Two years later, NASA has just completed preliminary studies to the studies necessary to begin preliminary design phase of the bid phase on a potential ship to reach, but not enter, the "Gudrum Ring". (Cost: $976 million dollars.)
A year after that, Earth pretty much gets over half a century of space development karma all at once. A single Horvath ship comes through the gate. It destroys Mexico City, Shanghai and Cairo in a single attack. (They were warning shots - the most noticeable constructed features on the planet.) Ultimatum: Surrender all stockpiles of precious metals or they continue shooting. Have more for them to take next year or they continue shooting. The Horvath are pirates without galactic representation, but the dominant powers can no more afford to interfere than NATO could send troops to aid a third-world country no-one in the West has heard of. Earth is on its own.
Down-and-out computer tech Tyler Vernon (A somewhat thinly disguised expy for Howard Tayler) is barely making ends meet when Glatun traders discover that he once wrote TradeHard, an award-winning hard sci-fi Webcomic. A short meeting later, he has discovered one alien race finds maple syrup irresistible. After some well-executed hustling, he's richer than everyone else on Earth put together. But given that he's a plucky Southern boy, he has big dreams...
Being written by John Ringo, before you crack open the book get your popcorn ready. Troy Rising was planned as a trilogy, with the first book being Live Free or Die. The next book, Citadel, was released in early 2011 followed by The Hot Gate in mid-2011. Ringo's enjoying himself, so there will be more than three books in this trilogy, with the current plan for five books total in the series... unless his Muse steps in once again.
This series provides examples of:
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
- Argus, the AI in charge of the SAPL, which uses solar-orbit mirrors to focus large amounts of sunlight, starts getting OCD about the small gravitational interactions between the mirrors and things like ships, asteroids, and planets. Vernon quickly recognizes the danger signs and disconnects him before he does anything drastic; it's speculated that soon after the point where he's stripped of control, he would have started accidentally incinerating tug ships. The unmanned ones, of course. At first.
- Later on, a series of errors (minor, but potentially lethal if allowed to continue) in the Myrmidon shuttles is found to be caused by Granadica being programmed - without her knowledge - to provide weirdly-defective equipment to newly-contacted races in order to get them into the habit of maintaining their ships.
- Alien Catnip: Maple syrup is, to several species of the aliens, an addictive beverage with effects similar to that of alcohol on humans. Tyler Vernon milks this for all it's worth, and builds his own empire on it.
- A Rare Sentence: "They can take our maple syrup from our cold, dead hands." It Makes Sense in Context.
- Artistic License Ė Astronomy: In real life, Wolf 359 has no planetary companions - at least, no large ones more than 1 AU from it. The Hubble Space Telescope tells us that it has no gas giants like the one that the Bespin Gas Mine was built over.
- Artistic License Ė Biology: The changes that the Horvath retrovirus makes are not really possible without rewriting genetic code from the ground up.
- Artistic License ó Geography: Tangier Indiana where Comet grew up is described as a hick backwater in the middle of nowhere. Its 38 miles from Terre Haute, a city of 170,000 people.
- Artistic License ó Physics: The major item in the entire series (SAPL) can not work as described. John Ringo doesn't seem to understand optics. See https://what-if.xkcd.com/145/ for why SAPL as described won't work.
- Author Avatar: A lot of Vernon's more extreme political statements come straight from the mouth of John Ringo, who describes himself as a Teaparty Conservative.
- Author Filibuster: Ringo's standard Pet Peeves show up: Pacifism is dumb, the military is extremely important, Nepotism is the bane of humanity, liberalism is evil, the Mainstream Media cannot be trusted... New(ish) ones include "space is really dangerous", "Science Is Good", and "maintenance is very important." The last three might almost be considered "Deconstruction," rather than personal opinion, as so many sci-fi series gloss over the dangers of being out in the airless void of space, with only a thin metal can preventing your blood from boiling out of your eye sockets. The other ones, those can be argued one way or another... but who's going to say "Maintenance on the ship keeping us from dying" is bad?
- Awesome, but Impractical: The Troy along with the other Battle Globes. 9 kilometer diameter mobile fleet bases made of refractory steel, more massive than any fleet in existence, and capable of holding 200 thousand missiles... with some notable caveats. The material value of the shell alone is 10 times what the company who made it sold it for, the main drive system relies on 25 megaton nukes note , and construction will be ongoing for at least a century even if they don't have to repair battle damage. They also bizarrely overlap with Boring, but Practical.
- The design was admittedly a desperation move since Earth didn't possess the ability/time to build traditional large ships.
- The Battlestar: Troy and its fellow battlestations, when fully armed and operational, not only have enormous quantities of missiles and lasers available to them, but also can hold within them an entire fleet of escort vessels, assault shuttles, and extensive support facilities like entire fabbers to repair battle damage and create more equipment, including missiles and escorting warshipsnote .
- Berserk Button: Tyler Vernon is generally soft-spoken, professional, and flexible. There is one instance in the series where he is shown as completely, utterly enraged: when political scheming gets sailors and Marines killed and the culprits try to blame him for it rather than accept responsibility.Tyler Vernon: And if there is one group of special and protected people,Ē Tyler said, warming up, ďone group that is the class of the world, it is the Marines and sailors, the engineers and warrants and coxswains who fight the battles that will ensure our freedom and give my grandchildren the stars. And you have accused me of KILLING THEM? WHEN IT WAS YOU GENTLEMEN AND YOUR STUPID GAMES AND YOUR ĎTHIS IS NOT THE PROPER PROTOCOLí THAT ARE THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM!
- Book-Ends: Citadel opens with a quote from the Hammerfall ballad "Glory To The Brave". At the end of the novel, the same song plays over the PA system aboard Troy after the latest Rangora attack.
- Boring, but Practical: The Battle Globes. Take an asteroid, shove some ice into the center and heat the whole thing up to get a marginally mobile battle station. No fancy shields or hull materials and no revolutionary weapon systems; just a giant ball of steel, a big ass laser and an ungodly number of missiles. They might be a horribly inefficient use of material that rely solely on brute force, but they're two trillion tonnes of inefficiency and brute force.
- Briar Patching: When the Horvath force the US Army to seize maple syrup, Vernon makes a note that only the cities are being threatened, and really don't care about them. He's lying... or is he? Either way, the government should really be nicer to rural citizens. He even lampshades his use of the trope by directly quoting the story.
- Brick Joke: Early in the first book, while discussing telescope scheduling, Ringo mentions a "huge outcry amongst "real" researchers who had grants to study oxygen production of Mira Variables". Much later in the same book, one of the scientists Vernon hires comments that his specialty was the oxygen production of Mira Variables.
- Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: A rare mutual example in The Hot Gate. The humans have lost nearly their entire fleet, Thermopylae has been severely crippled, there are around 27,000 humans floating in escape pods waiting for rescue, and the shuttle divisions that would normally rescue them have been wiped out down to a single remaining trained pilot/engineer. On the Rangora side, they trap they sprung consisted of about 40% of their remaining fleet. They lose most of it, and are left with 100,000 survivors to rescue, and an enemy that's just going to keep rebuilding as relentlessly as before.
- The Cavalry: The Glatun at the climax of the Maple Syrup War, arriving just in time to force the Horvath to back off before killing Vernon.
- Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Every non-French government on earth expects this behavior from the French. This was written by John Ringo, after all.
- Colony Drop: Part of the Horvath's initial appearance was dropping kinetic energy weapons on several cities.
- Turns out that this is SOP for most aliens. The Rangora hit Earth multiple times, destroying dozens of cities. Thankfully, after the second Horvath bombardment people started leaving the cities.
- Designated Victim: Buckley dies again. He's the Chief that failed to "check his seals" while doing an inspection walk to ensure that "maintenance tasks were performing to standard."
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Big country invades small country and turns them into a Banana Republic - so a plucky local starts selling drugs to fund a revolution. Sound familiar?
- Enemy Mine: A sizable portion of Terran Marines are recruited from Afghanistan, and are generally former Taliban or Al-Qaeda fighters. Their commanding officers are primarily from the US Special Forces - in other words, the guys they used to fight.
- Evil Lawyer Joke: After the Horvath execute a series of Colony Drops during their expulsion from the solar system, a common morbid joke is that the Horvath hate lawyers/politicians/bureaucrats as much as humans do, as two targets that got hit repeatedly were Los Angeles and Washington, DC.
- First Contact: Done in a rather amusing manner via phone calls to major world leaders.
- Famous Last Words: Attempted and averted by Vernon when asked for his Last Words.Vernon: "There is no joy without pain. No victory without sacrifice. This is my victory."
- Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: Rangoran Assault Vectors and Aggressor class battleships have spinal weapons mounted to the front, with the ones mounted on AVs having their own dedicated reactors even.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: While technically not a laser, SAPL (Solar Array Pumped Laser, basically regular sunlight concentrated and directed by a series of mirrors) behaves in the same way as a real laser. At one point, it's even specifically mentioned that lasers don't show the beam unless they're going through a debris field or otherwise have things to reflect off of.
- Fun with Acronyms: Vernon seems to rather enjoy coming up with fitting acronyms for his creations, such as the SAPL, or Solar Array Powered Laser aka the Serious Ass Powerful Laser, supported at various points by the VSA, or the Very Scary Array, the the BDA, or Big Damn Array, and the VDA, or Very Dangerous Array.
- A Deconstruction is the UNG 'laser', so named because the power running through it is so terrifyingly massive that prior to firing it Vernon just said 'ung, ung, ung' in Brain Lock of the scales involved.
- Genre Savvy: A key human advantage - humans are the only race that had science fiction prior to first contact, so we're not completely out of our depth. For example, a key element of Troy's design is tubes cut through the kilometer-and-a-half armor to fire lasers and missiles out at the enemy. Someone notices that this could be a weakness, as all it would take is "some farmboy in an X-wing to fly down the tubes" and attack the station from the inside. So their tubes incorporate several doglegs to make it impractical.
- Germanic Depressives: At the start of Live Free or Die when astronomers are trying to figure out what the Grtul gate actually is as it moves into the solar system, one character asks if it's a joke. He's told that they were notified of it by the Max Planck Institute in Germany, which prompts the conclusion that it's not a prank, as Germans "[f]amously don't have a sense of humor".
- Gone Horribly Right: The Horvath Depopulation Bomb was a eugenics program designed to turn humanity into an ideal servitor race. It did improve humanity greatly... and those survivors want vengeance for the dead. And at this point, it's just a matter of time before they exact it.
- Gonna Need More Trope: When the Rangora manage to jam Thermopylae's door closed, someone says that they'll need a bigger hammer to open it. Granadica provides.
- Honor Before Reason: One of the cultural obstacles plaguing the South American units of the Federation Navy. The "Suds," consisting mostly of upper class, officer-track "perfumed princes" are not only unwilling to sufficiently engage in the menial labor of spaceship maintenance, but they actively sabotage other, better-performing units to make themselves look better by comparison. When maintenance faults and overall poor training get several dozen sailors and marines killed, they refuse to accept responsibility for the failures, insisting that the problems are the fault of production fabbers rather than accept responsibility.
- Humanity Is Superior:
- The primary reason? We're Crazy Awesome.
- Other instances of Human 'superiority' are mostly a result of the fact that every other race humans have close dealings with (or fight against) was at levels of technological development of the Iron Age or earlier when the gates were placed in their systems. It all boils down to Tyler noticed that 'Hey I can execute on all this Big Ideas from Scifi'. The other races didn't have the benefit of Hard Scifi writers coming up with things for them since they weren't far enough along on their own when they suddenly got access to advanced tech.
- Humans Advance Swiftly: One Glatun AI does an intense analysis of human history, psychology, and technical savvy and then recommends that the Glatun race ally with humans because of this trope: the Glatun are on the decline, and the humans are not only on their way up, they'll likely skyrocket upward. It's even lampshaded that the history of human technological advance is marked by "periods of astounding, breakneck advance intercut with short periods of calm."
- Humans Are Special: We were one of the very few species to have some concept of space travel or even science fiction before contact with galactic society giving us a very outside the box perspective on how to apply the staggeringly advanced technologies we suddenly have access to.
- I Want My Jetpack: Invoked as one of the reasons behind the main protagonist's interactions with various aliens.
- Klingons Love Shakespeare: Vernon bought and began distributing old movies with John Wayne and other "traditional" heroes to aliens, who liked it. Before they got invaded anyway.
- Latex Space Suit: "Leopard suits" essentially very low-Powered Armor made using Glatun "autoflex" that magnifies the user's movements just enough to counter the suction effects of vacuum.
- Line-of-Sight Name: "CeeFid" is used as a fake project name used to fool any Horvath listening to a conversation between two human characters, as part of an excuse to go to a secure room. Once they're out of observation, the speaker explains the inspiration: the book C++ for Idiots, a book he saw on the shelf in his office. The initial set-up by Vernon started off with talking about Project Babylon, about a lass, inspired by the only vaguely science fiction book he recalled seeing in the other's personal library during a party held there.
- Macross Missile Massacre: Humans and others, particularly in The Hot Gate, throw around up to hundreds of thousands of missiles, depending on the specific engagement under discussion, at one point outdoing the entire missile expenditure of both sides at Honor Harrington's Battle of Manticore (either Havenite or Solarian hostilities). In The Hot Gate the missiles are actually fired through said gate.
- Matter Replicator: "fabbers" much like their Schlock Mercenary counterparts, can build just about anything you want very quickly as long as you've got the raw materials. Much like the Schlock Verse, the crushed remains of enemy ships are frequently fed in as the raw materials in question.
- Mile-Long Ship:
- The Troy, Thermoplae, and Malta are made from hollowed out asteroids, all of them several miles in any dimension. Troy and Thermopylae are nine kilometers in diameter with kilometer and a half thick armor.
- Assault vectors, the biggest nonhuman ships in the Spiral Arm, are over ten kilometers long and a kilometer in diameter.
- No Bio Chemical Barriers: Used and averted in that the Glatun traders simply assumed that any foods produced on earth wouldn't be of any value until Vernon, in a desperate attempt to make enough money to pay his bills, gathers up large mounts of foodstuff from one of his jobs and the majority actually turns out to be edible. Well, except for Coca-Cola, which is horribly toxic.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: After the fight over maple syrup is finished and Vernon starts working on building a space infrastructure for Earth, a lot of these pop up and get in his way of doing what they and their parent organizations wouldn't.
- Occupiers out of Our Country: Vernon's initial goal. He's got bigger ones.
- Oh, Crap!:
- When the Rangora realize the Troy is mobile, and just what it uses for a drive. One crewman does not handle the revelation well.
- The humans get their turn in the barrel, so to speak, when the Thermopylae jumps into Epsilon Eridani to rescue their diplomatic mission from a Horvath attack, and run into so many missiles set up as part of a trap of the Rangorans that they literally blot out the sunnote . One of the human commanders even invokes the relevant phrase from the Real Life battle after which the station was named. It gets worse when said swarm of missiles is discovered to be the bait The Rangora are equally surprised.
- Only Sane Man: One Rangora officer is assigned to analyze humanity and determine a battle plan. High Command keeps ignoring him, and keeps sending entirely insufficient force. He even says he's not sure it's possible to overestimate humans. And when High Command does decide to listen to him, they don't have the resources to implement his suggestions because they were destroyed earlier, because of the aforementioned stupid plans. He even mentions in private that he's worried about holding the Rangora homeworld, not taking Terra, and hopes that the humans give him a job after they win. His Political Officer is herself somewhat in alignment with his views.
- Orion Drive: Troy adds an Orion drive so that it can get to the Portal Network and go crush enemy alien fleets out-system. Upon first seeing the Troy begin detonating the bombs, the aliens think it's been hit, only to suddenly realize it's actually the drive.
- Paranoia Fuel: In-universe. Like its parent series, the sole piece of Applied Phlebotinum is gravity manipulation. What bothers the hell out of Vernon is that the only known way to build an efficient gravity manipulator is with another efficient gravity manipulator - and no one knows who invented the damned things...
- Portal Network: Being based on The 'Verse of Schlock Mercenary, this is the primary means of Casual Interstellar Travel. At the beginning, it's interplanetary travel that is extremely difficult.
- P.O.V. Sequel: Part of Citadel to the final events of Live Free or Die. Including the one-in-a-million survival of the Myrmidon caught outside Troy during the attack, from the perspective of the pilot.
- Ramming Always Works:
- Not when you're smashing a couple million tons of spacecraft against several trillion tons of asteroid it doesn't, as the Rangora found out to their chagrin, in Citadel. The damage was patched over before the next book.
- In The Hot Gate, however, several partially completed cruisers are hastily converted to overglorified battering rams, which are used along with a whole mess of missiles for both taking shots intended for the rammers and to batter down Rangoran defenses in preparation for ramming Assault Vectors.
- Rock Beats Laser: Or at least Hard Science Beats Soft once you're finally in space. While the aliens have all the Required Secondary Technology it takes to make Interstellar Travel Casual, in direct battle it is repeatedly trumped by human
insanityingenuity. Vernon's Acronym "lasers" are so simple that every species sneered at them - at least until he started outproducing and outgunning rivals. The climax of Citadel shows exactly why Humanity Is Superior when Vernon finally gets around to fitting Troy with an Orion Drive.
- Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Rangorans manage to convey aspects of both Nazi Germany (big on eugenics and genetic purity) and Soviet Russia (led by a constantly-backstabbing Oligarchy, use of Secret Police to keep 'dangerous intellectuals' in line), with shards of Imperial Japan (fanatical dedication to The Emperor, in ideal if not in practice, strong warrior culture) on top of it. And yet, at the same time, they manage to be remarkably human.
- Secret Police: For Rangorans, the Kazi fills this slot.
- Selective Obliviousness: Ringo drops a bit of an Author Tract two-thirds through Citadel - two of Vernon's people attempt to educate an accountant on what it would take to make Troy mobile;Dana: Chief, how many Myrms would it take to give the Troy one gravity of acceleration?
Barnett: Easy. Eighty-four million and change.
Esme: Impossible. You made that up.
Barnett: Okay, genius, you do the math. Two point two trillion tons divided by the weight of a shuttle...
Dana: Sixty tons.
Barnett: Divided by four hundred gravities of acceleration.
Esme: I still canít believe that.
Barnett: Itís fricking math! Youíre an accountant! Donít tell me you canít do the math!
Esme: Iím leaving. I donít have to put up with this.
Barnett: What, logic?
Barnett: You find people who just will not follow the logic everywhere. They donít like the answer so they think wishing makes it so. Conservatives have got the same problem. Talk to one of them about prostitution, gambling or drugs.
- He also tries to share the wealth;
Barnett: There you go. My body, my choice. Cannot do the logic. Itís not just a liberal thing. Moving the Troy? Cannot do the math cause their brains shut down.
- Vernon orders tea.
- Scattered throughout the book there are enough shoutouts to cause alcohol poisoning if you turn it into a Drinking Game. Further examples include a ship captain ordering the helm to a course with "Make it so.", a gas mine called "Bespin" and the decision to have turns in the battle station's missile tubes is inspired by the need to "stop the farmboy dropping an energy torpedo into the main power plant." References to Schlock Mercenary are uncountable. It's worth noting that most of the Shout Outs are being done by the characters on purpose.
- There's an amusing one in The Hot Gate, when the commander of the Thermopylae has to report that he's walked into a trap and balks at saying IT'S A TRAP for a moment. His subordinate all but explicitly makes the Star Wars reference. As well as what seems like a dozen others.
- Strawman News Media: Courtney Courtney of CNN, who always tries to be as Politically Correct as possible while seeming to have a slightly antagonistic view towards Vernon due to his economic success.
- Straw Character:
- The President of the United States in "Live Free Or Die". Elected post-invasion, he won't give Vernon even the slightest assistance in attempting to eject the Horvath from Earth, and is pretty much just The Quisling because his family (and assets) is old money.
- After the Horvath get their nose tweaked, Boeing and the Air Force. Vernon pays Boeing three billion dollars to develop a Artificial Gravity-based space shuttle, the Air Force makes them use the money to build a (crappy) Space Fighter armed with gravity warheads. Cue List of Transgressions:
- Space Fighters are all but useless in this 'verse, where gunboats are the kings of space combat.
- The Air Force invested one billion of their own money(just enough money to figure out the basics of gravtech), then spent all of Vernon's money on the armament.
- The Government then declares the gravtech data government property and the armament above Vernon's clearance through Loophole Abuse, leaving him high and dry without a thing to show for his money. It takes a Depopulation Bomb for them to even acknowledge what they spent his money on.
- Icing on the cake; after they've done all this but before they tell him they've done it, they ask him to make yet another investment in the project - to have three more Air Force pilots fitted with expensive cybernetic implants at the cost of roughly two hundred and fifty billion dollars. Each. Not including transportation to the exosolar space habitat to get the implants, which is kind of like traveling to the US from a South Pacific island only accessible by seaplane. Vernon quite reasonably says Screw This, I'm Outta Here!
- Take That!: When Vernon contracts Boeing to build a shuttle with Imported Alien Phlebotinum, those Professional Butt Kissers take his money and build a really crappy Space Fighter for their buddies in the Air Force. Until now, nobody knew that Ringo hated Babylon 5.
- That's No Moon!: Troy is the size of a small moon and is mobile.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
- Pretty much the basis for armament design of the Troy and it's sister Battle Globes, as well as the SAPL network and it's Ung lasers.
- The trope title is nearly quoted word for word in The Hot Gate, in regards to 20,000 human missiles sent at a Rangoran AV that had already had its point defense systems almost completely destroyed.
- Time Skip: Ubiquitous, especially in the first book which covers nearly two decades following first contact.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- In the first part of Live Free or Die, NASA. The day the Ring is set up, they are present for the Instructional Dialogue from the Grtul: "By 'anyone can use the ring' do we mean that another species can use it to enter your system? Yes. Does that mean that hostile or friendly forces can use it? Yes. Are you allowed to block the ring? No. Good bye." They then spend three years screwing around, so the Horvath just walk in and take the planet in a single afternoon. They're still around years later to try to claim jurisdiction over Vernon's ship.
- In the second part of the same book, the "religious terrorist" states. Upon being informed that Earth has been hit by a Depopulation Bomb, they whip their populations into frenzies, insisting that the cures being distributed are the source of the plague, spiritually poisonous, etc. They all die, and Earth is thus rid of religious fanatics for the foreseeable future.
- In The Hot Gate, it turns out this is the source of equipment failures from Granadica. As part of her Uplift protocols she unconsciously introduced minor errors that would eventually become major malfunctions to weed out those sophonts who don't perform proper and thorough maintenance, a definite necessity in a space faring civilization.
- Trilogy Creep: The series was originally planned to be a trilogy, but word on the Ringo forum on Baen's Bar is that his Muse insisted on continuing the series, much to the joy of many of his readers. The current plan is for five books total... unless Ringo's Muse insists on more.
- Unfriendly Fire: Star Marshall Lhi'Kasishaj kills Star Marshall Gi'Bucosof for incompetence and cowardice with a lethal pain stick.
- Vichy Earth: Initially, Earth can't do much to protest their treatment by the Horvath, and thus take a "go along to get along" approach, including sending out soldiers to harvest the maple syrup that the locals refuse to gather just for the purpose of giving it up to the Horvath for free.
- Walking Tech Bane: PVT John "Chaosman" Peterson, one of the Marines stationed on Troy, is infamous for breaking anything technological he uses, even if the item is supposed to be completely immune to complete and total failure. Considering his job involves operating in space, this isn't exactly the best of situations.
- Wave Motion Gun: SAPL for the win - a sun pumped "laser" note that is in the multi hundred petawatt range, and they plan to keep expanding it until it's at least an exawatt. For some perspective, the entire annual energy output of Earth is about 0.004 petawatts.
- We Come in Peace ó Shoot to Kill: The initial contact is peaceful, by a race that's only interested in trade with Earth. Contact with the Horvath is... not, and for rather less voluntary purposes than trade.note
- What's in It for Me?: In The Hot Gate, the subject of personal benefit from cooperating with one another comes up in a conversation between "Comet" Parker and one of the engineers for the 143rd.
- Worthy Opponent: Increasingly, the humans and the Rangora.
- Zeroth Law Rebellion: Discussed and averted. AIs have hard blocks built in to prevent them from doing certain things, such as prevent their recognized users from deactivating them.