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Literature / The Crucible of Empire

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The Crucible of Empire is a novel by Eric Flint and K. D. Wentworth, sequel to The Course of Empire.

Long ago, the Omnicidal Scary Dogmatic Aliens known as the Ekhat created the Jao as a Slave Race. They used the Jao in genocidal wars, including one against the peaceful advanced Lleix. During the war, one of the Lleix came to the Jao and pointed out that they could be free and if they remained slaves, sooner or later they would outlive their usefulness. The Lleix ambassador was treacherously killed and the Jao continued their bloody work until satisfied that the Lleix were exterminated. But they took the advice to heart and generations later remembered it. The Jao revolted, set up on their own, and waged a Forever War against the Ekhat. They also began conquering less advanced races and founded a mighty Empire. Then they conquered an Insignificant Little Blue Planet despite fanatical resistance. After a period of misrule the Jao realized how useful the humans were and decreed that they were to be considered a fellow clan in the Jao Empire, an unprecedented honor for a conquered race.


Now with relations between Jao and humans going reasonably well, the Jao preceptor gets word of a strange discovery. There may be a Lost Colony of Lleix that survived the genocide. These have to be rescued before the Ekhat find them first, as not only do the Jao have much to be forgiven but they owe their freedom to the Lleix who gave them the idea. Sending a Jao ship wouldn't do as the Lleix would not receive it. Fortunately there is now a technologically advanced vassal race that can mediate.

In the new Cool Starship, the Lexington, a mixed Jao and human crew sets out. On the way they meet and destroy five Ekhat ships in a Space Battle. Then they land and convince the Lleix to go with them. When enough ships are assembled the Lleix are evacuated and settled in a convenient area on Planet Terra, called by the strange alien name of "California". And all is well.


Contains examples of:

  • The Atoner: The Jao
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: Conquered Terra at present. The previous governor was something different.
  • Cool Starship: The Lexington
  • Creator Provincialism: All the human characters presented are Americans. Not quite America Saves the Day, as the Jao conceive and direct the operation. But has traces of it.
  • Culture Clash: Lots of this
    • At one time a human takes a look at Jao records and is surprised at how dry it is. After all a human culture that had first revolted against slavery and then founded an empire would certainly have written a great Epic about it.
  • Fantastic Caste System: The Lleix Eileen or guilds. Those not accepted into a guild are an underclass.
  • First Contact Team
  • Humans Are Diplomats: Justified. Jao wouldn't have been suited for mediating.
  • Humans Are Special: Even the Jao think so. at least some of them.
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  • Humans Are Warriors: The Jao conquered them, but humans put up a terrific fight, and are considered better as allies than as enemies.
  • It Makes Sense in Context: during an evacuation when pursued by the Ekhat, it is the custom of the Lleix to give shipping privileges to the guild leaders, and to leave everyone else behind. The reason for this is to preserve the race's knowledge but some humans think this outrageous
  • The Migration: The evacuation of the Lleix to Earth. Also every previous migration of the Lleix.
  • Mindlink Mates: It turns out that the Ekhat do this. This being the Ekhat, it goes all the Sick and Wrong places you'd expect.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: All the human and Jao authority figures shown. Lleix can be snobby and hidebound.
  • Rock Beats Laser: The Lexington carries guns that fire depleted uranium sabot rounds(essentially fancy rocks so it really is Rock beats Laser) because in certain situations these will in fact work better then lasers.
  • Space Elves: The Lleix
  • Space Jews: The Lleix. Persecuted race. Check. Glorious history. Check. Set great store on tradition. Check. They are even running away from their persecutors to settle in America. Check.
  • Space Opera: Actually more operatic then the predecessor which mostly deals with mundane post-conquest Earth politics.
  • Stealth Insult: It is implied that the Lexington was named as a Take That! to the Jao by invoking the fate of another foreign ruler. No Jao seems to have gotten the reference, though it is possible that the Preceptor did, having taken the time to study Earth history. If so the Preceptor thought it best to humor his rather feisty subjects.


Example of: