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Literature / The Dragon Never Sleeps

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"The Guardships don't defend Canon, they exterminate Canon's enemies. There's a difference."
Jo Klass spells it out

The Dragon Never Sleeps is a 1988 sci-fi novel by Glen Cook. An epic scale story is set in a galaxy spanning empire, commonly known as Canon Space. It has been several thousand years since humans defeated and subjugated all of the rival species in their part of the galaxy. Canon Law is enforced by the Guardships, giant sentient space vessels with an immortal crew of cloned soldiers. Guardships represent the pinnacle of human military, technical and scientific superiority, being the supreme, unchallenged power for millennia. No enemy can escape their harsh and swift judgement — be it rebellious aliens or scheming trade barons of the Great Houses.

The plot perspective switches between various characters, including:

  • Simon, Valerena and Blessed Tregesser - the ruling family of a Tregesser House;
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  • Lupo Provik, Simon's right-hand man and security advisor of the House;
  • Hanaver Strate, commanding officer of a VII Gemina guardship;
  • Jo Klass, sergeant from VII Gemina's planet assault force;
  • Kez Maefele, one of the few remaining aliens of an ancient Ku race - the most formidable enemy the Guardships have ever encountered;

And a great number of other humans, aliens, AIs and artificial biological constructs, involved in a series of dramatic events that may reshape the face of the entire galaxy.


This book provides examples of:

  • Space Romans: Human empire, the Canon Space, is heavily based upon the Roman Empire at the height of its power. Lampshaded by the fact that all Guardships are named after the Roman legions.
  • Humans Are Warriors: It is never explained whether humans managed to become the dominant species in the galaxy due to their natural warlike qualities or simply due to blind luck. Either way, they ended up conquering every single alien race in known space.
  • Cool Starship: Guardships. Doubling as Sapient Ship and sometimes also Eldritch Starship.
  • Mile-Long Ship: More like hundred-mile-long ship.
  • Noodle Incident: Enherrenraat affair - often mentioned by various characters but never quite explained.
  • False Flag Operation: Used by House Tregesser to attack VII Gemina.
  • The Empire: Canon Space is a typical example of this trope.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Kez Maefele, doubling as Warrior Poet
  • Portal Network: The Web is an unexplainable phenomenon - a network of hyperspace "threads" that allows starships to cover thousands of light years in mere hours or days.
  • Void Between the Worlds: Web Space is pretty much this trope. A plane of existence that defies all known laws of physics.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: There's no good and evil. Only strong individuals with conflicting interests and cosmic forces no man can understand..
  • Long-Lived: Ku's natural lifespan is measured in thousands of years.
  • La Résistance: Dire Radiant during the Ku Wars. Didn't do them any good though.
  • Melting-Pot Nomenclature: Justified, since the novel's plot is set in such a distant future that humans have long since forgotten their homeworld.
  • Winged Humanoid: Lady Midnight, a bio-construct artificially engineered for purely aesthetic purposes.
  • Crapsack World: Any Down Town on any inhabited planet is literally a hellhole, infested with all kinds of violent crime, deadly plagues and genetic anomalies.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Any soldier of the Guardship fleet can be resurrected in a cloned body.
  • Magnificent Bastard and Manipulative Bastard: Lupo Provik epitomizes these tropes. As well as Cable Shyke. And Blessed Tregesser. And Kez Maefale. Lots and lots of them. It's that kind of book.
  • Cloning Blues: Clones are widely used for Resurrective Immortality by both the Guardship command and some of the Great Houses. They are very expendable and often end up Dying Like Animals.
  • Doppelgänger: More than once, the aforementioned clones, driven by survival instinct, try to supplant their original versions. Sometimes they succeed.
  • Apocalypse Cult: Outsiders worship a god named The Destroyer, which may give a hint.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: This is the essence of Great House politics.
  • Batman Gambit: Many characters are very fond of this trope, Lupo Provik and Kez Maefele being the most notable examples.
  • Weaponof Mass Destruction: Hellspinners, guardships' most destructive weapons, along with the more traditional thermonuclear warheads. Needless to say, they are used frequently to a great effect.
  • The Vamp: Valerena Tregesser.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: This is the most common reaction in any (rare) instance when the Guardship is destroyed or incapacitated.
  • War Is Hell: For guardship soldiers life is a non-stop combat operations interchanged with decades (or even centuries) of cryogenic sleep. They get used to it though.
  • Four-Star Badass: War Avocat Hanaver Strate. Also, Kez Maefale during his command of the Dire Radiant.


Example of: