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Literature / The Lost Regiment

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The Lost Regiment is a series of science fiction novels by William Forstchen. After the Battle of Gettysburg, the 35th Maine volunteer regiment is swept into a portal and lands on an alien world. The good news for them is that there are other humans on the planet — Russians, Romans, Carthaginians, Japanese, Chinese, and others — who entered the same way the 35th Maine did. The bad news is that they share the planet with the Hordes — a race of 9-foot tall aliens based on the Mongol hordes who demand a tithe of humans every twenty years or thereabouts to eat. The series follows the men of the 35th, as they try to use their superior technology to unite the humans against the Horde while forging a democratic republic like the one they left behind.

The series consists of eight books, with a ninth one that takes place after a Time Skip:

  1. Rally Cry (1990)
  2. Union Forever (1991)
  3. Terrible Swift Sword (1992)
  4. Fateful Lightning (1992)
  5. Battle Hymn (1997)
  6. Never Sound Retreat (1998)
  7. A Band of Brothers (1999)
  8. Men of War (1999)
  9. Down to the Sea (2000)

The series contains the following tropes:

  • Alien Sky: Two moons and a galaxy are visible on Valennia.
  • The Alliance: The Union, consisting of the 35th Maine, Rus, Roum, what remains of Cartha, Chin, Nippon, and others.
  • Analogy Backfire: In Union Forever, when the Americans devise a plan to reverse-engineer Cartha quadriremes, it's mentioned that the same thing happened during the First Punic War, when Rome reverse-engineered Carthaginian ships and built a fleet to fight Carthage. However, when Amel asks Keane what happened to that first Roman fleet, Keane quietly replies that it was sunk.
  • Badass Bookworm: Ha'ark, who was constantly beaten up by his commander back on his own planet for being a wimpy scholar but rose to lead the Bantag after arriving to Valennia.
  • Berserk Button: Do not make the Catholic version (left-to-right) of the sign of the cross in front of the people of Rus, at least not before explaining that you are not mocking their faith (they go right-to-left).
  • Boarding Party: Keane decides to reintroduce the corvus to this world to allow Rouman ships to grapple with the Cartha and allow Roumans to better utilize their superior hand-to-hand combat skills, since the Cartha are more experienced in naval warfare.
  • Break the Cutie: Vincent Hawthorne goes from idealistic pacfist to jaded (albeit still heroic) killer.
  • Cain and Abel:
    • Boyar Ivor is a selfish and sometimes murderous man, but does want to be better on some level. His Bastard Bastard brother Mikhail is a sadistic Hate Sink who smugly tries to betray the heroes every chance he gets and also wants to kill and supplant Ivor.
    • The cowardly and sadistic eldest Merki prince kills his last surviving brother (who isn't fleshed out much but comes across as A Lighter Shade of Black) in the confusion of a battle to keep his father from being able to execute or disinherit him without ending the family line.
  • Cold Sniper: Minor regiment member Patrick Butler is a rude, selfish, tobacco-chewing man who relishes the chance to shoot officers no matter what side they're on, but he is put to good use killing enemy leaders.
  • Deus ex Machina: The dam in Rally Cry and the rockets in Fateful Lightning both are abruptly used to win seemingly un-winnable battles.
  • Energy Weapon: Merki history tells of a race of non-humanoid aliens who were brought to Valennia by a Tunnel of Light. These aliens had weapons "made of light" who could kill easily a hundred Merki warriors each. For a time, they enslaved the Merki, but Merki turned their masters against one another and then rose up, killing all of them despite great casualties. Choosing to maintain their lifestyle, they cast all the aliens' technology into the sea.
  • Eternal English:
    • Despite the Rus on Valennia being separated from our world's Russians by almost 1000 years of separate development, the language spoken by the Rus is remarkably similar to modern-day Russian (not even 19th-century Russian).
    • The second book lampshades how surprisingly little Latin has changed over 2000 years in Roum, although it's pointed out that it's different from the Latin taught at Sunday schools on Earth.
    • Certain names, however, have changed in 1000 years. For example, while the name of Suzdal matches the Real Life town in Russia (founded around 1024), the name "Novrod" is a bastardized version of the historic city of Novgorod. Moskva (Moscow) and Kiev also got this treatment, being called Mosva and Kev, respectively. See also Fantastic Religious Weirdness for the bastardization of the names of religious figures and deities.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Every Land Ironclad, anyway, which always seem to explode whenever hit by enemy fire.
  • Evil Counterpart: Ha'ark to Keeane.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Hinsen is the king of this, and Cromwell does it in Union Forever
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: The people of Rus follow a mix of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and pre-Christian Slavic pagan beliefs. For example, their chief deity is Kesus (understandably, the name may have changed from Jesus after 1000 years), but they also pray to a deity called Pern, a bastardized version of the Slavic chief god (and god of thunder) Perun, who appears to be their equivalent to the Christian God. Also, making the sign of the cross in front of them in the Catholic manner (left-to-right) may result in you being killed for mocking their faith.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • The Horde for the Mongols. The Merki are named after the Merkits, a rival tribe of the Mongols.
    • The Tugars are, possibly, named after Tugarin Zmey, an evil dragon-like bogatyr in the Russian folk tales. Alternatively, the Turks were sometimes called "Tugarim" by Medieval Jews.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: Even being taken to the slaughter pits to be killed and eaten by the Tugars is nothing compared to being chosen for the Moon Feast. The unfortunate human's head is secured through a hole in a table. The skull is removed, and the Tugars start eating his or her brain, while the person is still alive.
  • Firearms Are Revolutionary: The story has a positive example where an American Civil War regiment gets sent through a portal onto a world where people are being kept in a feudal (or even earlier) level of technology and used for food by the alien horde ruling over them. By introducing gunpowder and firearms to the people living on this planet, the regiment is able to overthrow both their alien rulers and the aliens' human puppets, ushering in a new era of independence and democratic government.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: At the start of Union Forever, at the historical signing of the treaty between Rus and Roum, the Rus soldiers fire a salute with their muskets, followed by the artillery. Keane then hands his revolver to Consul Marcus Licinius Graca, who fires a few shots into the air as well. Hopefully, no one was standing in that direction.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: Done by the lost regiment. Literally, in some cases, except it would be more correct to say "giving telegraph to the Roumans".
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire
  • Great Escape: The whole plot of Battle Hymn.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Muzta of the Tugars at the end of Fateful Lightning
  • Hereditary Republic: Roum, being founded by pre-Imperial Roman soldiers 2000 years ago, appears to be a republic, except that there is no representation for commoners. The Senate is made up of patricians, and the actual ruler is the First Consul, a title that is always held by a member of the Graca family. Note that First Consul is also the commander of the legions, so the power of the First Consul comes mainly from the army.
  • Historical Injoke: Twice, in fact. In the second book, after killing a tyrant, a soldier shouts the state motto of Virginia. However, unbeknownst to them, this is the same phrase shouted by John Wilkes Booth after killing Abraham Lincoln (this happens after they end up on Valennia). Later, several of the Mainers discuss theater back home and mention the Booth actor family, with someone pointing out that they're not a big fan of the youngest one, who always looks shifty.
  • Honor Before Reason: The Tugars and the Merki hate the new type of warfare using firearms. Where's the honor in killing an enemy with a bullet or a cannon shot, when it's much better to best the enemy sword-to-sword through strength and cunning? This doesn't stop them from adopting some of these tactics when necessary, though.
  • The Horde: The main antagonists. Essentially the Mongol Horde, if it were comprised of 9-foot-tall man-eating aliens.
  • Horse Archer: Like the Real Life Mongols, the Tugars are masters of this, having bred Terrestrial horses for their own needs (and size). However, since their bows and arrows are proportional to their size, they can shoot an arrow much farther than a human possibly could, and fairly precisely too.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: The full name of a Merki warrior (or, at least, one of the Qar Qarth blood) is "X va Y", a typical example, although this form doesn't get used much. Hulagar once calls Jubadi as "Jubadi va Griska" and then refers to his son as "Vuka va Jubadi".
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Horde. Their word for humans is "cattle" (Other food animals like cows and pigs are "lesser cattle").
  • It Only Works Once:
    • In Union Forever, the massive naval battle between Cartha ships led by the now-ironclad Ogunquit and the Rouman ships led by newly-built ironclads appears to be won by the former, but they turn tail and run after seeing a massive ironclad bearing down on them. It turns out to be a small, barely-functional ironclad with a bunch of stuff nailed to the front and sides and logs pretending to be cannons. It's immediately pointed out that Cromwell will not buy this a second time. And yet a similar trick is used several more times throughout the novels, usually working.
    • The same thing is said of the new discarding-sabot rounds developed to counter the Bantag land cruisers, as the Bantag leader Ha'ark is likely to find a counter for these the next time.
  • Klingon Promotion:
    • Among the Tugars, a clan Qarth may challenge his Qar Qarth to a duel to the death. However, this is rarely done, as it's believed that only one "of the blood" must lead the Horde.
    • Tamuka pulls this off among the Merki by killing Vuka after setting up Vuka's father's murder. However, after their defeat at the hands of the Republic, this ends up splitting the horde into three factions.
    • Ha'ark becomes the leader of the Bantag after killing the Bantag Qar Qarth with a repeating rifle.
  • Medieval Stasis: The Hordes force all human cultures who end up on Valennia to maintain a primitive level of technology. Anything beyond Medieval is forbidden, and most human cultures aren't even on that level (e.g. the Roum and the Cartha haven't changed much from when they were first brought there around 250 BC). The Hordes themselves willingly maintain their primitive lifestyle for thousands of years after the collapse of their starfaring civilization.
    • Averted with members of the same species on other worlds, as shown by Ha'ark who arrives via a Tunnel of Light from a world whose level of technology is roughly equivalent to the late 20th century and is disgusted with the primitive state of affairs on his race's homeworld.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Vuka, son of Jubadi (the Qar Qarth of the Merki horde), likes to boast about his combat prowess and likes to slaughter cattle. However, when there is an actual danger to his life, he will pull back and let the others go in first. While this would normally be seen as a future Qar Qarth being smart about risking his life when it's not necessary, both his father and the two Shield Bearers know that Vuka is really a coward at heart and not worthy.
  • Multinational Team: The main cast of the 35th Maine — while all American, the officers are two Irishmen, a German, and a Hungarian Jew. Through the course of the series, they forge an alliance of Russians, Romans, Chinese, Japanese, Carthaginians, and Zulus.
  • No Ending: The 9th book in the series is not in any way conclusive. It ends with the humans still facing a massive threat and no major story issue resolved.
  • Noble Top Enforcer: Qubata from the first book is the main general of a horde that makes cities hand over hundreds of people to be eaten on a regular basis. However, he has a long-standing friendship with his boss and comes to respect the abilities of the eponymous regiment. He eventually advocates stopping eating humans due to respect for how they can fight, concern for the Tugar lives that will be lost in the battle, and a belief that they’ve become complacent depending on humans for labor and food and can return to being sustenance hunters. He dies trying to stop Hawthorne from blowing up a dam and killing thousands of Tugar soldiers. His last words are that he just wanted to save his people, wouldn’t have killed Hawthorne the way he might have months ago, and wished they could have stopped the fighting peacefully.
  • Pirate: Brute-type pirates are mentioned in Rally Cry, and their descendants show up in Union Forever. The originals were two ships of British and French Privateers raiding Spanish galleons who were taken by a Tunnel of Light. Their first encounter with the Tugars has resulted in the loss of one of the ships but many dead Tugars as well. Their descendants have survived by raiding coastal settlements in the Inland Sea, usually Cartha, taking supplies and women. They have even managed to increase their fleet by making several copies of the original ships.
  • Precursors: The Horde are the descendants of what was once a spacefaring species, suggested to have destroyed their civilization through a nuclear war in the distant past and devolved to their present state. The artificial wormholes they previously used for interstellar travel are responsible for depositing humans from various parts of Earth to their homeworld of Valennia throughout history. Other worlds their species colonized survived this conflagration, with Ha’ark hailing from a colony with a level of technology approximating our own in the present day.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Played with in regards to the various subtribes of the Horde. Played straight with the Tugars (much to their detriment). Somewhat averted with the Merki — Cromwell, a human traitor, helps them get their hands on Union technology, but the Merki do not adjust very well (as it turns out, Proud Warrior Race Guys hate taking non-combat roles). Subverted with the Bantag, who are armed with modern weaponry due to being led by a future descendant of the species.
  • Psychic Powers: The ability to read minds is present in some members of the Hordes. It's not clear if all members of the species have the potential to develop it. Among the Merki, the Shield Bearers are trained to use their so-called "Horde spirit" to engage in a vision quest of sorts and to probe the mind of the enemy. While this is initially treated as Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, Battle Hymn confirms that this is indeed a form of Telepathy. Another prominent member of the Hordes who trains himself in using this ability is Ha'ark, the new leader of the Bantag.
  • Psychic Static: To counter Ha'ark's Psychic Powers, Hans Schuder has trained himself to think of nothing important when near him. Hawthorne once uses this to his advantage by directing such rage at Ha'ark that the latter focuses all his attention on him and his forces, which are just a diversion.
  • Public Bath House Scene: When first invited by Consul Marcus to a Rouman bath, Hawthorne is delighted, as the Rus don't appear to have bathhouses (in a strange contrast to Real Life Russians). Then he sees what the men of Roum do in those baths, and his Quaker sensibilities cause him to run out and curse the place.
  • Purple Prose: Terrible Swift Sword has a lot of elaborate metaphorical narration.
  • Rain of Arrows: Described frequently when the Tugars (and the Merki) fight, since their primary warriors are Horse Archers. Despite their modernization, the Bantag still have a few umens armed with traditional weapons. This has more to do with the lack of new weapons than any sort of traditionalism.
  • Ramming Always Works: The primary ships used by the Cartha are quadriremes, whose main weapon is the ram at the front. Since the Roumans have, apparently, forgotten how to build a corvus (a boarding ramp with a spike), or may have been transported before it was invented, the Cartha dominate the Inland Sea due to their superior seamanship. Keane later introduces the torpedo ram, although it's pointed out that it's useless against enemies who see you coming, and using one is generally considered to be a Suicide Mission.
  • The Rival: Cartha to Roum, both being founded by Carthaginian and Romans soldiers, respectively, and have not forgotten the First Punic War. However, Cartha is clearly the dominant power at sea, as Carthage was at the start of the Punic Wars.
  • Rock Beats Laser: According to the Merki, prior to the arrival of humans, they were conquered and enslaved by an advanced race that used weapons "made of light". Even without their horses (which they got from humans), the 10-foot-tall giants managed to defeat them, mostly by turning the aliens against one another and then killing the rest.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: In the climax of the first book, Captain Cromwell and most of his crew decide to flee in their ship rather than help the heroes fight, and Hinsen races to go with them. They have a Face–Heel Turn when their former allies win the battle and see them as traitors.
  • Shout-Out: An unintentional one in Union Forever. After shooting Mikhail in the gut, a soldier shouts "Sic semper tyrannis", which is a Pretentious Latin Motto of the state of Virginia. It's also the Bond One-Liner shouted by John Wilkes Booth after shooting Abraham Lincoln, although the Americans on Valennia would have no way of knowing that.
  • Steampunk: The series moves more and more towards this with every book.
  • Superweapon Surprise:
    • The Bantag. Their leader is a soldier of the same species from the future who have progressed to what would be modern tech for us. Their first action against the Union consists of submarines sinking a large part of the Union ironclad fleet.
    • The Republic pulls it off at the of Fateful Lightning with rocket launchers.
    • This almost happens in Terrible Swift Sword with steam-powered Gatling guns, which would have been an effective defense against the Merki airships, but Andrew shuts down the project in favor of more muskets and cannons. Furthermore, John Mina points out that it would be a huge drain on ammunition. When one is unveiled at the end of Fateful Lightning, it spectacularly fails, but is improved later.
  • Villain Team-Up: In the second novel, the beaten Tugars are invited (well, more like threatened) to join the Merki in destroying the Yankees, the Rus, and the Roum. In the third novel, the Tugars and the Merki meet with the Bantag, and the latter agree to stop attacking the Merki, so that the full might of the horde can be brought down on the upstart cattle. Naturally, all three know that this "alliance" is only temporary.
  • You Have Failed Me: At the beginning of Union Forever, Muzta, the Qar Qarth (chieftain) of what's left of the Tugar horde, is summoned by Jubadi, the Qar Qarth of the Merki horde. With the Merki and the Tugars being ancient enemies, the Merki messenger insults Muzta when they finally arrive to the meeting. Jubadi, angry at the messenger violating his orders (to deliver Muzta in a third of the year without harm or insult), orders him to kill himself. Without hesitation, the messenger falls on his sword, pausing only to give a Take That! to Muzta about Merki warriors following orders.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: Because the 35th came through before heavier-than-air aircraft were developed, the Yankees develop hot air balloons and zeppelins, although later aircraft are hybrid designs which include lifting wings.