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Twenty Minutes Into the Future story tending more towards the "hard" side of Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness (It softens somewhat as the series continues), building off of currently known particle physics, written by John Ringo and Travis Taylor (Ringo solo in the first novel). An accident at a Florida university where investigations into high-energy particle physics was taking place results in multiple gates opening to another part of the galaxy, through which organic-based baddies launch an attack on Earth.

The series consists of the following books:

  • Into the Looking Glass
  • Vorpal Blade
  • Manxome Foe
  • Claws That Catch

This series contains the following tropes:

  • And Now for Something Completely Different - While it has hints that the genre is going to change at the end of the first book, the series goes from Earth Is a Battlefield to Star Trek WITH GUNS - Though still damned awesome.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: After the first book, which followed Doc Weaver and Chief Miller as pratagonists, later books focus on New Meat Eric Bergstresser, with Weaver and Miller being relegated to secondary pratagonists.
  • Apocalypse How: Multiple levels of Apocalypse:
    • Class X-2: At the end of the first book, Weaver is given a device of unknown functionality. Using the "Looking Glass" portals the device is taken to an uninhabited star system for testing. After the testers return to see the results of the test, they find the entire star system just plain gone. As noted elsewhere, turns out they were using it wrong.
    • Class X-3: Later books include the Dreen wanting to devour the entire galaxy.
  • Artistic License Physics: The first book had an error in the description of one of the subatomic particles discussed. Lampshaded in the second book, where Taylor's physics knowledge firms up the scientific side of the story, and of course, Handwaved a bit by Ringo in the first book, who notes that he deliberately made some errors and mucked up on others.
  • Author Tract: Arguably, parts of the fourth book could be described as "America FTW and every country who isn't America sucks ass".
  • Badass Bookworm: William Weaver, Ph.D., is a theoretical physicist who does most of his work in his head... while mountain biking, rock climbing, participating in kung fu tournaments, and fighting off an alien invasion.
  • BFG:
    • One of the rednecks who show up to help the SWAT and National Guard fight off the original contact with the Dreen wields a .577 T-Rex, the same rifle that knocks down people if held slightly wrong. Also included in the loadout were two Barretts, M-82A1 and M-95, semi-automatic and bolt respectively.
    • Later, when the first line of Wyverns are deployed against a Dreen gestator, Miller has a miniature BSOD when the armorer presents a cut down South African artillery piece, specifically a 130-milimeter recoilless rifle.
    • "Two-Gun" uses a pair of cut down .50 caliber sniper rifles whle in his Wyvern, and dual .455s in ground mount gear.
    • In the first book, when arming Miller for the climax, one of the options is described as basically a sawed-off GAU-8 Avenger. For those of you who don't know, that is the 30mm Gatling canon the A-10 Thunderbolt is built around, and is THE largest aircraft canon ever used. And it actually exists, as is called the GAU-11.
  • Black Box: A device, about the size of a pack of cards, does "interesting" things with spacetime. It was given to them by the friendly aliens at the end of the first book, who had found it on some other planet and had no idea what it was for. Although they did warn that one should NOT apply a "significant voltage" to it.
    Hooking up a double-A battery leaves a 10-mile crater. A car battery destroys the (deliberately uninhabited and unimportant) planet. Three-phase current erases the solar system. They eventually figure out how to turn it into a warp drive and use it to power the ASS Vorpal Blade. Turns out hooking it up to a car battery was using it wrong.
  • Brown Note: One of the results of the creation of the Chen Anomaly is a bubble covering Boca Raton, Florida. Any attempt at recording what's inside the bubble fails, and anyone who sees it goes incurably insane. A technician assisting Weaver's investigation of the anomalies caused by the explosion at the University of Florida suggests the result is like that from a human in the Lovecraft mythos looking up on one of the Old Ones, by seeing something that's completely beyond human comprehension.
  • Cameo: Quite a few of them, particularly after the first book.
  • Captain Ersatz: Let's face it, the Dreen are Zerg in just about all but name, right down to the creep that spreads around so they can grow organic buildings from it. They even use some of the same units. "Dog Demons" (zerglings), "Thorn Throwers" (hydralisks), "Rhino Tanks" (ultralisks) and "Caterpillar Tanks" (Nydus Worms).
  • Catfolk - The Mreee (pronounced the way a cat yowls when you stomp it's tail) who look like three-foot tall anthropomorphic housecats whose native language sounds like "cats stuck in a barrel." They are the first non-Dreen race humanity comes in contact with. They're one of the races the Dreen have enslaved and were using to harvest biomass from. The Dreen Gestators tried duping humanity... somehow... but said Gestators still unaware of the full extent of the human nuisance, pretty much try to get the cats to calm humans down a bit and underestimate the Dreen.
  • Cat Suit: How "Two Gun" describes the skintight suit worn by Wyvern users.
  • Cool Gate: The titular Looking Glass bosons. See also Portal Network.
  • Expy:
    • Portana, of the Prince Roger-era Poertena.
    • The Dreen are really Zerg by any other name. They even have very close equivalents of zerglings and hydralisks. And Creep.
  • Fauxreigner: Religious example: one of the Marines (nicknamed "Gunga Din") claimed, when recruited, to be Hindu, simply because he didn't want to be an atheist like the parents he hated. Doubly subverted in that a) he is Indian, and b) once he'd made the decision, he decided to be serious about it, and has been slowly learning about the religion ever since. In fact, the not-Religious Marines know more about the Hindu religion than he did.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Alliance Space Ship Vorpal Blade. First met with uncomfortable silence and implied facepalms from the ceremony before the launch (exception of one laughing man from the Presidential crew), and subjected to really bad puns made by Two-Gun. Let's just say the Adar still don't have a grip on human language.
  • Genius Bruiser: The Marines selected to serve aboard the Vorpal Blade are required to have a grasp of advanced particle physics.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Many characters in the series are perfectly aware they've been thrown into a science fiction situation. In the second novel, being science fiction fans is seen as a useful characteristic for the new Space Marines and officers flying the first human starship, the captain of which takes a giddy delight in being able to give orders like "Ahead Warp 1" and "Engage warp drive".
    • In Claws That Catch this is taken to a slightly surreal extreme when some conflicts between various alien technologies cause them to become anime characters, or at least believe they did so. Capt. Weaver laments the fact that he is clearly a secondary character since as anime characters the hero is clearly identifiable - Eric Bergstresser essentially turns into an expy of Cloud Strife.
    • When the SWAT, Rednecks, National Guard, and SEALs are holed up in a house near the first boson battle, a News helicopter comes in. The characters dryly comment on the fact that the big flapping mosquito near it probably isn't a good idea. It promptly suicide bombs the helicopter.
    • One of the SEALs members professes he's not a weeaboo, but the suit were damn cool.
  • Guns Akimbo: The specialty of Eric "Two-Gun" Bergstresser, of the "shoot one at a time" variety. Interestingly, he got this moniker against his will - he earned the name of it when he said he could do it a bit during his inprocessing and Sgt. Jaen asked him to try it.
  • Hand Cannon - Two-Gun gains his nickname after being goaded to dual-wield .455 pistols during his familiarization with the VR training system, and he can't live it down.
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The Dreen. The cat people describe them as pests that come with the bosons, but they're much worse.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: Command Master Chief Miller, in the first book, took advantage of an opportunity to use a phrase he had waited "most of his adult life" to say, when kept from entering Disney World to investigate a possible gate by local security. The phrase? "We're in no mood for Mickey Mouse."[1]
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The literal Black Box given to humans by the Adar, which later forms the basis of the Vorpal Blade's space drive.
  • Leave Behind a Pistol: Toward the end of the first book, the Mree general that lead the invasion forces trying to stop the protagonists from taking the Looking Glass is trapped on Earth after the Glass is sealed by Dr. Weaver's deploying the Ardune device on the other side, and neither he nor his men can process Earth food, leaving them to ultimately starve to death. Command Master Chief Miller leaves behind his pistol for the general to use after a brief discussion about honor, and outside the holding room the general is heard using it to take his own life once Miller and Weaver leave.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Ringo apparently reads a lot of Lewis Carrol, judging from the novel names. It was worse before some of the book names were changed. Claws That Catch was once The Tum-Tum Tree
  • Made of Explodium - Do not get the Rhino tanks' attention, you won't like it.
  • The Mentor: Captain Zampanella ends up serving as this to newly-promoted 2nd Lt. Eric Bergstresser, since he's only graduated from OCS, and hasn't gone to the Basic School.
  • Mini-Mecha - The first-generation WYVERNs.
  • No Biochemical Barriers:
    • Averted. The alien food is used as a diet plan, because, while filling, has no nutritional value, including energy in a form human biochemistry can use.
    • Used in that anyone from one of the four biological patterns (called chloro A, chloro B, red, and blue based on the version of chlorophyll found) can eat anything of that pattern. However, even same-pattern foods may or may not be nutritious, or even safe- there's just a better chance of it being digestible.
  • No OSHA Compliance - Averted.
  • Nom De Guerre: Alliance Space Marines (and, later, those who work directly with them on ops) are assigned team names based on a trait, their name, or some event/activity they were involved in at some point (usually an embarrassing one).
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: A bunch of awesome moments were probably had during the Dreen Wars after the first book, but never mentioned beyond indirect, mostly undetailed references to "Dreen Wars" by characters later in the series.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Weaver, modeled after series co-author Travis S. Taylor (who's done everything that Weaver has, save battling alien invaders). However, he has co-written a book on how to fight an alien invasion.
  • Organic Technology: The Dreen.
  • Powered Armor: Wyvern suits, particularly later versions with access to alien technology. In the original book, they're more or less Mini-Mecha, due to the tech at the time.
  • The Power of Rock:
    • In Claws That Catch, the crew of the Vorpal Blade II discover a giant artifact in a very strange star system that turns out to be a giant concert venue, they then proceed to defeat an attacking alien fleet by using songs such as Freebird and Black Unicorn to control the star system scale laser lightshow.
    • The Final Countdown is used to taunt and annoy the Russians tracking the first Vorpal Blade. It also serves as a warning to get the hell out of the way, cause the wake of the Vorpal Blade will sink their subs.
  • Rank Up: Eric Bergstresser goes from being a Private First Class, to a Sergeant, to a 2nd Lieutenant as the series progresses. A significant part of '"Claws That Catch is devoted to his professional development as an officer.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: In the beginning of Vorpal Blade, former Command Master Chief Miller is working as a florist after leaving the US Navy, at least in part chosen because it's a job where he's not going to wind up meeting people that wind up dead. Later he's seen or mentions doing arrangements outside of the job.
  • Semper Fi: The US Marine Corps provides almost all of the fighters for the Vorpal Blade and Vorpal Blade II. Justified in that the military branch in charge of the Vorpal Blade is the Navy with the Marine fulfilling their traditional role, albeit in space.
  • Shout-Out: Plenty, including not only the Alice in Wonderland references, but also to Ringo's Prince Roger series, which contributes one of the characters and some of the "colorful" language euphemisms.
    • The end of Claws that Catch features something very much like the end of Macross 7...
    • There's several Aliens references, including the "Nuke the site from orbit, it's the only way to be sure line" (said as the Marines are preparing to due essentialy just that). Also, one of the sergeants yells "On the bounce", a line shouted numerous times in Starship Troopers.
  • Space Is Cold: Averted. The Vorpal Blade comes complete with a very long extendable heat exchanger, specifically due to how the lack of convection will eventually overheat the ship. Combat is often limited by the heat. The ship also has to stop every so often while just traveling around in order to "chill out" (as the procedure becomes know on the ship).
  • Space Marines: Complete with a modified version of The Marines Hymn.
  • Space Sailing
  • Starfish Aliens - The T!ch!r (as named by the N!T!Ch!, who also qualify as giant spiderish folk), later turned into the easier-to-pronounce Dreen (from the Adar onomatopoeia transliteration of the demon dogs' howl).
  • Starship Luxurious: Averted. The first Vorpal Blade being a converted Ohio-class SSBN, space is at a premium - though the bunks themselves are awesome, basically being the ultimate in entertainment, filled with nearly every TV series, video game, film, and music ever (and can survive in space, if the ship explodes).
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Tuffy, unless, as hinted, he's something even stranger.
  • Squee: Miller's reaction to the first-generation Wyvern armaments; first, the 130 millimeter recoilless rifle, second, to the GAU-11 - the cut-down 4-barrel carbine equivalent to the GAU-8 Avenger.
  • Unusual Euphemism - "Maulk", "Grapp", "Behanchod" (which isn't even Adar - it means "sister fucker" in Hindi), all in place for various curse words.
  • World of Ham: The Space Marines are all full of patriotic "Oo-rah!" spirit.
  • Write Who You Know: Several of the characters, including the COs of both Vorpal Blades, are Barflies (readers of the Baen's Bar forums, in particular the subforum set aside for John Ringo, "Ringo's Tavern"). Some of the characters are even tropers...

Notes

  1. For those not familiar with the idiom, "Mickey Mouse" is also derisively used to refer to silly/stupid stuff, often in the form of "Mickey Mouse shit"
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