A native of a post-apocalyptic planet is taken to Earth as an experiment to see how well a "savage" would adjust to its Utopian society. Hilarity does not ensue.
Tropes found in the novel:
- Anti-Hero: Gug is one, which was a rare case for a Soviet era literature protagonist. On one hand, he is resourceful, smart, brave and not completely lacking conscience, on the other hand, he has been raised as a soldier in a dystopian militaristic society and it shows, to the point some critics even called him 'fascist'. He has no problems with torturing and executing captives, blindly hates the opposing nation, enjoys bullying reservists (though for good reasons, as they lack discipline to the point of messing up the whole base defense) and brutally beats up a fellow Alayan for an insulting remark. He gets better by the end of the story, but this doesn't prevent him from taking hostages, demanding being sent back to his homeland.
- Badass Normal: As well as Guile Hero. Gug, who managers to outsmart his good hosts despite their superiority in both technological and physical development.
- Broken Pedestal: Gug initially idolizes the Duke and Duchess of Alaya and the commanding officers, before they get their share of dirty laundry uncovered by Terrans.
- Child Soldiers: Warcats, sometimes called Warkittens. Double as Badass Army. Though by the time of the story, Gug and his squad are adults, however, much younger than the Alayan reservists.
- The Empire: literally. Currently quite busy waging war with Duchy of Alaya.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Played with. Gug measures the Terran progressors by the standards of his native planet Giganda and misunderstands many of their intentions. For example, he believes Terrans want Gigandans as slaves, further cemented by him watching a film with onscreen deaths in combat, which he believes were shot with actual slave actors being killed (since these are too realistic for the level of stunts and special effects he's used to).
- In-Series Nickname: at least two examples.
- Regular Alayan soldiers are called porcupines, at least by Warcats.
- Imperial soldiers are called rat-eaters, although it's unclear if this name apllies to military only or to imperials in general.
- Military School: Warcats. It is implied that there are several Warcat schools throughout the Alaya.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: It may be filthy, backwater, and violent, in comparison to the nice and clean Earth, but it is still Gug's home.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Almost all Warcats mentioned in the book. Hare, Rooster, Nosy, Crocodile, Sniper, Mite. The only exception is Guepard who uses his real name and rank (senior mentor Digga) once.
- Rape, Pillage, and Burn: What both Empire and Alayan soldiers do once the high command crumbles. Gug himself is told to stay on Earth as back on Giganda, he'd quickly join one of the marauder gangs.
- Took a Level in Kindness: Slightly. Gug is sorry for at least some of his actions, and in the end is shown helping a doctor deliver vital meds to a plague-ridden city, but the progressors' reeducation largely fell on deaf ears, and he never felt at home on Earth.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Terran progressors are naive to the point they venture into Stupid Good territorry. Gug enjoys nearly absolute freedom on Earth and even builds a gun with his good hosts being none the wiser.