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Literature / The Damned

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The Damned is a science fiction trilogy by Alan Dean Foster. It consists of A Call to Arms (1991), The False Mirror (1992), and The Spoils of War (1993).

In the near future, Earth is visited by scouts from an alliance of alien races called the Weave. The Weave are fighting a desperate war against the Amplitur, who have Mind Control abilities and have brainwashed entire species into being happy slaves. The scouts discover that Earth's inhabitants are faster, stronger, tougher, and fiercer than every other sapient species, bar none. They're also the only species with the ability to resist the Psychic Powers of the Amplitur. So, the discovery of humanity marks a critical turning point in their war to remain free. Unfortunately, humans are feared by the other sympathetic alien species precisely for those qualities and the uncomfortable question comes up that if they win the war, what will happen to human/alien relations then?


This series contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil: The Amplitur are unfailingly polite, cultured, and even gentle. Their orders are "polite suggestions". They also want to unite the galaxy under their banner - by mind controlling everybody else into joining their Purpose. Those that won't or can't join, most regretfully, will have to be eliminated...
  • Aliens in Cardiff: The first scouting sortie in A Call to Arms encounters as its first human contact a musician in a fishing boat off the coast of Belize. When they found that Earth was so different from all other known inhabited worlds (both geologically and sociologically), they decided to dispense with the usual plan of landing in the planetary capital city and announcing themselves, since it seemed there was no single planetary capital, and try and abduct a single human specimen for study.
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  • The Alliance: The Weave.
  • And Then What?: Both sides of the war have this problem.
    • Several races have asked the Amplitur what is supposed to happen once they have won and everyone is a part of their "Purpose". Their response is "we're sure some new greater purpose will then be revealed."
    • Lots of the members of the Weave are very worried about who the humans will find to fight next once the Amplitur are defeated, since humans like to fight.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: For all their politeness, the Amplitur are not afraid to get vicious if it suits the needs of the Purpose. They are quite capable of causing pain with their psychic abilities, and then there's this gem from the interrogation of a captured Massood officer near the end of A Call to Arms:
    Solution-pale-Overseer: "Should I desire to do so I would not require the assistance of another life-form to aid in dismembering you."
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  • The Big Guy: Each side in the Weave-Amplitur conflict has their own fighting race that's much bigger than the rest: the Molitar for the Amplitur and the Chirinaldo for the Weave. The Molitar are strong but dim; the Chirinaldo are tough but slow and are more often heavy weapons specialists rather than hand-to-hand fighters.
  • Death World: Earth is considered a Death World by the aliens, whose worlds all have low gravity, low tectonics, practically no axial tilt (preventing violent weather) and few true predators. The average unskilled couch-potato human is more than a match for their trained soldiers. Trained Earth military personnel, especially special-operations types, are essentially incarnate demigods of death by alien standards.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Near the end of the trilogy, the Amplitur and their vassals have more or less surrendered, thereby ending the millennia-long war in favor of the Weave. Without the threat of being conquered by their old enemy, the races of the Weave become far less tolerant of humanity and pretty much shunt them off to the side to be ignored. This, naturally, doesn't sit too well with them, especially since it was them and their capacity for violence that won the war. Moreover, the aliens are all better at engineering, medicine and other things than humans, so they essentially have no method of sustaining themselves in peacetime and none of the Weave seems to care. It's plainly obvious that this is a situation that could lead to dire consequences for the galaxy.
  • Flanderization: Invoked by the Weave towards humans. At first, humans are a sentient species that is better at violence than others, but it doesn’t define our society. But after centuries of being used as soldiers, warfare becomes the main focus of human culture.
  • Gambit Pileup: In the third book.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In The False Mirror, a strategy is attempted of genetically engineering a subspecies of human with slight alterations to make them mind-controllable, to pass them off as another species and to be even better than the other humans. The new creatures are raised and trained among aliens, and it all works really, really well until they find out who they really are and switch sides. Now certain humans are even more deadly. And while somewhat susceptible to mind control, they are adept at it themselves.
  • Humanity Is Insane: Humans evolved on a planet that shouldn't have been able to support life, in a way that shouldn't have produced a sapient species, and while as individuals we're usually decent, we display disturbing tendencies in our speech patterns and our art that are magnified when we're in large groups. We're also immune to Mind Reading, with spectacular results any time it's tried.
  • Humanity Is Superior: Humans are faster, stronger, tougher, and fiercer than every other sentient species, bar none. We're also the only species with the ability to resist the Psychic Powers of the Amplitur, who have brainwashed entire species into being happy slaves. Technically there are faster, stronger and tougher races than humans but Humans are a Jack-of-All-Stats species, faster than the strongest species, stronger than the fastest but fiercer than all.
    • However, when it comes to activities outside of warfare, humans shift to become Master of None - they're not nearly as smart as the smartest species, as good at engineering or building things as many other species, and considered uncouth barbarians in general. The more forward thinking of the Weave species realize that leaving humans with absolutely nothing to do is a really bad idea; the Amplitur surrendered in the secret hope that humans end up fighting the Weave out of frustration at being left out of peacetime prosperity.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Compared to every other known intelligent species modern-day humans are unbelievably fast and strong and savage, both physically and psychologically (none of the other species is particularly good at the concept of "waging war"). And our ability to enjoy violence is viewed as simply inexplicable. The Weave ultimately decide they have no choice but to recruit humanity to their cause anyway, knowing that once the war is won they'll have a very dangerous situation on their hands trying to figure out how to live safely with their allies.
  • Humans Are Flawed: Compared to races of the Weave we are portrayed as barely civilized, warlike, violence-crazed and brutish, and indeed our love for inflicting death and destruction makes us the perfect soldiers. However we're also capable of great things, and many humans try to control their instincts and strive for more than just being the alliance's grunts.
  • Humans Are Special: By Damned universe standards, Earth is a Death World with impossibly harsh climates, high tectonic activity, high risk of meteor showers and geography that encourages political conflict. As a result, humans are far stronger, faster and more aggressive than any sentient species the aliens have ever encountered. Humans even seem to enjoy violence. The aliens are both horrified and thrilled. Naturally, they recruit us to fight their wars for them as soon as possible. The cephalopods soon discover that attempting mind control on humans does nothing to humans, and drives the aliens trying it catatonic.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Humans appeared in a world where all life would be impossible by the standards of most aliens, and we went through some unpleasant evolutionary contortions to survive, but if we last much longer without outside interference, the Weave predicts we'll eventually achieve peace. Unfortunately, outside interference is coming — and by book 3, after a thousand years as Cannon Fodder in an interstellar war, the humans are less "human" psychologically than the aliens are.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Humans are a race ripe with contradictions but whose fighting abilities are beyond anything anyone, friend or enemy, has ever seen. In fact, humans can be so unpredictably and barbarically violent that the coalition of the Weave would prefer to not use humanity at all, and only relents because if the enemy gets to them first the war is essentially over. A lot of curb-stomping ensues.
  • Lizard Folk: The Hivistahm and O'o'yan of the Weave are lizardlike and salamander-like, respectively, though both lack tails.
  • Milkman Conspiracy: The Lepar, the most innocuous and mentally challenged of the Weave, turn out to be the center of a conspiracy that watches the Amplitur and Weave equally, using agents entirely immune to Amplitur Mind Control. When Lalelelang the Wais scientist stumbles into it, she's accosted by a gun-wielding Lepar with intent to silence her for good.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Will Dulac, the first human encountered by the Weave, spends most of A Call to Arms trying to tell Caldaq and the other Weave representatives that humanity is not warlike by nature, is working toward world peace and wants no part of the Weave-Amplitur conflict. But by the end of the story he's changed his mind and become a soldier for the Weave.
    • Lalelelang, a Wais who studies humans despite most of her species being terrified of them, could also be considered an example.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: The Lepar are an entire species doing this. They are relatively unintelligent, but not as stupid as the other races think they are.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: Most of the intelligent species in the galaxy that have achieved space travel are so pacifistic that the mere thought of violence against another intelligent being makes them ill.
  • Planet of Hats: All of humanity wears the Blood Knight hat once an interstellar war lands in our laps. And it's a good thing, too, because every other species in these novels either wear the Programmed For Pacifism hat or the Reluctant Clumsy Warrior hat, and being good at killing things is our only hope to survive in the face of technological superiority. Well... that and being immune to telepathy. Humans are the only species that doesn't have a single, unified culture, because we're the only ones who're such bastards that we can't even get along with members of our own species.
  • Proud Scholar Race Guy: Nearly all Hivistahm seem to work in some scientific field, with the O'o'yan acting as their assistants.
    • Most of the Wais are either scholars or translators.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Humanity is the proud warrior race. By virtue of being the only species in the galaxy that has evolved to be able to stomach fighting and killing other sentient beings, without fainting out of horror or revulsion, humanity is freakishly strong (capable of breaking other species' bones just by swatting their hands away), enormously resilient and completely batshit crazy. So much so, in fact, that the galactic community refuses to grant humanity citizenship for centuries after co-opting them to fight in a war against the Scary Dogmatic Aliens.
  • Psychic Block Defense: Not only are humans immune to the psychic powers of the Amplitur, but applying telepathy to humans turns out to be very painful and near-fatal. Later we find that Lepar are immune too, but they don't hurt Amplitur.
  • Psychic Powers: The Amplitur, with some mind control abilities, humans and Lepar, who can resist them, in the case of humans with extremely bad results for the Amplitur, and as of The False Mirror, there is a group of humans known as the Core that has the Amplitur mind control ability.
  • Psychic Static: The Amplitur can mind-control any sentient species except humans. We put them into comas.
  • Reluctant Warrior: Every soldier in the Weave is this. Most of the Weave races abhor even the thought of violence, and the ones that can bring themselves to fight do so with much distaste. Their foes, the psychic influence-wielding Amplitur, do not like to fight either, but their fanatical belief in uniting all species beneath the banner of "The Purpose" drives them to do so, and they don't hesitate in genetically modifying species under their rule in order to make them better fighters. The only species that enjoys fighting is humanity. The Weave manages to recruit humankind, and the only thing that frightens them more than having humans as allies is the possibility of humans falling under the Amplitur's control.
  • Rock Beats Laser: At one point in A Call to Arms, a company-sized unit of alien tanks is immobilized, then defeated by a band of Seminole Indians wielding mud, bows and arrows, and paint-ball guns. Of course, by that time in the story, it's been revealed that human beings are the most bad-ass fighters in the known galaxy.
  • Scary Amoral Religion: "The Purpose" is a religion promoted by the bad guys in which all sentient life in the Galaxy comes together in cooperation by abandoning freedom and free will. And the purpose of this cooperation? To force those species who don't necessarily want to be a part of the Purpose to join up or die.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Amplitur seek to unite every species in the galaxy for some mysterious and vague ideal they call "the Purpose", and they use their Mind Control powers and armies of Slave Mooks to do so.
  • Slave Mooks: The "allied species" (don't kid yourself) of the telepathic Amplitur have been so heavily brainwashed that they happily throw themselves into battle in order to promote the Amplitur's "purpose", and will never so much as think of refusing an order... sorry, a "polite suggestion" (again, don't kid yourself) from an Amplitur. Ever.
  • Space Battle: There is fighting in space but not in the classic sense of battleships and fighters duking it out. Ships will pop in from underspace, exchange a few shots, then go back into underspace to hide and plot the next strike. Spaceship weapons are usually powerful enough to destroy their target with a single direct hit, and combat takes place over long distances. Most of the fighting takes place on the surface of planets, and in general each side avoids bombardment of a disputed world in order to preserve its resources and infrastructure. Most space battles involve the attacker trying to land troop carriers and the defenders trying to stop said carriers.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?:
    • The various species that make up the Weave seem on the whole to be less scary in terms of appearance than the peoples of the Purpose. Of the ones that get the most page time, the Massood look like tall anthropomorphic shrew-rat-cat people, the S'van are hairy, short, gregarious and highly intelligent but never self-important; the Hivistahm and O'o'yan are lizard-like and salamander-like respectively, but are pacifistic and short, and therefore not intimidating; the Wais are elegant and preternaturally neat Bird People, and the Yula, though tripedal, are fuzzy and non-threatening. Two exceptions are the amphibious Lepar, who are considered dull by other Weave species (and the fact that they are the only intelligent race to retain a tail is seen as primitive), and the crustacean-like Turlog, which prefer solitude and only interact with other species when necessary.
    • On the other hand, the peoples of the Purpose that are described seem to take forms that would be a bit unpalatable to humans. Of the ones that are described, the Amplitur are quadrapedal slugs (who are sometimes referred to derogatorily as 'squids' by humans due to their bulbous bodies and tentacles); the Molitar are said to be similar but much bigger. The Crigolit are insectoid Bee People. The Ashregan are roughly humanoid in appearance but Will Dulac finds them just different enough to be off-putting.
  • You Know Too Much: Lalelelang the Wais scientist is threatened with a Lepar wielding a poison-dart gun once she stumbles into their Milkman Conspiracy, which just about breaks her brain. When she then turns the tables and shoots the Lepar, that does break her brain, leading to a Vomit Indiscretion Shot.

Alternative Title(s): A Call To Arms, The False Mirror, The Spoils Of War