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More or less a direct sequel to Inhabited Island. Maxim, now older and more cynical, is assigned to track down a progressor named Leo Abalkin who may be an instrument of the Wanderers' plot. While his boss views the progressor as a threat, our hero becomes increasingly ambivalent.
Tropes found in the novel:
- Break the Cutie: Leo Abalkin's past.
- Broken Aesop - according to Word of God, the moral was "Secret Service is Evil", but the story allows many different interpretations.
- Chameleon Camouflage: Deconstructed when Abalkin explores a deserted planet, equipped with a suit that is supposed to give him whole-body Chameleon Camouflage. However, it malfunctions and doesn't actually do anything, so Abalkin takes off his helm for better vision. Then, just as he encounters the local Human Aliens, the suit suddenly powers up and presents him as a floating head, scaring the shit out of the locals (to the point where they open fire).
- Chickification: Maya Glumova, who was fairly confident, outgoing, assertive and fiercely independent in Little One is basically reduced to Abalkin's Designated Love Interest in this novel.
- Crapsack World / Ruins of the Modern Age / Scavenger World : The ironically codenamed planet "Hope", home to a Human Aliens civilization that turned the enviromental pollution of their homeworld Up to Eleven
- Creepy Child - Abalkin, though it's not his fault - see Break the Cutie).
- Deadpan Snarker : Many of the characters, including Kammerer and Abalkin.
- First-Person Smartass : Maxim Kammerer. A bit justified, since he's the narrator of this installment
- Foreshadowing - the last entry in Abalkin's journal ends with his cloak system suddenly starting to work, and then "The nerves of the locals snap and they start shooting...". Guess what happens then in the actual story
- I Did What I Had to Do
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane - the Detonators (they DO have strange properties, but how much is a unclear - and the Morality of story depends on that).
- Monster Clown : The enigmatic human-looking child snatchers on Hope. They are believed to be agents of the Wanderers, working to catch the children of Hope's small remaining population.
- Neglectful Precursors : The possible motives of the Wanderers start becoming somewhat clearer in this installment of the series.
- Noodle Incident: The "Massachusetts Nightmare" they mention.
- Show Within a Show: Abalkin's old notes about his reconaissance mission with Shchekn in a hauntingly desolate city on Hope
- Sitcom Arch Nemesis: Isaac Bromberg to Rudolf Sikorsky.
- Snarky Non-Human Sidekick : Shchekn Itrch, the Golovan co-worker of Abalkin
- The Un-Reveal: Beetle in an Anthill is full of Unreveals. The biggest one is Abalkin's true nature.
- Tyke Bomb: Leo Abalkin. Or is he?
- Vitriolic Best Buds : Shchekn and Abalkin
- What the Hell, Hero?: Schekn's renouncement of Abalkin, from Kammerer's perspective.