In the middle of the events of The Longest War, the planned eleventh book in the “main line” of the Shine Cycle, there are several engagements that can be treated only briefly there. To give them the attention they deserve, I plan two sub-series, which form the third and fourth digressions from that “main line.” Today is a brief introduction to the first set, treated as a whole—what I’ve been calling the “Game of Life sub-series.” (I’ll do proper précis of each planned story in the series later.)
A year and a half ago, I touched on the “Game of Life” (what we might cal an “even briefer” introduction). The facts I described there are still essentially correct: the series is (unlike most of the Shine Cycle) set in our universe, and in fact in our own solar system, during the middle of the long mostly-“cold” war that The Longest War tells more broadly. And, as I said there, note that the name “The Game of Life” was coined before I had ever heard of Conway’s Game of Life—I hope to write a post about the game of that name in the milieu of the Shine Cycle, from which this sub-series takes its name, later this year.
I’ll describe the first story, which sets the stage and introduces some of the principal characters, in some detail, then cover the remaining nine much more briefly.
The series begins about a century and a half from now, soon after scientists on Earth have adapted the human genome to produce human beings who match the old legends’ descriptions of werewolves. While perhaps funded by the equivalent of a DARPA grant (and well enough aware of the possibilities to use military-grade security), and building on decades’ worth of research developed in a (non-pathogenic) genetic-engineering arms race, the scientists don’t think of themselves as creating a weapon.
Gondolor, Tashere’s protégé and the series’ main front-stage antagonist at this point, however, somehow gets word of this and comes to Earth to steal the new technology—and while he’s at it to take over the “backwards” planet and make it a base for a new front in the war. He is pursued, and nearly all the technology he brought with him is destroyed when he is forced to crash-land, but the theft cannot be prevented. His plans for world domination, however, can and are; after a somewhat protracted campaign, he is captured and peace restored.
Over the course of the series, Gondolor repeatedly escapes from prison (or, in several cases, was merely defeated and driven off rather than captured) and returns intent on revenge. The series only comes to a close when Earth has become clearly “too tough a nut to crack” even for revenge.
We see everything through the eyes of a woman of Earth. The name she’s grown up with is Alice Hansen, but early in the first book she learns that her “truename” is Alatumbra, and over the course of the series she is increasingly called by that rather than her “use-name.” She’s something of a linguist, with some military experience, as well as probably at least a decade and a half in the SCA or something similar. After getting drawn in to make sense of the transmission that gives them some warning of the impending theft, she is awakened as a mage and begins training under the few off-planet “military advisors” who come in to oppose Gondolor. See also her character profile.
Here’s my brief summaries of the premises of the ten stories (with later-developed loglines in parentheses):
- The Invasion: The US has just invented werewolves; Gondolor arrives here, steals the invention, and tries to conquer the world. (When an invader from another world steals the new werewolf genome, a SCA-trained linguist turned fledgling mage must stop his plans of global conquest.)
- The Alliance: Gondolor has escaped from prison, and returns to Earth seeking revenge, accompanied by new allies—but new allies for the US also appear. (When Gondolor returns to Earth, seeking to resume his plans of world conquest amid a population that doubts his earlier visit even happened, apprentice mage Alice Hansen aka Alatumbra and new allies must travel to England and journey through mythic settings to recapture him.)
- The Counter: Gondolor tries to invade again, but Earth is more prepared and counter-attacks before he reaches the surface, leading to an extended campaign in space. (When Earth receives advance warning of Gondolor yet again returning to try for revenge, Alice Hansen aka Alatumbra, liaison between Earth’s people and the outside forces defending it, must lead her country’s smmall space navy in preparing a defense to prevent Gondolor from reaching the planet’s surface.)
- The Cross: A hearts-and-minds battle of some sort: Gondolor lands somewhere and is himself quickly evicted and captured, but he has turned the people away, and they must be converted. (When Gondolor again returns to Earth, while he is recaptured quickly, journeyman mage Alice Hansen aka Alatumbra must counter his propaganda and convince the local population of the truth before they decide to become a client state of his evil empire.)
- The Invention: Someone (some country, individual, or company) on Earth invents something of major military importance. (When Gondolor returns to Earth for revenge just as an inventor is demonstrating a revolutionary military gadget, journeyman mage Alice Hansen aka Alatumbra must capture him before he can make off with the technology and turn the tide in the wider war.)
- The Covenant: Several Earth nations (in addition to the US, which did so in the first book or two) join the APOGAL or the more strictly military (but similarly-aligned) “Federation of Allied Navies”; Gondolor violently objects. (When the U.S. and other nations formally ally themselves with the Light, and Gondolor tries to stir up dissension in advance of his next invasion, Alice Hansen aka Alatumbra must hold the alliance together until reinforcements arrive.)
- The Legion: The battle-lines of the main war meet near Earth. The title comes from the fact that many of the APOGAL forces involved are from the “New Roman Empire.” (When the battle lines of the wider interstellar war near Earth, Alice Hansen aka Alatumbra leads troops from Earth to the front to keep the enemy’s devestation away from her home world.)
- The Convergence: In an attempt at subtle revenge, Gondolor sends several fleets in spiraling courses that converge on Earth, which has some warning but little chance to call in help. (When several enemy fleets converge on Earth, Alice Hansen aka Alatumbra must organize the system’s defenses to repel them.)
- The Harbor: Earth has become a major “harbor” for the Federation of Allied Navies; Gondolor decides to wreck it. (Alice Hansen aka Alatumbra must prevent Gondolor from sabotaging or otherwise destroying Earth’s space “harbor” and its allied fleets.)
- The Calling: Earth’s new generation of mages comes of age. Gondolor tries to suborn some, or at least prevent them from entering the wider war. (Alice Hansen aka Alatumbra must prevent Gondolor from suborning any of Earth’s mages, now “coming of age,” in his final attempt for revenge for previous humiliating defeats there.)
The one other series character from Earth I’ve got a name for yet is Salzier Duboim, who is a military leader in charge of the area in which The Invasion begins, but continues his rise up the “career ladder” as the series progresses.
Several “old favorite” characters (that is, characters of whom I am particularly fond …) will make an appearance; the Chosen are originally from Earth, but haven’t been there in many decades (time having run long, though at different speeds, over the interval).
Like I said, I intend to do proper précis of these later (after I finish the posts dealing with the “main line”). And I hope to do character profiles of at least Gondolor and Alatumbra, as well as a post on “the Game of Life,” sometime in the coming months. Next month, the next post in this series of “brief introductions,” I’ll write about the other sub-series related to The Longest War.
But for now: any questions or comments on what I’ve covered here?