I’ve started getting hit with questions about the Lines of Thunder Universe and how to read these books: “Does it matter which story I read first?” “Why are you writing everything out of order?” “What’s wrong with you?”
Here are the most frequently asked questions and answers:
The Lines of Thunder Universe is a far future, hard science fiction storyverse that revolves mostly around a long-lasting, continent-spanning trench war called the eternal front. You can find these books on Amazon by searching “trench war in space.”
There is no proper order! Every book in the Universe is standalone, even the short stories.
Though they have crossover characters and each story supports the others, the books all happen at different places on the timeline. You can read any book you want and get the story. You can read the books in any order you want and still be able to put things together.
It’s not only more fun to tell stories this way, it’s also because I’m not very organized. Maybe it’s easier on readers, too. Rather than being marketed into a story pipeline, readers can start wherever they want.
It seems to be easier for Amazon if they’re organized sequentially. The Lines of Thunder books are a collection of stories in the same world, but since the stories need to show up next to each other in Amazon listings they’re displayed as a series. Since Amazon is the biggest bookstore and I’m chasing readers, it was best to list the books sequentially.
It’s only a problem if the books aren’t really a sequential series.
As an example, The Vorgosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold, was once a bunch of standalones. At the end of each book was a long note by Lois explaining “there is no real order to these” and then giving tips about which book to read next, depending on the readers’ interests.
The last time I checked Amazon, the Vorgosigan books now have numbers. Maybe it’s easier on fans this way – but it will take a braver reader than me to dive blindly into book #11 of a series I know nothing about. New Vorgosigan readers are now being funneled into Book 1, and if they don’t happen to love that book enough to continue, they will miss out on piles of amazing stories later in the series.
In order of occurrence (on the planet), the books go:
- What the Thunder Said
- The Shaping Trip (short story, coming soon)
- Lines of Thunder (short novel)
- The Eternal Front (See the Book’s Site)
- Echoes of Thunder (in development)
Nobody asked this, but I already wrote some answers.
- Want a short, violent adventure with about three paragraphs of romance near the end? Try Lines of Thunder.
- Want something immersive and long, with much more violence and multiple characters? Try The Eternal Front.
- Somewhere between the first two is What the Thunder Said. It’s about a clever, damaged female researcher who visits the eternal front, confronts its violence, and then accidentally takes it over.
There are more stories written and they’ll all be the same when they publish: Start wherever you like. No commitment. Violence.
The Lines of Thunder Universe books take place at the edge of civilized space, just at the border of the multi-species accord called CivGov.
The Grigory system has a long and dismal history, its fourth planet having been host to failed colonization attempts by races such as the High Spetsa, the Daggies, and most recently, the humans from the Haphan Imperium. The Haphans are still hanging on but it’s tenuous and they’re getting desperate. No matter what they try, this isolated colony of the Haphan Empire is always just months away from being defeated and overrun.
The reason all the colonies on Grigory IV decline into barbarism and ultimately disappear is the indigenous human population: the cheerful, friendly, homicidal Tachba.
Thousands of years before these books, some advanced, currently unknown race called the Antecessors had gene-twisted a population of humans to make them into a disposable, fast-breeding army for some long-past interstellar war. When the war was over, these Tachba were marooned on Grigory IV and left to fester. Century over century, the Tachba turned ever more impulsive, violent, and prone to madness:
The genetic modifications passed from generation to generation without guidance, so some effects magnified over time while others shrank. There was no predicting the changes, and no way to control them. The Tachba called it the Pollution, and it emerged in unanticipated, conflicted ways.
It was more than just the appalling birth rate, the unearthly reflexes, the fast recovery from wounds, and the tolerance for suffering. The Pollution affected the very minds of the Tachba; it changed their interior thoughts. In addition to the emotional dampeners and the in-born ability with weapons, there were the ancient servitor controls, buried deep in the mind with shoddy rigging. The instinct to give service, the willingness to follow any authoritative voice, the ease with which rumor became truth.
— The Eternal Front
The Lines of Thunder Universe books are about basic human desire. The Tachba struggle against their Pollution and yearn to have complete self-control and accountability. The Haphans struggle for their very survival to keep the Tachba in servitude, which costs them all their self-respect, but they still hope to be the ‘good guys’.