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Literature / The Empire's Corps

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A military sci-fi series by Christopher Nuttall that began in 2012 and has grown into an 11 book series that alternates between the "mainstream" stories, which follow a handful of key protagonists, and various sidestories that take place in the same universe, around the same time, but with varying degrees of relevance to the main plot. In addition to the genre's detailed military and warfare action storytelling, the series delves deeply into the political and socioeconomic aspects of the setting, sometimes with strong parallels to events in our time. Let the reader beware. In order, and with the mainstream titles in bold, we have:


  • The Empire's Corps (2012)
  • No Worse Enemy (2012)
  • When the Bough Breaks (2013)
  • Semper Fi (2013)
  • The Outcast (2013)
  • To the Shores (2013)
  • Reality Check (2014)
  • Retreat Hell (2014)
  • The Thin Blue Line (2014)
  • Never Surrender (2015)
  • First to Fight (2015)
  • They Shall Not Pass (2016)
  • Culture Shock (2016)
  • Wolf's Bane (2017)
  • Cry Wolf (2019)

The story begins during the final days of The Empire, which arose out of the ashes of the Unification Wars that followed mankind's expansion into space. It has become hopelessly corrupt and the majority of its institutions are only interested in preserving their own power while the entire edifice crumbles around them. The truth is kept secret from the population, which brings together two people that would otherwise never have met. One is Leo Caesius, a professor at Earth's Imperial University who published a book laying out in exact detail why the system was unsustainable and was disgraced as a result. The other is Edward Stalker, a captain in the Terran Marine Corps who dared to speak the truth to power. Together they are "assigned", along with Stalker's company, to the remote colony world of Avalon on a seemingly mundane brushfire war deployment, which means that they are not around to witness the Empire's final collapse.


The subsequent books deal with the aftermath of the collapse as Marines and civilians alike fight to survive amidst the rising tide of pirates, warlords, successor states, and the inevitable decay of civilization. The remnants of the Empire might still be out there somewhere but for the time being, Stalker's Stalkers are on their own.

The sidestories serve to expand the universe beyond the Marines' small slice of the pie with characters that would later become key players in the post-Imperial galaxy, including the Commandant of the Marine Corps, a girl from a small backwater planet who rises to power as the Trader Queen, refugees from Earth fighting desperately to survive, and the last heir to the ruined Terran throne.


Provides examples of:

  • After the End: Much of the series takes place after the Empire has already collapsed with everyone trying to make a grab for power or just pick up the pieces of civilization.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: After the Grand Senate tears itself apart, the population of Earth starts rioting almost immediately, the residents of the Undercity attempt to expand their territory, and other, more horrifying subcultures come to the surface.
  • Author Tract: A lot of Nuttall's personal politics are inserted into the books and all of them include an afterword where he discusses the positions he takes and ties them into current (at the time) events.
  • Bash Brothers: Blake Coleman and Joe Buckley, two Marine riflemen and platoon mates who consistently kick ass and trade snide jokes together. Buckley eventually gets married and accepts a training position to be with his wife for awhile, leaving Coleman visibly upset.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Defied in When the Bough Breaks with the case of Roland and Belinda; she knows that he is only interested in having sex with her but it would compromise both her position as his bodyguard and her own personal mission to whip him into shape. Not that she even interested in him in the first place.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: It is possible to condition someone to be absolutely obedient, given time and the correct equipment. This can also be used to create sleeper agents by implanting other personalities into unwitting victims and activating them with preset triggers.
  • Colony Drop: An accepted tactic of the Imperial Navy, often called Kinetic Energy Weapon (KEW) strikes.
  • Crapsack World: Even before the pillaging, the destruction, and the refugees forced to sell their bodies because they have nothing else, the Empire and Earth in particular were not nice places to live. Everyone is quite literally in debt to someone else, the infrastructure cannot support the population forever and little is done to maintain it, the Undercity is ungovernable, and few young people ever have a real future.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: To a secretive arm of the Marine Corps known as the Marine Corpse.
  • Cutting Corners: The Grand Senate has been cutting funding to the various branches of the military for decades in order to fund the social safety net.
  • Easy Logistics: Averted, as the Imperial Navy squadrons on the Rim become combat ineffective as they run out of spare parts and have to cannibalize one ship to keep another one going.
  • Emergency Authority: A Grand Senator takes advantage of the chaos caused by riots at Imperial University to appoint an emergency committee as part of his plan to seize total control of Earth.
  • Great Offscreen War: The pacification of Han is referred to by many characters but the full details are never given. What we do know is that Han was a world that practiced a rigid caste system backed up by tightly controlled genetic engineering, there was a rebellion, the military was called in, and it all turned into a massive bloodbath where dozens of Marines, thousands of soldiers, and millions of indigenous people were killed or injured. That was after they stopped the KEW bombardments.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Jasmine believes this about herself after Semper Fi, having resorted to hostages, blackmail, and fomenting an insurgency in order to take down an enemy planet. She offers her resignation as a result.
  • Meaningful Rename: As of First to Fight, it turns out that Stalker is not his real last name but a nickname he was given in boot camp which he later adopted as his real name in order to sever ties to his Undercity past.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: A common attitude among the Marines, but by no means universal. The Outcast introduces a character who left the Corps because he didn't believe he was fighting for the Empire any longer.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: A popular anchorman, after years of toeing the party line, decides to report the truth on a consignment of tainted food that has killed his life partner. He is fired from the network, but thanks his boss, because now he has justification for going on welfare (the law had been changed so that people couldn't claim welfare if they quit their jobs).
    • By ordering all Marines to withdraw from Earth, the Grand Senate ensured that none of them were around when it was destroyed, leaving the Corps in a stronger position to defend themselves in the post-Imperial era.
  • Only Sane Man: Leo Caesius, Stalker, and the Commandant see themselves this way and are portrayed as such, initially. As the series progresses, it's revealed that the Empire's decline was clear for all to see, the majority of the population was just willfully ignorant and fell under the sway of people who had planned ahead.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Played with; while mainstream religions are more or less absent in the Core Worlds due to the decadent/hedonistic lifestyles of their inhabitants, there are plenty of planets settled by any number of religious sects and religion is implied to still be present out on the Rim colonies.
    • More specifically, Sameena finds that her faith actually grows stronger after leaving her oppressive home planet and traveling into space. After seeing the wonders of the cosmos, she concludes that only Allah could have created such an incredible universe.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: One of the big problems that contributed to the collapse of the Empire. By law, children had certain "rights" that couldn't be infringed upon and more were legislated as time went on, to the point that they couldn't be contradicted or disciplined because it would upset them, but they were free to indulge in as much sex and drugs as they liked.
  • Properly Paranoid: As soon as a massive riot starts moving in the direction of a Marine compound, the Marines detain all the household staff and local guards, and confiscate their weapons on the assumption that they are spying for the insurgency or the planet's rulers. Nine times out of ten, they are right.
  • Royal Brat: The childe Roland, next-in-line to the throne, turns out to be ridiculously spoiled and spends his days drinking and chasing the palace staff rather than taking part in politics, which is exactly what the Grand Senate wants.
  • Secret Test of Character: Common at the Slaughterhouse in order to screen out Marines that aren't able to act within ethical boundaries (very important given that they are deployed to deal with so many insurgencies). In Stalker's case, he catches two trainees about to "rape" a local girl during one of the scenarios.
  • Semper Fi: Although they are more based on the Royal Marine Commandos, per Word of God, the Terran Marines borrow heavily from the tradition of the United States Marine Corps, including terminology ("Smokey the Bear hats", "Incentive Training" instead of beasting, a final field exercise called the Crucible), the use of the word Rifleman instead of Commando, and the myriad book titles that are derived from USMC lore.
  • Sex Slave: A common fate for indentured females or refugees, especially from the Core Worlds where their education (or lack thereof) has ensured that they will have no useful skills. Subverted in The Outcast where a group of prostitutes insist that they had to work hard for their certification, which involved learning more about companionship and seduction than actual sex.
  • Shellshocked Veteran: Belinda Lawson, after her entire Pathfinder team was killed on Han, which leaves her stricken with chronic paranoia, Survivor's Guilt, and oh yeah, she hears the voices of her dead teammates.
  • Shown Their Work: The author is quite well versed in history and basic economics — and he likes to share.
  • Shout-Out: The sidestories, while not necessarily Lighter and Softer, do have their moments of cheekiness:
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Virtually all of the Imperial services are composed of these types, or at least it looks that way to the general public thanks to manipulation of the media. The reality is different; while there is a lot of In-Universe Truth in Television, the actual quality of Imperial Army units and Imperial Navy crews varies, while the Civil Guard is almost universally reviled for their excesses, even the few units that are just trying to do their jobs.
  • Space Amish: These are encountered a few times in the series given full treatment in Culture Shock.
  • Space Marine: The title says it all.
  • Straw Nihilist: A terrorist group called the Nihilists that has spread throughout the Empire and seem to have no long term plan beyond ending all life in the galaxy.
  • Sucky School: We are repeatedly told that the Imperial education system is a mess that doesn't teach students anything useful and often just gives them a pass because teachers aren't allowed to discipline them or tell them what to do. In the Undercity, many people cannot even read or write.
  • Super Soldier: Compared to the regular Army units, the Marines have a disproportionate amount of chemical and cybernetic enhancement. Above them, you have Pathfinders who are outfitted with all sorts of hidden weapons and combat drug dispensers, and Force Recon with their additional genetic improvements. There are also early references to a defunct super soldier program called the Cobras, but they are an older program and regular Marines wonder openly if they could beat a Cobra one-on-one.
  • Training from Hell: Marine Boot Camp on Mars is hellishly difficult but plenty of people survive it. Then they get to the Slaughterhouse and the true pain begins.
  • Wretched Hive: A lot of the worlds outside the core of the Empire see Earth itself this way while, more specifically, the Undercity is a hellish urban nightmare with a life expectancy measured in a mere few decades.

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