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Competitors (Конкуренты, Konkurenty) is a Science Fiction novel by the popular Russian sci-fi and fantasy author Sergey Lukyanenko. The novel starts in modern-day Moscow involving a freelance journalist named Valentin Safonov and then diverges into two parallel storylines: one continues in Moscow, and the other picks up on a Space Station in an unknown star system. The chapters alternate the perspective of the protagonist, who has been duplicated far away from home by means of unknown alien technology. Both versions of the protagonist seek to discover what is going on and why people are being sent to live and die far from Earth with no way back. Valentin is told to log-on to www.starquake.ru to keep tabs on his duplicate in space, which is a Real Life Flash-based MMORPG.
The novel contains examples of the following tropes:
- Action Girl: Lena (AKA Driver) is definitely not a delicate flower. Back on Earth, she is a taxi driver. In space, she is a tough-as-nails fighter pilot.
- Bug War: The humans on the Platform have to occasionally fight off ships belonging to an alien race known only as the Bugs.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: Any initial arrival to the station is given sufficient credits for a beginner ship. However, it's not enough to equip the ship with a hyperdrive, even if one removes weapons and shields. After spending some time in the system, though, mining or trading, one can earn enough credits to afford a better ship which can feature a hyperdrive. Then traveling to another system is as easy as picking a star on a two-dimensional map. A hyperjump is instantaneous and doesn't feature any special effects.
- Earthshattering Kaboom: The Extinguisher is a missile that can destroy a star.
- Genius Bruiser: Roman is a massively-built guy with the look of a professional boxer. He often travels with Master and acts the part of his bodyguard. When he's back on the base, however, he puts on a lab coat and reveals that he has college degrees in mathematical physics and artificial intelligence.
- Have You Told Anyone Else?: Space!Valentin discovers a conspiracy aboard the space station involving some of the unofficial leaders. He takes the remaining leader aside and explains to him his discovery. The remaining leader promptly knocks him out. He's in charge of the conspiracy.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Happens near the end of the book.
- Hollywood Nerd: Oleg is a system administrator and spends a lot of time on his computer. He also goes to the gym and is in excellent shape. He's a little shy, but not cripplingly so.
- Imported Alien Phlebotinum: For their services, the human accomplices on Earth receive payment in the form of advanced technology, which they can patent through shell companies. One of the accomplices is a former KGB agent who sees his actions as patriotic. After all, he's helping to improve his country's place in the world.
- Improvised Weapon: Space!Valentin's original ship doesn't have any weapons or shields. So when they are chased by a raider, he realizes they're doomed. However, he then notices that one of the hijackers is carrying a heavy plasma gun. He suggests that one of them opens the airlock in a spacesuit and fire at the approaching ship.
- Laser Sight: Earth!Valentin and Earth!Lena are talking in his apartment when he notices a red dot on her head. Being Genre Savvy, he pulls her on the floor, just before a shot rings out from a sniper rifle on the roof of another building. However, it turns out that the sniper's goal was to scare them into dropping their investigation, not kill them, so the laser sight is justified.
- Mutual Kill: Close to the end of the novel, a young Jewish boy breaks into the office of the agency with a gun. He shoots the security guard in the head, unaware that he's a shapeshifting alien. Despite the wound, the guard is able to kill the boy before dying himself.
- Space Battle: There's plenty of that throughout the book.
- Space Police: A group of pilots have banded together and voluntarily patrol the areas near the Platform and inhabited worlds.
- Space Station: The Platform is a large disc-shaped space station in the middle of nowhere. For its flattened shape, the humans living on it often refer to it as the Bun.
- Unusual User Interface: Averted. Spaceship controls are ridiculously simple, obviously designed for regular humans. A control stick for turning and firing weapons, and two pedals for accelerating and braking. Each ship, no matter how big, only has one set of centralized controls. Later on, though, La Résistance rigs a large ship to have multiple specialized consoles for more efficient control.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: The alien agents on Earth are able to assume any shape they wish. They use this ability to demonstrate that they really are extraterrestrials to their human accomplices.
- We Will Spend Credits in the Future: While this is not the future, credits are the standard currency for the humans in space.