgraced former deputy, and handily defeats him.
    K’zsht: I said I taught you everything you know, I did not teach you everything I know.
  • Omniscient Morality Licence: The Extrapolator is a computer which can infallibly predict everything, and therefore can't be argued with when it intercedes in Fnrrn society. (Or, regardless of how helpful such interactions might seem, when it doesn't.)
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: One of the things the other Fnrrns consider as marking the G'grk as hopelessly backward is that they believe in "invisible overlords". Played with in the second book it turns out having outgrown superstition eons ago means your society lacks resistance when someone brings them back. Played with further in the third book when it turns out the invisible overlords are in fact real.
  • Outside-Context Problem: It's foreshadowed from the beginning of the book but in Terra's World it catches the characters by surprise when halfway through, while they're trying to create a plan of attack against a despotic overlord, they suddenly learn there's also a Gray Goo Planet Killer on the way. By the following morning, the characters are so busy working on dealing with this that they've almost forgotten about the Gfkj-Hhh.
  • Parental Substitute: Lbbp is this to Terra, raising her after he takes her back to Fnrrn. He doesn't consider himself her father though, and the one Fnrrn who does refer to him as such clearly does so because he's noticed it makes Terra uncomfortable.
  • The Perfectionist: Terra's friend Fthfth, who is the child of two brilliant scientists. Not only does she want to achieve academic brilliance and "invent time travel", she's also a very competitive athelete.
  • Proud Scholar Race: The Fnrrns are this. Mlml has a democratic government, but the people vote for the politicians who are most likely to listen to the scientists, since they're obviously the sensible ones, and it seems most other areas of Fnrr are the same. The exception is...
  • Proud Warrior Race: The G'grk, a society on Fnrr that still believes in honour and glorious battle and a manifest destiny to conquer pretty much anywhere they want. Only they can't, because the Scholar Race areas of Fnrr have all the cool gadgets. Or so everyone thinks.
  • Punctuation Shaker: In addition to the lack of vowels in the Fnrrn language, there are also a lot of apostrophes.
  • Puny Earthlings: Averted from Terra's World onwards. The humans are at a distinct disadvantage, technology-wise, but prove quite resourceful once they know there's an alien threat. Much to the chagrin of a series of alien infiltrators who keep getting caught.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: In Terra's War, XT-1 figures out that the Occluded Ones are responsible for the wave of rage and violence sweeping across the universe, and tears apart his possessions while cursing them and vowing never to listen to them again.
  • School Play: Once the Fnrrns discover fiction, Fthfth suggests the Lyceum students put one on. When they don't feel any Ymn drama is exactly suitable, Terra writes one about the scientist who invented gravity manipulation.
  • See the Invisible: in the first book, Terra finds a G'grk encampment within the borders of Mlml. She realizes that the camp is actually cloaked, but the cloak was designed with Fnrr vision in mind. Human eyes view a different spectrum of light and since there was only one human on the entire planet, nobody thought to take that into consideration.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When asked how he's finding Earth, Lbbp replies "Fascinating." Professor Steinberg thinks this is hilarious.
    • The fk'shn from Earth that gets translated into Fnrrn includes "Which Sister Will Die?", "Crazy Monoped Can't Stop Chasing Sea Mammal", and Rth's most-popular play, "The Grumpy Adolescents Who Fall In Love and Kill Themselves".
    • In Terra's War, Professor Steinberg recalls a few lines of poetry he heard in a movie somewhere, and spends the latter part of the book's climax distractedly trying to figure out where it came from while also trying to find a solution to his much more important problem. He finally figures out it was the movie Oblivion (2013), giving his critique of the movie as his final words, much to the confusion of his killers, who barely fail to stop him from reactivating Fnrr's defense grid.
  • Shrinking Violet: Pktk. One of the first Fnrrns to create his own stories, he never shows them to anyone, much less tries to get them published. He's panic-stricken when he's selected as the lead in the Lyceum play.
  • Spot the Imposter: A recurring trope from Terra's World onward, with different methods used to spot aliens trying to infiltrate Earth depending on the circumstance:
    • Terra realizes that her friend Billy isn't nearly attractive enough for the new blonde transfer student to be that interested in him. She decides it'd be best not to explain that to him.
    • The same imposter later has the bad luck to run into another alien imposter lying in wait for them.
    • In Terra's War, Hardison confirms he's facing an imposter when a trusted friend makes his coffee with milk. He's lactose intolerant and they keep soy milk in the house just for him.
    • The same book reveals that the second alien imposter knew about the first alien imposter because she learned about the incident later on.
  • Stranger in a Strange School: Our proper introduction to Terra as a character is when she's eleven Earth years old and starting at the Lyceum, which is Fnrrn high school. Terra grew up on Fnrr, but she still feels like an outsider sometimes, and her first day at school makes it worse.
    • Terra's World has Terra transferring from school to school on Earth, because her family is being hunted by alien headhunters. The same book has a second human, Billy, ending up on Fnrr and helping Terra with the crisis at hand. He continues to go to school on Fnrr in Terra's War and has come to embrace his celebrity status as a resident alien.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The FaZoon, who have a Prime Directive, but occasionally come down to lesser civilisations and leave revelations they think they can handle. Lbbp finds them unbearably smug. When they visit in the book they leave a recipe for soup. It's very good soup, though.
  • Super Soldier: In Terra's War, Pktk decides to put his newfound strength and anger management issues to work by joining the G'grk.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Shnst and Thnst. Yes, it even happens on Fnrr.
  • Trademark Favourite Food: Terra's is protein configuration 6. Although she thinks the configuration 6 the protein manipulators in Dskt make isn't anything like the configuration 6 in Mlml. Pktk rather likes the FaZoon Soup, though he can't interest anyone else in trying it.
  • Translation Convention: Spoken Fnrrn is represented as English in italics with a dash at the start rather than in quotation marks (which represents spoken English).
  • The Unpronouncable: The Fnrrn language has no vowels. Lbbp finds Earth language just has hard to parse (pronouncing "Earth" as "Rrth" and "Human" as "Ymn") and chooses the name "Terra" for the human child because it can be pronounced relatively easily as "T'rr".
  • Walking Spoiler: Just about anything to do with Time Travel, given the reveal late in the final book that Future!Fthfth has been time traveling across all three books closing the Stable Time Loop.

Alternative Title(s): Terra