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Literature / The Apocalypse Troll

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Stand-alone military science fiction book by David Weber, also known for his Honor Harrington works.

Follows the adventures of the Russian-descended Time Traveling Super-Soldier Colonel Ludmilla Leonovna chasing the big bad back in time to stop The End of the World as We Know It from happening.

The whole book is available online, on Baen Books.

Tropes associated with this book:

  • Ace Pilot: As of the beginning of the book, Ludmilla has thirty-four fighter kills and squadrons under her command have destroyed thirteen capital ships, including a dreadnaught which she was the Sole Survivor of the battle to destroy it. She kills at least one Troll Fighter after scrambling (maybe a second one, but the narrative doesn't confirm that her missile hit). Following that the Troll commander notes that, in the three week long running battle during which her fighter is the only remaining human craft because she hasn't had to sleep, she has killed another ten fighters from his squadron. She's an ace nine times over even before she takes out two more Trolls on atmospheric approach to Earth, and the Troll commander is only able to shoot her down because she was willing to die in order to nuke the Kanga ship carrying a bioweapon that would have made the entire human race extinct.
  • Beast Man: The Kangas apparently look enough like Terran kangaroos that Ludmilla nearly shoots up a zoo upon her first sight of the latter.
  • Blood Knight: While Trolls are best described as Omnicidal Maniacs, they do delight in destroying the objects of their all consuming hatred.
  • Born Lucky: Humanity is pretty much this in both the future and the past. In the original timeline we had just enough time to develop far enough that we beat off the first Kanga attack instead of becoming their 28th victim, fifty years earlier and it wouldn't have even been a fight. Then a bio weapon attack gone wrong granted some of us immortality, even as the tide completely turned and while slow the outcome hasn't been in doubt for a very long time. In the past humanity also got all the breaks, with just enough future human forces surviving to save Earth and the Kangas' self-sabotage allowing us a chance to help save our own hides. Then while one Kanga military member survived he turned out to have an agenda other than (immediate) annihilation while an expert on killing him landed on the deck of a boat captained by a US Navy officer senior enough to quickly give her an in with the authorities in time to stop him. Then of course Five centuries of advanced tech is handed to us on a plate, with the certainty that the war will be over far quicker this time.
  • Brain in a Jar: Trolls are psychotic lab grown human brains that are installed into war machines. They're even interchangeable, as the Troll leaves his fighter to enter the climactic ground battle by transferring his organic component into his combat chassis.
  • Curbstomp Battle:
    • About the only thing Ludmilla and the Troll agree on is that a forewarned humanity will easily defeat the first Kanga attack and if given future technology the Troll concludes that any war will last perhaps ten years instead of four hundred.
    • One of the Troll's information gathering missions results in Argentina blaming Britain for the attack and launching a second Falklands war (not helped by tensions being high already). Although the Argentinian's Exocet one LPH the aircraft and ships based on the Falklands quickly begin annihilating the Argentine air force and Navy to the extent that they lose over thirty planes for virtually no British looses. The British don't even want the fight and as soon as the US President asks they agree to a ceasefire. Argentina isn't quite as smart and sends bombers after the US task force sent to enforce the cease fire It doesn't end well for them.
  • Dictionary Opening: The book uses definitions from the fictional "Webster-Wangchi Unabridged Dictionary of Standard English" as chapter epigraphs.
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: Ludmilla and the taskforce are 99.9% certain that all the Kangas have done is create an alternative world and this not their past. Leaving aside the .1% everybody involved quickly agrees that leaving any version of humanity to Kanga based death or Troll domination is...not...happening.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Captain Onslow ordering Ludmilla to pursue the fleeing Kangas with all of her surviving fighters instead of returning to protect the Defender because he's already given orders to ram the Troll dreadnaught. He nicely caps it off with the words "See You in Hell, Col-" as the flagships collide in a titanic explosion.
  • Eternal English: Slightly subverted - some bits from 400 years in the future require explanation, such as dropping the first syllable of "mister" and just saying "Ster".
  • Forever War: The first Kanga attack was around the year 2090 and four hundred years later the war is still going on. Although for once with this trope the end is certainly in sight (although probably still a few generations away).
  • Guilt-Free Extermination War: Subverted in that while Future!Humanity knows they may have no choice they really don't want to wipe out the Kangas and Trolls at the end of the war. Unfortunately played straight by the Kangas themselves who see all Alien life as "devils" and fair game to be wiped out without any remorse or hesitation.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The entire future task force bar one pilot dies in the process of saving the past Earth from the Kanga attack. A political version also happens with the Russian foreign Minister who (aware the President needs to perform a reshuffle to get a dangerously high number of Troll vulnerable people out of government) suggests firing himself as the excuse due to irreconcilable differences over policy. Since in Ludmilla's time he's remembered for starting a nuclear war a few years later she develops some respect for a man she always thought of as a simple murderous warmonger.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: Lampshaded by the nameless Troll near the beginning of the book, who muses that the only things that have let Ludmilla keep up with his squadron over a week-long duel are the enhanced reflexes and endurance she gains from her cralkhi symbiote... the same symbiote that she gained from his own masters' malfunctioning bioweapon.
  • Home Field Advantage: Inverted. Spaceships designed are designed to fight in...well space and have lots of projections instead of a smooth streamlined hull. Once in the atmosphere the Kanga taskforce is dependent on their force shields to maintain flight and hull integrity as such almost any damage sees the ships destroyed. This even allows a couple to be bought down by a twenty first century human taskforce as even though any damage is a pinprick it can disrupt the forcefield and then the air itself does the rest of the job.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: We're only told (not shown) how Kangas think, but the Troll viewpoint is almost as alien. Their foes deliberately try to not think of them as at all human.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Hyperspace is presented as a series of levels or "bands". The higher the band, the faster the ship travels, but the more dangerous travel becomes. Transitioning from one band to another carries a risk of the ship going "acoherent" and simply disappearing without a trace. This risk grows as the ship travels into the higher, more distorted regions of hyperspace.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Ludmilla (who is effectively immortal via Healing Factor, though she can be killed) falls in love with a normal man. For certain values of "normal"...
  • Mind Rape: The Troll does this to several people in order to acquire information about present-day Earth. One victim is a schoolteacher who was camping with her husband; it has its way with her for 6 hours before finally disposing of her body, and records every moment of the process for its later enjoyment.
  • Mysterious Antarctica: Where the Troll first lands on Earth.
  • No Name Given: The Troll doesn't have a name. The human pursuers refer to it by the codename of Grendel.
  • Omnicidal Maniac:
    • The Trolls would gladly kill their alien masters if they could, but the Kangas made very sure they can't. So they'll settle for killing everything else.
    • When humans first found out that Trolls were cloned human cyborgs they set a trap to isolate and rescue a few of them. The Trolls slaughtered the peaceful envoys attempting to make contact, even though it was clear that they were completely outgunned by said envoys' military guards. They just tried to kill as many as they could before being taken out themselves.
  • Psychic Powers: The Kangas tampering gave the Trolls a limited ability to read and manipulate human minds. It only works on about a third of humans, though. A key challenge for most of the book is keeping the whole thing secret from anyone the Troll might be able to read. Even finding out who is and isn't immune is a fairly impressive challenge, since the only way to tell the difference is with an EEG, and they can't tell anyone why they're scanning them before they run the scan.
  • Punny Name: Ludmilla's fighter is named Sputnik Too. Not Two, Too.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Ludmilla looks 18-19, is actually 84.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Kangas fall under the "aliens as religious fundamentalists" version of this trope. Their religion teaches that God made one race in his image (them, in case you hadn't guessed), while the Devil takes an infinite number of different forms in his attempts to destroy them. By the time they encountered humanity, they'd built their entire culture around searching out and exterminating every other sapient race in the universe.
  • See You in Hell: Literally Captain Onslow's last words, spoken to Ludmilla as the Defender rams the Troll dreadnaught. Both ships are completely annihilated in a huge nuclear fireball.
  • Sole Survivor: Ludmilla and the Troll are the only survivors of a pair of Standard Sci-Fi Fleet battle groups that spent about a month (subjective time, at least, considering that they spent most of it at relativistic speeds) wiping each other out both before and after they went so fast they went back in time. The Troll is unaware that Ludmilla survived for most of the book, however, because he thought he had killed her when he destroyed her fighter over the Atlantic. He only learns of her survival when she activates her blaster during the climactic final battle, an instant before she blows him to hell.
  • Spotting the Thread: Early on in their investigation the US Navy realise how insane it is that two fleets designed for space combat entered the atmosphere of a random planet and had a fight. Its not their natural element and almost any damage can result in destruction when superheated air at Mach whatever slams into hulls that have no streamlining. So why did they come? This leads to a strong suspicion that one side or the other was after us even before Ludmilla shows up to confirm this.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: The general organization of both the Terran Navy and the Kangas. The shorthanded human battle group is led by the Defender, which ends up facing off against a Kanga carrier and dreadnaught, after both sides' cruisers and destroyers were destroyed before the big ships managed to defy Einstein.Somewhat subverted in that the "fighters" in this fleet are depicted as being the size of a modern destroyer and about as well armed but operated by only three people.
  • The Symbiote: The source of Ludmilla's superhuman reflexes, strength, Healing Factor and apparent youth. Can be passed to others via blood transfusion, but since it has a 95 to 99% death rate (depending on the available medical technology), this is never done except in desperation, when the person receiving it would die anyway.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: The second sentence Ludmilla says to Dick (after "Hello, yourself") after waking up. It's an Invoked Trope because she's from the future, literally fell from space, has an interest in "historical" entertainment, and (as she explains when Dick calls bullshit on her using this line) has a low brow sense of humor.
  • The Teetotaler: Ludmilla does not drink, because her symbiote doesn't react well to alcohol.
  • Temporal Paradox: After some early discussion, the question is tabled in favor of more practical matters. The upshot is that it doesn't really matter; even if Ludmilla's home timeline is safe, she and her comrades would fight just as hard to save another Earth from what the Kangas and their cyborg slaves would do to it.
  • Terminator Twosome: Ludmilla and the Troll, each the sole survivor of their respective forces. The Troll thinks he killed Ludmilla ("the cralkhi") from the point that he blasts her fighter to pieces in low orbit. A major element of the story from that point is that her existence must remain a secret because the only weapon on the planet that can reliably destroy the Troll can only be fired by Ludmilla, because it's hardwired to her DNA. They could still use strategic-grade nukes (there's actually an F-18 Hornet overhead on standby during the climax, being flown by an extremely freaked-out pilot who is not happy to know that he might be ordered to destroy half of North Carolina at any given moment), but if she is actually able to pull the trigger there's a much better chance of not killing a few million innocent bystanders.