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Literature / Time Wars

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A series of twelve novels by Simon Hawke, written from 1984 to 1991. The main characters live in the 27th century, but the greater part of each book takes place in the past.

After the invention of Time Travel, the world has ended war in the present. International conflicts are resolved by sending soldiers into the past to fight in wars that have already happened, but the soldiers have to be careful not to cause a Temporal Paradox, which could have disastrous effects on the timestream. The main characters are members of the Time Commandos, a unit with the job of averting paradoxes by carrying out "adjustment" missions in the past.

The main recurring characters are Lucas Priest, an everyman type who's the main audience identification figure; Finn Delaney, a career soldier with an exceptional service record and a serious discipline problem (he has very little patience with any officer who doesn't earn his respect — which is nearly every officer he's ever met); and Andre de la Croix, who was born in the 12th century but wound up emigrating to the 27th and joining the Time Commandos after getting mixed up in an adjustment mission.

A recurring antagonist, Nikolai Drakov, was introduced partway through the series. One of his plots resulted in attracting the attention of another set of recurring antagonists, Time Commandos from an Alternate Universe who became convinced that their own universe's survival depended on them sabotaging the protagonists' history.

    Works in this series 
  1. The Ivanhoe Gambit (Ivanhoe)
  2. The Timekeeper Conspiracy (The Three Musketeers)
  3. The Pimpernel Plot (The Scarlet Pimpernel)
  4. The Zenda Vendetta (The Prisoner of Zenda)
  5. The Nautilus Sanction (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, via the Disney movie)
  6. The Khyber Connection (Rudyard Kipling's Soldiers Three and "Gunga Din", via the 1939 movie)
  7. The Argonaut Affair (Jason and the Argonauts, via the Harryhausen movie)
  8. The Dracula Caper (Universal Horror movies and the works of H. G. Wells)
  9. The Lilliput Legion (Gulliver's Travels)
  10. The Hellfire Rebellion (Pre-revolutionary Boston via Johnny Tremain)
  11. The Cleopatra Crisis
  12. The Six-Gun Solution (The gun fight at the OK Corral, despite most film interpretations)

Tropes found in this series include:

  • Abandoned War Child: When Forrester was a young soldier he once had an affair with a local girl while temporarily separated from his unit, and then had to abandon her when his comrades found him again. (With the additional complication that, because it was a time war, this happened not only in a different country but in a different century.) Their son grows up with a massive grudge, and becomes the series's main recurring antagonist.
  • Action Girl: Andre
  • Alternate Universe
  • Back from the Dead: Lucas, via a screwy time-travel trick that fixed it so he never died in the first place
  • Bastard Bastard: When Ned Land calls Drakov a bastard in The Nautilus Sanction, he calmly replies that it's literally true. He is the illegitimate son of a Russian peasant woman and a time traveler who had a liaison with her and then returned to his own time without realising he'd got her pregnant.
  • Captain Nemo Copy: The Nautilus Sanction features Drakov, a mad captain from the future, stealing the titular ship, armed with nuclear weapons in this version, to start a world war. The name of the ship is very blatantly a reference to Captain Nemo and his Nautilus.
  • Cloning Gambit: see above.
  • Compete for the Maiden's Hand: After Andre joins the Corps, Lucas and Finn agree on a drinking contest to settle which of them gets to make a move on her. She learns about it and insists on being allowed to join the contest, wins it handily, and claims as her prize a night on the town at their expense without either of them.
  • Dead Alternate Counterpart: Happens both ways once the timeline of the Alternate Time Commandos is introduced. It's established early on that Andre's counterpart is dead; later inverted with the Time Commandos meeting the late Hunter's still-living counterpart.
  • Drinking Contest: After Andre joins the Corps, Lucas and Finn agree on a drinking contest to settle which of them gets to make a move on her. When she learns about it, she insists on being allowed to compete as well, wins handily, and makes it clear that she's not much impressed with either of them.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: Averted; the characters are understandably horrified to learn that their technology has caused the equivalent of a nuclear war in the Alternate Universe, which declares war on them, and whenever they set out to mess with the alternate world's history, it's with a full understanding of the consequences.
  • Fashions Never Change: Averted. The Temporal Corps has extremely efficient research and wardrobe departments whose job it is to ensure that the time travellers are not wearing or carrying anything that could mark them as being a non-local. Helped by the fact that the trips are almost always made to a specific time and event (usually a battle). One problem encountered is that many of the veterans are smokers who keep attempting to smuggle cigarettes back with them, even to places and times where tobacco was unknown. One character does note that if you do find up somewhere you're not supposed to be, a 'generic' mud stained peasant outfit will pass in many eras, provided no one looks to closely.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Andre.
  • Flock of Wolves: In The Pimpernel Plot there's a scene where, apart from the Scarlet Pimpernel and his nemesis, everybody in the room turns out to be an undercover time traveler, with about half of them working for the villain and the other half there as backup for the heroes. (Possibly a bonus in-joke for readers familiar with the source novel: in the original version of the scene, apart from the Pimpernel and his nemesis, the room is empty.)
  • Genius Bruiser: Finn.
  • God Guise: In The Khyber Connection, Gunga Din hails Dr. Darkness as the god Shiva after seeing him teleporting.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: The hominoids.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • In the original The Prisoner of Zenda, there is a scene in which it is decided that the King's double must hold up the ruse by making love to the King's fiancée. When this scene is revisited in The Zenda Vendetta, the conversation is re-worded to make it quite clear what this will (and will not) involve.
    • In The Dracula Caper the team, disguised as contemporary American secret agents, use "gay" in the modern sense, leading to the following exchange:
    H.G. Wells: The deceased was gay?
    Agent: He means the deceased was homosexual, Mr. Wells.
    H.G. Wells: I'm so glad I learned that before travelling to America, I would hate to give the wrong impression.
  • Headless Horseman: The Hellfire Rebellion
  • Hedge Maze: A clandestine meeting occurs in one in The Pimpernel Plot.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Doctor Darkness. Actually, he just doesn't like people (and moved to a base on a planet around another star to get away from them) but Andre is told he has particular issues with women.
  • High-Dive Escape: The Zenda Vendetta
  • Historical Domain Character: Freely mixed with Public Domain Characters and becoming more prevalent as the series moves towards historical fiction at the end.
  • Historical In-Joke
  • In Spite of a Nail:
    • The timestream can compensate for small disturbances, as long as you don't do something major like kill Winston Churchill.
    • Even though the Alternate Universe has a different history, each of the major characters has an exact genetic duplicate there, and all their duplicates are in the equivalent of the Temporal Corps.
  • Knight, Knave, and Squire: A number of the books revolve around the same three characters (Lucas, Finn and Andre) going on missions together. Lucas is the more idealistic officer, Finn the more pragmatic warrior, and Andre the newcomer.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Lucas and Andre.
  • Lilliputians: The Lilliput Legion
  • Lost in Imitation: Each book is based more on a famous film version of its inspiration than directly on the book itself: The Nautilus Sanction, for instance, on the Disney film of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It's not clear whether this is because Hawke expects his audience to be more familiar with the films, or because the film versions are generally a more convenient length, or what. (There are enough in-jokes and references to show that Hawke has read the originals, so that's not the reason.)
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Drakov reveals that his father is Forrester, the Time Commandos' commanding officer.
  • Mad Lib Thriller Title: Every single book, often referring to a classic work of literature that inspired the book. In order: The Ivanhoe Gambit, The Timekeeper Conspiracy, The Pimpernel Plot, The Zenda Vendetta, The Nautilus Sanction, The Khyber Connection, The Argonaut Affair, The Dracula Caper, The Lilliput Legion, The Hellfire Rebellion, The Cleopatra Crisis, and The Six-Gun Solution.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Darkness.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: often used to help the protagonists impersonate historical figures
  • Make Games, Not War: Disputes between nations are settled by a series of 'war games' conducted by representatives of the nations militaries who are sent back in time to conduct these games during historical battles. The games are judged and scored by the Referee Corps, who decide upon the winner.
  • Make Wrong What Once Went Right: Most of the villains, for a variety of reasons.
  • Mexican Standoff: In The Pimpernel Plot, immediately after the Flock of Wolves reveal.
  • The Mole: Martingale.
  • New Child Left Behind: Drakov's origin story.
  • No Equal-Opportunity Time Travel: It is mentioned in the first novel that while the Temporal Corps recruits women, they are often limited to support roles in missions as not many time periods have frontline female fighters.
  • No, I Am Behind You: A common technique in one-on-one fights between time travelers is to teleport behind one's opponent a few seconds ago so you can stab them in the back — hopefully before they notice, or they'll do the same to you. If both fighters are on the ball, the result will be, for a moment, a long alternating line of fighters each trying to stab the one in front of them. The technique is called "temporal fugue", probably in homage to the similar fighting technique of that name in Creatures of Light and Darkness.
  • One of the Boys: Andre, having grown up as a 12th Century Sweet Polly Oliver knight.
  • Ontological Inertia: The Law of Historical Inertia says that any minor charges in the timestream will be smoothed out like water flowing round rocks. You need to make a sizable change to affect history, which the antagonists generally plan to do.
  • The Plan: Drakov, over and over.
  • Public Domain Character: The inevitable lynchpin of a series based on Whole-Plot Reference.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: Temporal Corps recruiting presentations involve the more attractive soldiers, many of whom have never seen actual combat, dressing up in pretty historical costumes. The series regulars bitterly note how these sales pitches bear almost no resemblance to their actual duties, which frequently involve being on freezing, muddy battlefields, disguised as peasants in lice-ridden clothing.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Andre de la Croix in the first novel. The reader doesn't find out her gender until after she's kicked serious butt at a tournament.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: In the Pimpernel Plot the team manages to reverse an error that (unbeknownst to them) created an alternate timeline...and then has to live with the fact that erasing that alternate timeline may just make them the greatest mass murderers in all history.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: The Hellfire Rebellion and The Six Gun Solution both contain excellent summaries of the historical events and people involved (Pre-Revolutionary Boston and the gunfight at the OK Corral, respectively).
  • Shrouded in Myth: In The Ivanhoe Gambit, Robin Hood turns out to be a lot less impressive than legend makes him out to be.
  • Splitting the Arrow: In The Ivanhoe Gambit, one of the heroes, standing in for Robin Hood, cheats with uptime technology to pull off this feat.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Lucas is happy to return to civilian life at the end of the first book, but finds he doesn't fit in any more and re-enlists.
  • Submarine Pirates: The Nautilus Sanction
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Andre, in the first book and a few times thereafter.
  • Take a Third Option: Gulliver (yes, the Gulliver) says he'd prefer death to a memory wipe, which he sees as essentially the same thing. Colonel Forester recruits him instead.
  • Techno Babble
  • Temporal Paradox: heading them off is the commando's primary job.
  • Terminator Twosome: In The Ivanhoe Gambit, Lucas and his team are sent to the 12th Century to prevent a rogue referee from damaging the timeline. The events of this novel wind up uncovering the larger conspiracy that drives the plot of the rest of the series.
  • Time Police
  • Time Travel
  • Token Romance
  • Tomboyish Name: Andre again; she acquired the name in her Sweet Polly Oliver days but continues to use it even when not posing as a man. (Any other name she may have had is never even mentioned.)
  • The Tourney: Part of The Ivanhoe Gambit takes place during the tournament from Ivanhoe.
  • Tricked Out Time: basically the entire MO of the Time Commandos
  • The Trope Kid: The Montana Kid in The Six-Gun Solution.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Drakov and the Timekeepers.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: The Temporal Corps recruiters only require soldiers to enlist for a week, but that's a week of the present; you can spend six months in the past and come back five minutes later. However, thanks to 27th-century anti-aging treatments, most soldiers look much younger than they really are and still have a decent lifespan left when they leave the army.
  • You Will Be Beethoven: The Pimpernel Plot. Finn has to impersonate Sir Percy Blakeney after the real Sir Percy is killed. At the end of the novel, another member of the Temporal Corps is sent back to take over Sir Percy's life and live it out as history records to prevent temporal paradox.