Consider Phlebas

Consider Phlebas

Consider Phlebas
First edition
AuthorIain M. Banks
Audio read byPeter Kenny
Cover artistRichard Hopkinson[1]
SeriesThe Culture
GenreScience fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages471 cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}0-333-45430-8
Followed byThe Player of Games 

Consider Phlebas, first published in 1987, is a space opera novel by Scottish writer Iain M. Banks. Written after a 1984 draft, it is the first to feature the Culture.

The novel revolves around the Idiran–Culture War, and Banks plays on that theme by presenting various microcosms of that conflict. Its protagonist Bora Horza Gobuchul is an enemy of the Culture.

Consider Phlebas is Banks's first published science fiction novel and takes its title from a line in T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land. A subsequent Culture novel, Look to Windward (2000), whose title comes from the previous line of the same poem, can be considered a loose follow-up.

Plot summary

The Culture and the Idiran Empire are at war in a galaxy-spanning conflict. A Culture Mind, fleeing the destruction of its ship in an Idiran ambush, takes refuge on Schar's World. The Dra'Azon, godlike incorporeal beings, maintain Schar's World as a monument to its extinct civilisation, forbidding access to both the Culture and the Idirans. Horza, a shape-changing mercenary, is rescued from execution by the Idirans who believe the Dra'Azon guardian may let him onto the planet as in the past he was part of a small group of Changers who acted as stewards. They instruct him to retrieve the Mind.

During Horza's extraction, the Idirans also capture a Special Circumstances agent, Perosteck Balveda. However, the Idiran starship on which he is travelling is soon attacked by a Culture vessel, and Horza is ejected. He is picked up by a pirate ship, the Clear Air Turbulence (CAT). He is forced to fight and kill one of the crew to earn a place. The captain, Kraiklyn, leads them on two disastrous pirate raids in which several of the crew perish. After the second raid Horza is taken prisoner by a cult living on an island on the orbital Vavatch. He escapes after killing the cult leader and makes his way to the main city of Vavatch where he finds Kraiklyn, who is playing "Damage"—a high stakes card game.

Having now changed his appearance to mimic that of the CAT captain, Horza follows him back to the CAT, kills him and returns to the CAT meeting the few remaining original crew. He is introduced to a newly recruited member, whom he recognises as a disguised Perosteck Balveda. Culture agents outside try to capture the ship. Horza manages to lift off and as the fugitives warp away from Vavatch, they see the Orbital destroyed by the Culture warships to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. Balveda reveals Horza's identity and he convinces the crew to carry out his mission. A sentient Vavatch drone, Unaha-Closp, has been trapped on the ship and reluctantly joins the team.

They land on Schar's World and search for the Mind in the Command System, a complex of subterranean train stations formerly part of a nuclear missle complex. These were built by the inhabitants of Schar before their extinction. They soon discover that the Mind is being hunted by a pair of Idiran soldiers who have killed all the Changers stationed on the planet, and who regard Horza and his crew as enemies, having no knowledge of the Changers' alliance with the Idirans. Horza has kept Balveda alive, and she is taken into the complex. The CAT's crew encounter the Idirans in one of the Command System stations, and after a firefight apparently kill one and capture the other. After tracking the Mind to another station, the drone Unaha-Closp discovers it hiding in the reactor car of a Command System train. The second Idiran, who had been mortally wounded but not killed, sets one of the trains for a collision course to the station. The captured Idiran, Xoxarle, frees himself and in the ensuing impact and firefight the remaining members of the Clear Air Turbulence are killed. Horza pursues Xoxarle and is fatally injured, but the Idiran is killed by Balveda.

Horza dies soon after Balveda gets him to the surface and the Mind is returned to the Culture. In an epilogue, the Mind becomes a starship, and names itself the Bora Horza Gobuchul.


  • Bora Horza Gobuchul is a Changer and an operative of the Idiran Empire. Horza was one of a party of Changers allowed on Schar's World, and for that reason is tasked by the Idirans with retrieving a Mind that had crashed to the planet. Horza is humanoid, but committed to the Idirans because he despises the Culture for its dependence on machines and what he perceives to be spiritual emptiness.
  • Juboal-Rabaroansa Perosteck Alseyn Balveda dam T'seif, usually referred to as Perosteck Balveda, is an operative of the Culture assigned to track and apprehend Bora Horza Gobuchul. She works for the Special Circumstances branch of Contact, and despite being ambivalent about the methods they use, deeply believes in their objectives.
  • Kraiklyn is the captain of the Clear Air Turbulence.
  • Yalson is a slightly furry humanoid woman working aboard the Clear Air Turbulence. She forms an intimate relationship with Horza during the time he is aboard the ship. She ends up carrying his child until she is killed, along with Horza and the rest of the crew, on Schar’s World.


Consider Phlebas, like most of Banks's early SF output, was a rewritten version of an earlier book, as he explained in a 1994 interview:

"Phlebas was an old one too; it was written just after The Wasp Factory, in 1984. I've found that rewriting an old book took much more effort than writing one from scratch, but I had to go back to do right by these things. Now I can go on and start completely new stuff."[2]

Literary significance and criticism

The book was generally very well received as a fast-paced space opera with a morally ambiguous hero and lots of grand scenery and devices. Kirkus Reviews described it as "Overextended and jarring", but "imaginative and gripping in places."[3]

Banks said in an interview:

.mw-parser-output .templatequote{overflow:hidden;margin:1em 0;padding:0 40px}.mw-parser-output .templatequote .templatequotecite{line-height:1.5em;text-align:left;padding-left:1.6em;margin-top:0}

There's a big war going on in that novel, and various individuals and groups manage to influence its outcome. But even being able to do that doesn't ultimately change things very much. At the book's end, I have a section pointing this out by telling what happened after the war, which was an attempt to pose the question, 'What was it all for?' I guess this approach has to do with my reacting to the cliché of SF's 'lone protagonist.' You know, this idea that a single individual can determine the direction of entire civilizations. It's very, very hard for a lone person to do that. And it sets you thinking what difference, if any, it would have made if Jesus Christ, or Karl Marx or Charles Darwin had never been. We just don't know.[2]


Amazon announced in February 2018 that it has acquired the global television rights to Consider Phlebas, to be adapted by Dennis Kelly into a television series and produced by Plan B Entertainment.[4]


Consider Phlebas, Iain M. Banks, London: Macmillan, 1987, ISBN 0-333-44138-9 (paperback ISBN 1-85723-138-4)


  1. ^ Publication Listing. Retrieved on 2014-05-25.
  2. ^ a b Iain Banks - Interviews. (2007-12-23). Retrieved on 2014-05-25.
  3. ^ "Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks". Kirkus Reviews. April 15, 1988.
  4. ^ "Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks". February 21, 2018.

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    One of my favorite books in years! – Hugh B. Long

    Set against the backdrop of a far-future Earth struggling to reinvent itself after a technological disaster, Homefront is an uncompromising adventure story about what it truly means to be human. Jantine is a Beta, a genetically modified super soldier charged with establishing a hidden colony on Earth. When her expedition arrives in the middle of a civil war, she must choose her allies wisely or be exterminated. Featuring complex characters and edge-of-your-seat action sequences, Homefront will have readers guessing until the last page.



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      Old Man’s War

      Old Man’s War

      Old Man's War
      Cover of first edition (hardcover)
      AuthorJohn Scalzi
      CountryUnited States
      SeriesOld Man's War series
      GenreMilitary science fiction
      PublisherTor Books
      Publication date
      Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
      Pages320 cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}0-7653-0940-8
      813/.6 22
      LC ClassPS3619.C256 O43 2005
      Followed byThe Ghost Brigades 

      Old Man's War is a military science fiction novel by American writer John Scalzi, published in 2005.[1] His debut novel, it was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2006.[2]

      Old Man's War is the first novel in Scalzi's Old Man's War series. A sequel, The Ghost Brigades, was published in 2006, followed by two other books, The Last Colony (2007) and Zoe's Tale (2008). Another book in the series, The Human Division, was published as a serial and then collected in a novel (2013). The next book in the series, The End of All Things, was published in June 2015 as four novellas.[3]

      It was optioned by Paramount Pictures in 2011.[4]



      Old Man's War is about a soldier named John Perry and his exploits in the Colonial Defense Forces (CDF). The first-person narrative follows Perry's military career from CDF recruit to the rank of captain. It is set in a universe heavily populated with life forms, and human colonists must compete for the scarce planets that are suitable for sustaining life. As a result, Perry must learn to fight a wide variety of aliens. The characters in Old Man's War have enhanced DNA and nanotechnology, giving them advantages in strength, speed, endurance, and situational awareness.


      John Perry, a 75-year-old retired advertising writer, joins the Colonial Defense Forces who protect human interplanetary colonists. Volunteers sign letters of intent and provide DNA samples at age 65, which John and his now deceased wife Kathy had done ten years prior to the beginning of the story. After visiting his wife's grave to say goodbye (as volunteers can never return to Earth), Perry takes a space elevator to the CDF ship Henry Hudson, where he meets Thomas, Jessie, Harry, Alan, Susan and Maggie, fellow male and female retiree volunteers. They dub themselves the "Old Farts".

      Following a series of sometimes bizarre psychological and physical tests, Perry's mind is ultimately transferred to a new body based on his genetic material. His new body is a younger version of himself, but genetically engineered with enhanced musculature, green skin, and yellow cat-like eyes. He now possesses enormous strength and dexterity, nanobot-enhanced artificial blood, enhanced eyesight and other senses, and most critically, a BrainPal—a neural interface that, among other capabilities, allows Perry to communicate with other members of the CDF via thought.

      After a week of frivolity and orgies in their new bodies, Perry and the other recruits land on Beta Pyxis III for basic training, during which the CDF's heritage in the United States armed forces is made clear when the recruits are taught the Rifleman's Creed. Perry's drill instructor, Master Sergeant Ruiz, adopts a tough and disdainful persona towards the recruits, but later discovers Perry is the creator of an advertising slogan Ruiz adopted as a personal mantra ("Sometimes you just gotta hit the road"). As a dubious gesture of respect, Perry is given the job of platoon leader during the weeks of training before he is shipped out to the CDF ship Modesto. His first engagement is with the Consu, a fierce, incredibly intelligent and religiously zealous alien species. Perry improvises a tactic which enables the CDF to win this first battle quickly. This is soon followed by a number of battles with, among others, the bear-like Whaidians and the tiny Covandu. By the end of this last engagement Perry begins to suffer psychological distress over killing the Liliputian Covandu and accepts that he has transformed both physically and mentally.

      Now a veteran, Perry participates in the Battle for Coral. The planet contains coral reefs valuable to the attacking Rraey, as well as a human colony (the Rraey also have a taste for human flesh). The CDF plans to rapidly counterattack with a small force before the Rraey establish their coral strip mining operations, but the Rraey have somehow obtained technology to predict the appearance of a space ship's skip drive (a feat that should not be possible) and use this knowledge to ambush and destroy CDF ships as they arrive in the Coral system. Perry's quick thinking allows him and his fellow soldiers on a transport shuttle to escape the wreckage of the Modesto and make for the planet's surface, but they are shot down. Everyone but Perry is killed in the crash; Perry is grievously wounded but survives thanks to his artificially enhanced body. Perry is left for dead by a Rraey search party (who find CDF soldiers inedible), but he is rescued by members of the mysterious "Ghost Brigades", the Special Forces units of the CDF. Perry thinks he has died when he sees a younger green version of his dead wife Kathy, who in reality is Jane Sagan, the leader of the Ghost Brigades rescue team.

      After being repaired, Perry tracks down Sagan, who turns out to have been grown based on Kathy Perry's DNA sample, as legally allowed by her letter of intent to join the CDF. Unlike John, Jane has no memories of Kathy's life, as she is only six years old, but after learning about Kathy, Jane seeks to learn more from John about being a "realborn" person and what kind of life one can have outside the CDF.

      Sagan manipulates her chain of command to promote John to an advisory role (as a lieutenant) to gather information from the Consu during a ritualistic meeting to obtain information. Perry discovers that the Rraey had received the skip-drive detection tachyon technology from the Consu, which was used to set up the ambush at Coral. Perry also manipulates his chain of command to have the last two of his friends from the "Old Farts" transferred out of combat duty to military research. Sagan and Perry then participate in a Special Forces operation in an attempt to capture or destroy the borrowed Consu technology in advance of a major attack to recapture Coral from the Rraey. Perry is instrumental in the successful outcome of the battle by capturing the technical manual for the Consu detection system (which was destroyed in the fighting), and saving Sagan's life after she is severely wounded. However, he never sees her again after delivering her to a shuttle which returns her to the secretive Ghost Brigades.

      At the conclusion of the book, Perry is promoted to captain following his deeds at Coral and, despite the separation, holds hope of reuniting with Sagan when their terms of service conclude.


      Skip Drive

      Old Man's War introduces a new form of FTL interstellar travel called a Skip Drive. The Skip Drive takes an object like a space ship, punches a hole in space, and places the object at its destination in a new, essentially identical universe. There are limits on the skip drive due to the characters not knowing all there is to know about how it works. The limitations are as follows:

      • The object skipping must not be near a major gravity well.
      • The object skipping cannot skip out too far.

      The Colonial Union and other governments use devices called skip drones to communicate. These skip drones are essentially computers equipped with skip drives. A ship or satellite will launch one of these devices away from local gravity wells and skip to its target locale and upload its information to the local people.

      More advanced races, notably the Consu, have a more complex understanding of skip drives and can even detect ships skipping into a system.


      The BrainPal is a neural implant that allows members of the Colonial Defense Forces (CDF) to send and receive data, including speech, battle plans and much more. CDF soldiers use their BrainPals to communicate with each other, translate alien languages, watch classic cartoons, and read old books.

      A BrainPal allows a CDF soldier to operate colonial technology by thought alone. A CDF rifle can only be used by someone with a BrainPal.

      To the members of the Ghost Brigades the BrainPal does much more: it provides a synthetic consciousness that allows the newborn soldiers to function until their own identities develop. This gives people who meet Special Forces the impression that they know everything. When presented with a situation that is unfamiliar to the newborn soldier, the BrainPal loads the relevant and important information directly into the mind at an amazing rate.


      The MP-35, also known as "empee", is the main infantry weapon used by the Colonial Defense Force (CDF). The weapon features self assembling and self repairing capabilities, the ability to interface with BrainPal, and ammunition composed of nano-robotic bullets able to transform immediately into any type of projectile desired, including bullets, incendiaries, explosives, and beams.[5] These features make it superior to conventional weapon types, as it solves the problem of excessive weight associated with carrying multiple weapons, weapon jamming, and enemy use.[5] The weapon proved to be very versatile and adaptable in the battlefield, as shown in Perry's first battle against the Consu where he took full advantage of the weapon's adaptability and used BrainPal to program a sequence of fire that exploited the enemies' weakness to win the battle.


      The beanstalk is a space elevator, built by the CDF, connecting Earth and the CDF space station. The space elevator, officially built to transport colonists and CDF recruits to space, displayed the CDF's power and technological prowess. To Earth's inhabitants, the space elevator defied physics and was extremely impractical. Henry hypothesized that the entire concept of the Beanstalk was taken from another alien species. In real life, John Scalzi notes that the feasibility and practical application of a space elevator is speculative.[6]

      Modified bodies and consciousness transfer

      In the early days of human colonization it became clear that human soldiers were not cut out for fighting the endless hordes of alien aggressors. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was found wanting. Humans were not strong enough, tough enough or fast enough to compete with the countless xeno breeds that desired the eradication of the human race. Humanity was saved by two technologies: the ability to grow an engineered human body to maturity in a few months and the ability to transfer a consciousness from an old body to the new one (provided that the brains are identical). This tech is the foundation of the Colonial Defense Force, allowing them to recruit senior citizens from Earth and transfer their minds to new super-soldier bodies. The most noticeable features of the engineered bodies include chlorophyll enhanced dermis for energy absorption, the above-mentioned brainpal, and yellow eyes that appear like a cat's eyes for enhanced vision.


      The Colonial Defense Forces use nanotechnology in almost every aspect of their military operations. Combat armor is made from interlinked nanobots, medical nanobots perform surgeries and help to regrow limbs, and the very blood of the CDF soldier has been replaced by a nanotech solution called "smartblood" that does everything that blood can do, only better (such as holding one's breath for over six minutes), and a few things that blood can't do (like explode on command). The primary infantry weapon, the MP-35 or "empee", assembles its ammunition on demand from a block of raw materials (with six types of ammo: rifle, shot, grenade, missile, flamethrower and microwave beam), and can use its ammunition block for self-repair.

      Alien species


      The Consu are a fierce, technologically advanced, and strongly religious alien race. They believe in helping deserving races reach "Ungkat", a state of perfection for a whole race.[7][8] The Consu are the most advanced alien race presented in the Old Man's War.[8] Their home system is surrounded by a Dyson sphere, which harnesses all the energy output of its local sun, a dwarf star, to make it impenetrable to the weapons and technology of every other known species. The Consu possess technology so advanced that even the CDF is unable to reverse-engineer or even fully understand it, such as tachyon detectors. Despite being the most technologically advanced out of all the alien races presented in the novel, in any conflict the Consu will scale their weapons technology to that of their opponent in order to keep the battle fair.[9] Unlike other alien species, the Consu do not fight for territory, but for religious motives, believing that any aliens killed by Consu warriors are thereby guaranteed another place in the cycle of creation. The Consu rarely meet with outsiders and any individual that does is inevitably a criminal or other undesirable. Following the meeting, the Consu is killed and its atoms shot into a black hole so that they can't defile any other Consu.


      The Covandu are a liliputian species, the tallest only measuring an inch, but otherwise very similar to humans. Their aggression in colonizing planets is similar to humans' as well, sometimes causing conflict. One human colony was taken over by Covandu when it was abandoned due to a virus (which did not affect the Covandu). After developing a vaccine, humans returned to take it back by force.

      They are gifted in the arts, specifically poetry and drama.[10]


      The Rraey are a species described in Old Man's War as being considerably less advanced than the CDF. They consider humans as a part of a "balanced breakfast" and are even known to have celebrity chefs showing how to best butcher a human. They became a serious problem for the CDF after acquiring technology from the Consu to predict the trajectory of a vessel's skip drives, a feat that was previously considered impossible. The only physical description of them is a mention that they have a head and limbs and "muscular bird-like legs".[11] They developed a craving for humans, going as far as creating many dishes for different parts of the body. They are a few decades behind the CDF in terms of technology and weaponry, but nonetheless, still considered a threat to the CDF. The skip drive detection device given to them by the Consu enabled them to wipe out an entire fleet of CDF ships without any casualties to their own.


      The Whaidians are an alien species that have an appearance similar to that of a "cross between black bear and a large flying squirrel." Their home consists of small planets that are linked together. They are artistically gifted and are nearly as technologically advanced as the CDF. For this reason they are targeted by the CDF and their spaceport is completely destroyed by a fleet of CDF ships. [12]


      Old Man's War sits in the military science fiction genre but themes of the ethics of life extension, friendship, marriage, the significance of mortality, what makes one human, and individual identity are present within the novel.[13][14] Aging plays its biggest role near the beginning of the novel with the CDF being able to find a way to reverse the effects of aging.[14] The themes of marriage and friendship are explored in the characterization of John Perry through his continued love of his dead wife and his later meetings with Jane.[14][15] When it comes to identity and humanity John Perry is the focus of attention and his characteristics by the end of the novel determine whether or not the reader believes John Perry is still human.[13][16]

      Scalzi states that he was influenced by Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and modeled his book's format after Heinlein’s novels.[16][17] He wanted to make the story as sympathetic as possible to the reader in which one can understand events such as being in a war.

      Scalzi took what he learned about Heinlein and produced four lessons on how to create a novel centered on characters. These lessons are that a story should only exist for its characters, make room in the characters for the reader, make the characters talk like people, and make the characters act like people. His novel's themes were based on the four lessons in which to make a character as connectable as possible while still keeping his theme of space military.[17]


      Appearances in other works

      A character can be seen reading the book in an episode of the science fiction television series Stargate Universe,[18] as a shout-out to Scalzi in his role as creative consultant on the show.[19]

      Netflix is planning to make a movie based in the OMW's universe.[20]

      It is read by the main character (Cole Brannigan) in Sean Grigsby's Smoke Eaters.

      Critical reception

      Old Man's War was well received both domestically and globally. Old Man's War was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2006[21] but lost to the novel Spin,[22] written by Robert Charles Wilson. Old Man's War was ranked #1 on a reader poll as the best science fiction and fantasy novel of 2000–2010.[23] In 2012 it was voted #1 on the Locus online reader poll for best science fiction novel of the 21st century,[24] and in 2011, Old Man's War was listed 74th on the reader poll of the Top 100 science fiction and fantasy books/series for 2011.[25]


      1. ^ Scalzi, John (2005-01-01). Old Man's War. Tor Books. ISBN 0-7653-0940-8.
      2. ^ "2006 Hugo Awards". Hugo Awards. Archived from the original on 2011-05-07.
      3. ^ Cover Reveal: The End of All Things
      4. ^ Deadline: Paramount Buys 'Old Man's War' For Wolfgang Petersen And Scott Stuber
      5. ^ a b Scalzi, John (2011). "The Thanksgiving Advent Calendar, Day 13: First-Person Shooter Games". blog. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
      6. ^ Scalzi, John (2003). "Reader Request Wrapup". blog. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
      7. ^ Montgomery, Mitch (2013). "Surreal Time Press". blog: Surreal Time Press. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
      8. ^ a b Hilica (January 2012). "Overview: Old Man's War Series by John Scalzi (Old Man's War #1, The Ghost Brigades #2)". Retrieved 21 October 2013.
      9. ^ Carey, Elisabeth. "Old Man's War". New England Science Fiction Association. Retrieved 2 November 2013.
      10. ^ Scalzi, John (2005-01-01). Old Man's War. Tor Books. pp. 186, 187. ISBN 0-7653-0940-8.
      11. ^ Scalzi, John (2005-01-01). Old Man's War. Tor Books. pp. Chapter 17. ISBN 0-7653-0940-8.
      12. ^ Scalzi, John (2007). Old Man's War.
      13. ^ a b Wagner, Thomas. "Old Man's War Review". SF Reviews. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
      14. ^ a b c Maki, Kiirstin. "Old Man's War Review". Bluepixie. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
      15. ^ Mackey, Allan. "My Thoughts On OLD MAN'S WAR". Retrieved 11 November 2013.
      16. ^ a b Hogan, Ron. "Meet John Perry: John Scalzi's Old Man's War". TOR. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
      17. ^ a b John, Scalzi. "Lessons From Heinlein". Whatever. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
      18. ^ WRITTEN BY Joseph Mallozzi & Paul Mullie, DIRECTED BY Alex Chapple (May 21, 2010). "Subversion, Transcript by Callie Sullivan". Stargate Universe. Season 1 EPISODE NUMBER 118. SyFy. GRAHAM: Not to worry, sir. (He holds up a paperback book.) I came prepared.
      19. ^ Scalzi, John (2010-05-21). "Product Placement". Whatever. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
      20. ^ Netflix Grabs Hold Of John Scalzi's Sci-Fi Novel 'Old Man's War'
      21. ^ Scalzi, John. "Whatever". John Scalzi. Retrieved 11 Dec 2013.
      22. ^ Cowie, Jonathan. "Old Man's War". Jonathan Cowie. Retrieved 11 Dec 2013.
      23. ^ "Best SFF Novels of the Decade Poll Update 01/14". 14 Jan 2011. Retrieved 11 Dec 2013.
      24. ^ Kelly, Mark (29 Dec 2012). "Locus Online: 2012 All-Centuries Polls Results". Retrieved 11 Dec 2013.
      25. ^ Neal, Chris (11 Aug 2011). "Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books". Retrieved 11 Dec 2013.

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        The Forever War

        The Forever War

        The Forever War
        Cover of first edition (hardcover)
        AuthorJoe Haldeman
        CountryUnited States
        GenreMilitary science fiction
        PublisherSt. Martin's Press
        Publication date
        Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
        AwardsNebula Award for Best Novel (1975)

        Locus Award for Best Novel (1976)

        Hugo Award for Best Novel (1976) cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}0-312-29890-0
        Followed byForever Peace 

        The Forever War (1974) is a military science fiction novel by American author Joe Haldeman, telling the contemplative story of soldiers fighting an interstellar war between Man and the Taurans. It won the Nebula Award in 1975 and the Hugo and the Locus awards in 1976.[1][2] Forever Free (1999) and Forever Peace (1997) are respectively, direct and thematic sequel novels. The novella A Separate War (1999) is another sequel of sorts, occurring simultaneously to the final portion of The Forever War. Informally, the novels compose The Forever War series; the novel also inspired a comic book and a board game.[3] The Forever War is the first title in the SF Masterworks series.

        Plot summary

        William Mandella is a physics student conscripted for an elite task force in the United Nations Exploratory Force being assembled for a war against the Taurans, an alien species discovered when they apparently attacked human colonists' ships. The UNEF ground troops are sent out for reconnaissance and revenge.

        The elite recruits have IQs of 150 and above, are highly educated, healthy and fit. Training is grueling – first on Earth, in Missouri, and later on a planet called "Charon" beyond Pluto (written before the discovery of the actual planetoid). Several of the recruits are killed during training, due to the extreme environments and the use of live weapons. The new soldiers then depart for action, traveling via interconnected "collapsars" that allow ships to cover thousands of light-years in a split second. Traveling to and from the collapsars at near-lightspeed has enormous relativistic effects.

        Their first encounter with Taurans on a planet orbiting Epsilon Aurigae turns into a post-hypnotically suggested massacre, with the unresisting enemy wiped out. This first expedition, beginning in 1997, lasts only two years from the soldiers' point of view but due to time dilation, they return to Earth in 2024.[4] During the expedition's second battle, the soldiers experience future shock first-hand, as the Taurans employ much more advanced weaponry against them while they have not had the chance to re-arm.

        Mandella, with fellow soldier, lover and companion Marygay Potter, returns to civilian life, only to find humanity drastically changed. He and the other discharged soldiers have difficulty fitting into a society that has evolved almost beyond their comprehension. The veterans learn that, to curb overpopulation, which led to worldwide class wars caused by inequitable rationing, homosexuality has become officially encouraged by many of the world's nations. The world has become a very dangerous place due to widespread unemployment and the easy availability of deadly weapons. The changes within society alienate Mandella and the other veterans to the point where many re-enlist to escape, despite the extremely high casualty rate and their recognition that the military is a soulless construct. Mandella and Potter receive promised postings as instructors on Luna, but upon arrival are immediately reassigned to a combat command.

        Almost entirely through luck, Mandella survives four years of military service, while several centuries elapse in real time. He soon becomes the objectively oldest surviving soldier in the war, attaining high rank through seniority rather than ambition, as he is essentially a pacifist who acts mostly from talent and a melancholic sense of duty. He and Potter (who has remained his last link with the Earth of his youth) are eventually given different assignments, meaning that even if they both survive the war they will never meet again due to time dilation. After briefly contemplating suicide, Mandella assumes the post of commanding officer of a "strike force", commanding soldiers who speak a language largely unrecognizable to him, whose ethnicity is now nearly uniform ('vaguely Polynesian' in appearance) and who are exclusively homosexual. He is disliked by his soldiers because they have to learn 21st century English to communicate with him and other senior staff and because he is heterosexual.

        Engaging in combat thousands of light years away from Earth, Mandella and his soldiers need to resort to medieval weapons to fight inside a stasis field which neutralizes all electromagnetic radiation in anything not covered with a protective coating. It turns out to be the last conflict of the war. Humanity has begun to clone itself, resulting in a new, collective species calling itself simply Man. Unlike its predecessor, Man is able to communicate with the Taurans, who are also clones. It is discovered that the war started due to a misunderstanding; the colony ships were lost to accidents and those on Earth with a vested interest in a new war used these disappearances as an excuse to begin the conflict. The futile, meaningless war, which had lasted for more than a thousand years, ends.

        Man has established several colonies of old-style, heterosexual humans, just in case the evolutionary change proves to be a mistake. Mandella travels to one of these colonies (named "Middle Finger" in the definitive version of the novel) where he is reunited with Marygay, who had been discharged much earlier and had taken trips in space to use time dilation to age at a much slower rate, hoping for Mandella's return. The epilogue is a news item from the year 3143 announcing the birth of a "fine baby boy" to Marygay Potter-Mandella.

        Reception and interpretation

        The novel is widely perceived to be a portrayal of the author's military service during the Vietnam War, and has been called an account of his war experiences written through a space opera filter.[5] Other hints of the autobiographical nature of the work are the protagonist's surname, Mandella, which is a near-anagram of the author's surname; Mandella being a physics student, like Haldeman, as well as the name of the lead female character, Marygay Potter, which is nearly identical to Haldeman's wife's maiden name. If one accepts this reading of the book, the alienation experienced by the soldiers on returning to Earth – here caused by the time dilation effect – becomes a clear metaphor for the reception given to US troops returning to America from Vietnam, including the way in which the war ultimately proves useless and its result meaningless. He also subverts typical space opera clichés (such as the heroic soldier influencing battles through individual acts) and "demonstrates how absurd many of the old clichés look to someone who had seen real combat duty".[5]

        The Forever War is popularly thought to be a direct reply to Hugo award-winning future war novel Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. While Haldeman has stated that The Forever War is actually a result of his experiences in the Vietnam War, he has admitted to being influenced by Heinlein's work.[6][2][1] Haldeman said that he disagreed with Starship Troopers because it "glorifies war" but added that "it's a very well-crafted novel and I believe Heinlein was honest with it".[6] The Forever War contains several parallels to Starship Troopers, including its setting and the powered armor that Heinlein's novel first popularized. Commentators have described it as a reaction to Heinlein's novel, a suggestion Haldeman denies; the two novels are very different in terms of their attitude towards the military. The Forever War does not depict war as a noble pursuit, with the sides clearly defined as good and evil; instead, the novel explores the dehumanizing effect of war, influenced by the real world context of the Vietnam War.[7]

        Heinlein wrote a letter to Haldeman, congratulating Haldeman on his Nebula Award; Haldeman has said that Heinlein's letter "meant more than the award itself".[8] According to author Spider Robinson, Heinlein approached Haldeman at the awards banquet and said the book "may be the best future war story I've ever read!"[9]


        The Forever War was originally written as Haldeman's MFA thesis for the Iowa Writer's Workshop. It was first published as a serial in Analog Magazine before its first book publication in 1974. Since then, many editions of The Forever War have been published. Editions published prior to 1991 were abridged for space by the original editor (omitting the middle section, a novella titled You Can Never Go Back). These early paperback editions have "a white cover showing a man in a spacesuit with a sword, with symbolic clocks all around," according to the author, with alternatively the first hardcover edition featuring a large hourglass with planets falling through it.

        The 1991 edition restored many expurgated sections, primarily dealing with the changes that befall human civilization over the course of William Mandella's life. This version's cover "has a futuristic soldier who looks like Robin Williams in a funny hat," as Haldeman notes, "But alas, not all of the changes got in, and the book has some internal contradictions because of things left over from the [earlier version]."

        In 1997, Avon published the version that Haldeman called "definitive", with "everything restored" and "a less funny cover illustration."[10] This version was republished twice, first in October 2001 as a hardback with a cover showing spaceships in battle over a planet, and again in September 2003, with the cover art depicting a device worn over the eye of a soldier.

        In 1999, it was republished by Millennium, an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, as part of the SF Masterworks series. It featured as the first novel re-printed in the series, and the cover shows a close-up of Marygay Potter with soldiers and spaceships in the background. This is the same version as the 1997 Avon publication and has the same Author's Note.

        In 1999, Haldeman, at the request of Robert Silverberg, wrote Marygay's first-person account of her time of separation from Mandella. It included not only the military details but also the difficulty of coping as a lone heterosexual woman with a society where same-sex relations are the inflexible norm. The story was included in Silverberg's anthology Far Horizons (1999), and later was the title story in the collection of Haldeman stories A Separate War and Other Stories (2006). In his "Notes on the Stories" for that collection, Haldeman commented that "it was fun to write her story, both as a bridge to the sequel (Forever Free) and as an oblique commentary on The Forever War, twenty years later."

        In 2006, an omnibus edition containing the books Forever War, Forever Free, and Forever Peace (under the title "Peace and War") was published by Gollancz. The cover depicts a futuristic gun barrel stuck into the ground with a smashed spacesuit helmet placed on top. The author's note at the start of the book describes the edition as containing the definitive versions.

        The most recent print edition was released in 2009 with an additional foreword by John Scalzi. The cover art depicts a soldier in a spacesuit in a jungle environment.

        An ebook version was released in July 2011 by Ridan Publishing and also contained the foreword by John Scalzi and introductions by Haldeman and Robin Sullivan (President of Ridan Publishing). The cover art depicts a soldier in a war torn setting looking down at the helmet of a fallen comrade.


        Stage play

        Stuart Gordon adapted the novel for Chicago's Organic Theater Company in 1983, in part as a reaction to what Gordon considered the "ultra-sanitized video game" style Star Wars brought to science fiction.[11] The play starred Bruce A. Young as William Mandella.


        Mayfair Games published a board game based on the novel in 1983.

        Graphic novel

        Belgian comic writer Marvano has, in cooperation with Haldeman, created a graphic novel trilogy of The Forever War. With some very minor changes and omissions to storyline and setting, it faithfully adapts the same themes in visual style.[citation needed] The series was translated into various languages, and had a follow-up trilogy connected to Forever Free.


        In 1988, Richard Edlund (won Visual Effects Oscars for Star Wars, Empire, Raiders, Jedi) began to option the rights to the Forever War. In October 1994, he bought the rights to the property. In 2008 he optioned the rights to Ridley Scott who announced that, after a 25-year wait for the rights to become available, he was making a return to science fiction with a film adaptation of The Forever War.[12] In March 2009, Scott stated that the film would be in 3D, citing James Cameron's Avatar as an inspiration for doing so.[13][14] In the summer of 2010, Scott revealed that State of Play writer Matthew Michael Carnahan was currently on the fourth draft of a screenplay originally written by David Peoples.[15][16] As of May 2014, Haldeman stated he believed the project was on its seventh draft of the script.[17] In May 2015, following the apparent expiration of a development agreement with 20th Century Fox and Scott Free, Warner Bros. won the rights to the novel and planned to develop the project with writer Jon Spaihts and with Channing Tatum in a starring role.[18]


        1. ^ a b "1975 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
        2. ^ a b "1976 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
        3. ^ Forever War, the (1983) (database entry from the BoardGameGeek website).
        4. ^ Park, Ed (30 December 2007). "Leaping forward". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 January 2010.
        5. ^ a b Joe Haldeman (author profile at the 'media in transition' project of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
        6. ^ a b Haldeman, Joe (1998). "1998 interview". Archived from the original on March 15, 2006. Retrieved March 4, 2006.
        7. ^ Gordon, Joan (1980). Joe Haldeman. Rockville, Maryland, US: Wildside Press LLC. p. 33. ISBN 9780916732066.
        8. ^ Requiem, Yoji Kondo, editor, p. 274
        9. ^ Requiem, Yoji Kondo, editor, p. 315
        10. ^ Haldeman, Joe (1997) [1974]. The Forever War. Avon.
        11. ^ Christopher Sieving. "Stuart Gordon: Artist in Residence".
        12. ^ Child, Ben (2008-10-13). "Ridley Scott puts off Brave New World for The Forever War". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
        13. ^ Alex Billington. "Ridley Scott Says Cameron Inspired Him to Make Forever War in 3D".
        14. ^ Charlie Jane Anders. "James Cameron's Avatar Influences Ridley Scott's Forever War".
        15. ^ Mike Fleming. "Tony Scott Has To Choose Among Pic Trio".
        16. ^ "Those two Alien prequels? Ridley Scott tells us more!".
        17. ^ "Reddit interview with author Joe Haldeman".
        18. ^ Anita Busch. "Warner Bros Wins Battle For Channing Tatum's 'The Forever War'".

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          Pandora’s Star

          Pandora’s Star

          Commonwealth Saga
          AuthorPeter F. Hamilton
          Genrescience fiction
          Published2004 (2004)-

          The Commonwealth Saga is a series of science fiction novels by British science fiction writer Peter F. Hamilton. This saga consists of the novels Pandora's Star (2004) and Judas Unchained (2005). Hamilton has also written several books set in the same literary universe. Misspent Youth (2002) takes place 340 years before the events of Pandora's Star. The Void Trilogy, consisting of The Dreaming Void (2008), The Temporal Void (2009), and The Evolutionary Void (2010), takes place 1,200 years after the events of Judas Unchained; several of the main characters from Judas Unchained and Pandora's Star also appear in the Void trilogy.

          Two additional novels, set in the time 263 years before(A.B.D.) and 5 years after(N.W.S.) "The Void Trilogy", were released in 2014 (The Abyss Beyond Dreams)[1] and 2016 (Night Without Stars).[2]

          Like Hamilton's earlier The Night's Dawn Trilogy, the Commonwealth Saga is an epic space opera that extends across dozens of worlds and characters.[3]


          Pandora's Star

          Pandora's Star
          Pandora's Star.jpg
          AuthorPeter F. Hamilton
          Cover artistJim Burns
          CountryUnited Kingdom
          SeriesThe Commonwealth Saga
          GenreScience fiction
          PublisherPan Macmillan (UK) & Del Rey (US)
          Publication date
          Pages882 (UK hardcover), 1,152 (UK paperback)
 cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}0-330-49331-0
          Followed byJudas Unchained 

          The book opens with a short section providing backstory. As part of the first mission to Mars, a team of astronauts exits their spacecraft for the first time, only to see another man standing there, connected to an air hose that leads through a wormhole to a laboratory in California. The wormhole generator's inventors, Nigel Sheldon and Ozzie Isaacs, chose to test it by beating the crew, by moments, to be the first human on Mars. The saga then moves onto the Commonwealth era in 2380, when humanity has used the wormhole technology to colonise several hundred planets across hundreds of light years.

          On a distant planet, Astronomer Dudley Bose performs the first detailed observations of a mysterious astronomical event known as the Dyson Pair Enclosure. Two stars, located roughly 1,000 light years from Earth (750 light years from the edge of Commonwealth space), disappeared some time in the past. The theory is that they have been enclosed inside Dyson spheres.

          Bose's investigations reveal that the enclosing of Dyson Alpha and Dyson Beta (as the stars become known) occurred quickly and simultaneously. These facts mean that the technology of the Dyson aliens, or possibly other unknown aliens, surpasses that of the Commonwealth; furthermore, did the Dyson Aliens enclose themselves, or did some other force enclose them? Was it for protection or to protect those outside the spheres?

          To investigate, the Commonwealth builds its first interstellar ship, the Second Chance. Lacking contemporary astronauts, it is commanded by Wilson Kime, one of the members of the original Mars mission. Using a self-enclosed 'flowing' wormhole for propulsion, the Second Chance travels to Dyson Alpha.

          As they arrive and begin to explore what appears to be an enclosure generator, it is shut down by an unknown mechanism and the barrier around the star disappears. Formerly imprisoned inside is an incredibly warlike and aggressive species, a race that come to be called the Primes. They consist of intelligent 'immotiles' that breed and control vast armies of sub-sentient 'motiles' via electronically extended neural interfaces. The few immotiles constantly vie with each other for territories and resources, and by the time of the story, The strongest uses the technology gleaned by analysis of the human's 'wormhole' generation techniques to destroy all the other prime immotiles and thus become the only one remaining Prime, MorningLightMountain.

          Primes had previously colonised the solar system referred to as Dyson Beta using slower-than-light starships and committed genocide against its native inhabitants in the process. Disconnected from their originating immotile groupings, and provided with novel biological forms, Beta's Primes started to routinely alter themselves through genetic manipulation and mechanical augmentation. This was an anathema to the Alpha Primes, who referred to them as AlienPrimes. No longer under the control of Alpha's Primes, a war began between the two systems. The war appears to have continued until the barrier was erected around the stars by forces unknown.

          After capturing two crew members of the Second Chance, one of whom is Bose, MorningLightMountain eventually discovers the location of the Commonwealth. Upon learning of the Commonwealth's existence, MorningLightMountain makes it its primary objective to destroy it. Having been in almost continual combat for its entire evolution, MorningLightMountain believes that it is necessary to eliminate all other life in the Universe to secure its survival into the distant future, it views all life that is not under its control as a potential threat.

          Woven through the main narrative of the Prime encounter are several other stories. Among these is the ancient spacecraft Marie Celeste, found crashed on one of the Commonwealth planets, Far Away. An enigmatic figure, Bradley Johansson, claims the original passenger of the spacecraft is alive, an alien he calls the Starflyer. He claims that it is using mind-controlled agents to manipulate events in the Commonwealth, and created the events that led to the discovery of the Primes. He is dismissed as a crazy terrorist by the Commonwealth forces, and his attempts to interfere with the voyage to Dyson Alpha are thwarted.

          Judas Unchained

          Judas Unchained
          Judas Unchained cover.jpg
          AuthorPeter F. Hamilton
          Cover artistJim Burns
          CountryUnited Kingdom
          SeriesThe Commonwealth Saga
          GenreScience fiction
          PublisherPan Macmillan (UK) & Del Rey (US)
          Publication date
          Media typePrint
          Pages949 (UK hardcover), 1,230 (UK paperback)
          Preceded byPandora's Star 

          Judas Unchained, the second part of the Commonwealth Saga, picks up where Pandora's Star's abrupt ending left off.

          The story begins with the small human resistance that exists on what remains of the Commonwealth worlds attacked by the Primes. Human resistance forces have found two ways to fight back: using the Prime weapons (primarily directed-energy weapons) against the invaders, and disrupting communication between the slave caste (motiles) and the commanding caste (immotiles) of the Primes. Meanwhile, the humans in the remaining Commonwealth pursue other plans: to develop a set of weapons and warships to defend against the next Prime invasion and force the conflict back into Prime space; to develop a "quantumbuster superweapon" based on technology supplied, unbeknownst to most humans, by the Starflyer; and to prepare for the evacuation of known space altogether if necessary.

          Eventually, the human forces decide that there can be no other solution to the conflict than to commit genocide and destroy the Primes entirely. However, it is revealed that the Primes are planning a much larger invasion, which humanity will be all but powerless to stop.

          As the war rages, the human forces begin to build much faster, better armed, ships and fitting them with new "quantumbuster" weapons. These weapons function by converting the entire rest mass of an object into energy, and are thus capable of destroying an entire planet. Later on, a more advanced quantumbuster is deployed, which is capable of inducing a main-sequence star to go nova via a feedback loop where the energy from the conversion is used to further expand the radius of the effect field. Despite the original plan to use it on the Dyson Alpha star and thus kill the entire prime race, a modified field version of a normal quantumbuster is eventually deployed on the Dyson Alpha forcefield generator, destroying the mechanism that was interfering with the generator's systems. This allows the mechanism to reactivate, trapping the Prime aliens inside and avoiding genocide.

          Meanwhile, the Commonwealth forces slowly realize that Johansson is correct, the Starflyer is in fact an AlienPrime which, by chance, escaped the enclosure event. After crashing on Far Away it has been plotting how to destroy both the Alpha Primes as well as dangerous Humanity by manipulating events to force both races to commit mutual genocide. Beta Primes would then become the dominant lifeforms. Through a long trail of companies, it funded Bose's "discovery" of the enclosure and snuck agents aboard Second Chance with a device to deactivate the enclosure generator.

          As the Starflyer attempts to return to Beta, human forces engage in a desperate chase to prevent the Starflyer from escaping. Their forces fail, but Johansson's Guardians of Selfhood have been preparing for this event, marshalling the weather of the entire planet and unleashing as a massive directed hurricane, destroying the Starflyer's ship. Johansson is aboard the Marie Celeste, and the action ends with him preparing to kill the Starflyer.

          Technological concepts

          The series starts in the year 2380, when wormhole technology has developed ahead of faster-than-light drive systems, making the Commonwealth Saga markedly different from Hamilton's other works. One notable difference is the initial lack of spaceships. Instead, interstellar travel is accomplished by travelling through wormholes, most commonly via a train. This mode of travel is a commonplace experience, considered similar to commuting. Hundreds of planets are linked in this fashion. However, several colonies have chosen to withdraw from the Commonwealth by severing their wormhole connection.


          Death may be postponed indefinitely in the Commonwealth. Most Commonwealth citizens have a memory crystal (which has been invented in the events of Misspent Youth) inserted at the base of the brain which is able to record memories including those before insertion. Commonwealth citizens undergo a process called rejuvenation, approximately every thirty to fifty years (also introduced in Misspent Youth). Rejuvenation is an intense process which leaves the subject's body aged around 20 with adjustment made for personal preference. Citizens can also create backups of memories which are placed in safe environment, called their "secure store". In the event of a fatal accident or premature death, a clone of the person is created and the stored memories of the original are inserted. If the memory crystal of the death is still intact, all the memories, including the one of the pain of the death itself, are reinjected into the clone. This is the "re-life" process, which effectively makes all humans equipped with a memory crystal immortal. Even if still threatened by the loss of their body, the memory crystal implant and "secure store" enable a seamless transition between 'death' and any given human's next life. Not all humans, however, have chosen these implants. In particular, rebels of Far Away are usually not implanted. Most Commonwealth citizens must pay for rejuvenation insurance, similar to superannuation, although some citizens elect to forgo rejuvenation altogether. Rejuvenation is said to be akin to starting a new life, with those who have undergone the process being referred to as second-lifers, third-lifers, and so on. Psychologically, some people tend to shake off the responsibilities of their previous life including employment and marriage. Memories can even be edited to facilitate easy transition to a new life.

          Man-machine symbiosis

          Cyberware is used extensively in the Commonwealth, and most people possess several implants. One of the most common implants is a memory crystal. Other common implants include a transceiver designed to interface with the Commonwealth's Unisphere, an interstellar network of computers. This system uses the network of wormholes to send data between Commonwealth planets. Each planet has its own Cybersphere which connects with other cyberspheres to create the Unisphere. This system allows characters to contact each other easily from anywhere within the Commonwealth.

          OCTattoos (Organic Circuitry Tattoos) are also a major technological device. These are tattooed on the skin and resemble colourful, often metallic tattoos, and serve hundreds of purposes from transferring credits to serving as sensors. Their main function is to act as processors for other implants (which may function at reduced capacity if an OCTattoo is damaged).

          Less common 'wet-wired' implants also serve many functions in the novels, including, but not limited to: implanted weapons, personal forcefields, explosives, and scanners. Often, such implants are illegal, and must be installed by the black-market clinics in the Commonwealth. Gore Burnelli is a notable user of wet-wiring in the series, so much so that his entire body is coated in a golden sheen of technological implants.


          Non-human sentient civilisations have been encountered by the Commonwealth in its expansion through the Galaxy. The most prominent of these are the elf-like Silfen, who appear to eschew most forms of technology, as well as any participation in the politics or events of the Galaxy. The Silfen choose instead to wander across uncharted alien worlds on Paths, the Silfen equivalent of wormholes. The High Angel is an enormous sentient starship of unknown origin, acting as home for several colonies of alien species, most of which keep themselves away from humans. The Raiel are the exception to this – a race of large, somewhat self-satisfied creatures, capable of immensely complex computational calculations. All of the species encountered up to the start of the novel are peaceful, though few impart useful information to the Commonwealth.

          Sentient Intelligence

          Humanity has also spawned a powerful artificial intelligence called the Sentient Intelligence, or SI, which exists alone, its physical form spanning an entire planet. Like the Silfen, it offers little assistance to humanity, and its motivations are unclear. However, it has been known to offer aid where it deems it right to do so. Perhaps due to its isolation (the only connection to the SI planet is a zero-width wormhole through which only data can pass), it tends to contact those who would offer it unparalleled levels of information on the happenings of the Commonwealth, providing such people with favours in exchange for information. These favours range from ensuring their safety through observation of their local Cybersphere's communications, to controlling what it can in the physical world to offer help.

          The SI is also the repository for humans who upload their "personality" into a communal existence alongside the SI. Some characters are offered deals by the SI because they have a "deceased" relative's personality stored in the SI. The deals often lead to the person in question being granted elevated access and control over the technology in the novels in return for gathering information that the SI cannot access.

          In the same universe

          Other books set in the Commonwealth Universe include Misspent Youth and the Void Trilogy. Misspent Youth is set in 2040 and focuses on the first human to undergo rejuvenation. It is in this book that Hamilton lays the foundations for the Commonwealth Saga, particularly the rejuvenation therapy that has become commonplace in the 24th century. The Void Trilogy continues within the same universe, but set a further 1200 years into the future. Many of the races featured in the Commonwealth Saga also appear in the Void Trilogy. Finally, The Chronicle of the Fallers series takes place both before and after the events of the Void Trilogy.

          The short stories "Blessed by an Angel", which take place between Judas Unchained and The Dreaming Void (published in The New Space Opera (2007), ed. Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan), "The Demon Trap" and "Manhattan in Reverse" also occur in this universe. All three are published in Manhattan in Reverse.


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