Charles E. Gannon

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Charles E. Gannon (born March 17, 1960) is a novelist and a game designer, who has worked primarily on hard science fiction and role-playing games.


Fire with Fire (2013)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Baen ISBN 978-1-4767-3632-7 (February 2016), 2nd printing
Nominated for the 2014 Nebula Award for Best Novel
All italics as in the book
  • So what you are characterizing as conspiracy is merely an unfortunate coincidence.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 93)
  • No: the answer you like the most is the one you should trust the least. Go over the evidence one more time: be sure you haven’t missed something.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 129)
  • If, fourteen years ago, he had entertained secret hopes of leaving a discernible, enduring mark on the legacy of humankind, he was now fully disabused of them.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 153)
  • I’m sure that’s quite witty, but I have no idea what you mean.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 156)
  • “Corporal, I’m in charge here—”
    “Doctor, you are in charge here. But this assault rifle has a special veto power, if you get my drift.”
    • Chapter 12 (p. 158)
  • A sense of humor—bitter or otherwise—is the hallmark of a survivor.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 185)
  • Only the good die young, so I’m destined to be immortal, I guess.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 206)
  • “There are only three variables governing the outcome of any given situation. Power—political, economic, military, whatever. Intelligence—the information you have and how cleverly you use it. And chance.”
    “And that’s it?”
    “That’s it. Leaders get themselves too tangled up when they fail to break a situation—any situation—back down to those basics. Or when they forget the fundamental differences between the three variables.”
    • Chapter 25 (p. 290)
  • You’re the military analyst, writer, historian: you, above all people, should know that those who decline to take a hand in controlling events surrender the ability to influence them.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 303)
  • The EMTs were accompanied by a smattering of suit-and-sunglass security types who were about as unobtrusive as a flock of condors in a day-care center.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 312)
  • You’re very cheery. Too cheery. So I’m guessing today’s news is bad.
    • Chapter 29 (p. 330)
  • Careful now: just the way you rehearsed it. Use as much truth as possible: that’s how you’ll get away with the lies.
    • Chapter 30 (p. 340)
  • “So—I’m a major. New pay grade.” She laughed. “My salary has just jumped from nothing to next-to-nothing. What will I spend it all on?”
    • Chapter 33 (p. 378)
  • “And saying that doesn’t get you in trouble, does it?”
    His smile broadened. “Nope. Not a bit.” He straightened up, stuck out his hand. “I’m glad I was able to come and give you the inside scoop on—absolutely nothing. And on the people who have absolutely nothing to do with it.”
    Caine smiled. “Your failure to impart any information has been very illuminating.”
    • Chapter 35 (p. 397)
  • What gives with him? Does he take jerk pills?
    • Chapter 38 (p. 423)

Trial by Fire (2014)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Baen ISBN 978-1-4767-8077-1 (September 2015)
Nominated for the 2015 Nebula Award for Best Novel
  • Besides being grossly unprofessional and misinformed, just why is that a relevant inquiry?
    • Chapter 1 (p. 7)
  • If there are any competent journalists here, I’m ready for their inquiries.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 7)
  • It’s bad enough that you’re plying a trade for which you haven’t the aptitude or integrity, but you could at least check your conclusion against the facts.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 10)
  • “Caine has a serious flaw when it comes to working for the government.”
    “Which is?”
    “Well, he has this real bad habit of telling the truth.”
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 26-27)
  • I find it interesting how many of you, when watching a plan go awry, are so blinded by your frustration that you are unable to learn from what you have witnessed.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 43)
  • “Damn,” muttered Opal, staring after him, “guess he flunked charm school.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 109)
  • That means we have nothing to shoot at, no efficacious response. So we do something pointless. And we feel better.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 256)
  • The total lack of information is a kind of information in itself.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 364)
  • You gotta remember that in war, you’re not deciding between the bad thing to and the good thing. You’re choosing between the bad and the worse. And you can’t control the shit that happens after you choose.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 402)
  • Sometimes, thinking just didn’t do any good, didn’t provide any answers. Because for some questions—such as the arbitrariness of life and death during wartime—there weren’t any answers.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 402)
  • “You must remind yourself—hourly—that Caine Riordan is but one human. He is an aberration among them, a flicker of conscience that his own megacorporate kin would have extinguished if he had not run far and fast. Do not let his noble deed seduce you into thinking the rest of his race are capable of something similar….”
    “And Riordan himself. What do I tell him?”
    “Hu’urs Khraam looked at Darzhee Kut closely. “Tell him that his deed was noble and we are grateful for it. And, if you think he is ready to hear it, you should also tell him that we can already measure how much his deed will change the outcome of this war.”
    “Really? How much?”
    “Not at all.”
    • Chapter 32 (p. 479; ellipsis represents a brief elision for the sake of continuity)
  • The only proper course of action regarding humanity was to leave it alone, and, if possible, isolate it. Just as one would handle any other sophont that was quite irremediably and dangerously insane.
    • Chapter 40 (p. 577)
  • “Stosh, you are insane.”
    “I am inspired. They are frequently confused.”
    • Chapter 47 (p. 668)
  • “You are a traitor to your own race, servitor.”
    “No. I am its true servant, because the prerequisite of success is a ruthlessly clear understanding of reality, of the facts with which we must contend. Without that, all plans begin in error, and so, they must end in disaster.”
    • Chapter 50 (pp. 722-723)
  • Richard, we have fallen into the common trap of seeing ourselves at the center of the universe: all that goes on around us somehow has us as its subject and raison d’etre. But in reality, all the events, all the plans, all the acts we interpret as intentionally malign—or benign—to us may, in fact, have almost nothing to do with our species.
    • Chapter 54 (p. 784)
  • You are to be congratulated on your talent for deception.
    • Chapter 55 (p. 792)
  • Zkhee’ah Drur the Elder had once observed that while one is yet alive to complain of misfortune, the greatest of all misfortunes has not yet occurred. But this turn of affairs seemed very close to disproving that ancient axiom.
    • Chapter 55 (p. 799)
  • Beings that can laugh at themselves, particularly their own foibles, stand the greatest chance of attaining wisdom.
    • Chapter 56 (p. 814)
  • Nice bluff—but I was born on the planet that invented poker.
    • Chapter 57 (p. 840)
  • Human social evolution is unique in that your race has achieved the maximum, even optimum, balance of violent aggression and social cohesion. Again, consider your recent past. What other race could teeter so long, and yet not topple over, the brink of nuclear self-extermination? And all in the name of ideals, which were simply the facades behind which you hid your national prejudices, racial fears, and innate savagery.
    • Chapter 57 (p. 844)
  • And in the time it had taken to reflect upon the significance of the moment, the moment was past. That was, after all, the nature of moments.
    • Chapter 57 (p. 851)
  • “So nothing has really changed.”
    “Sometimes, when your adversary is trying to precipitate dramatic change, stability is the best victory.”
    • Chapter 57 (p. 852)

Raising Caine (2015)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Baen ISBN 978-1-4767-8195-2 (October 2016), 1st printing
Nominated for the 2016 Nebula Award for Best Novel
All italics as in the book
  • “Did he just wink?” whispered Downing.
    “If not, he developed a very timely facial tic,” Caine replied.
    • Chapter 5 (pp. 57-58)
  • Where greed is great, corruption is simple.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 101)
  • They are not speculating upon the mysteries behind us, only upon the possibilities before us.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 121)
  • I know it’s human nature to want to draw conclusions, but I distrust straight-line projections when we only have two data points.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 122)
  • Most of my professors can’t see the wider forest of meaning because they’ve become obsessed with a few mostly meaningless trees.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 200)
  • “The megacorporations have a long history of mining antigovernment organizations for support. They throw a lot of money at them: sometimes directly, sometimes through plausibly deniable proxies.”
    Hwang screwed up his face. “And do these groups really join forces with the megacorporations? They’re far more autocratic than nation-states.”
    Caine shook his head. “It’s not a direct alliance. But the megas aren’t really looking for cocombatants against ‘the tyranny of nations.’ They’re just funding grassroots resistance to national authority.”
    • Chapter 23 (p. 294)
  • But then again, discipline and its trappings—ranks, protocols, traditions—did not define the difference between a soldier and a civilian. The difference was in outlook. Brilliant civilian researcher Hirano Mizuki stared into the shadowy reaches of alien underbrush and saw no reason for caution. Caine, on the other hand, saw an unguarded perimeter in unexplored terrain that might conceal unknown threats.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 393)
  • Veriden cut an annoyed glance at Riordan but said nothing; he suspected that even she saw the irony in starting an argument over whether she was argumentative.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 406)
  • Look: nations screw up like people do; sometimes they mean well, sometimes they’re selfish or delusional bitches on a spree, and sometimes they just plain make mistakes. But the megacorporations don’t make mistakes; if they do damage, it’s because they like the cost-to-benefit ratios, dead innocents notwithstanding. Nations are bulls in the global china shop; corporations are sharks.
    • Chapter 51 (p. 664)

Caine's Mutiny (2017)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Baen ISBN 978-1-4814-8317-9 (April 2018), 1st printing
All italics and ellipses as in the book
  • Well, so be it. Today we only have time for the truth. Battles are won by facts and physics, not self-congratulatory ideology.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 63)
  • Your arrogant self-importance is complicating your perception of what is a very simple matter.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 81)
  • Bigotry was not only invulnerable to the appeals of logic and deduction; it was often blind to counterproofs such as those Yaargraukh had just witnessed.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 130)
  • They still grumbled, of course, but never within his earshot. Besides, grumbling was the true anthem of every military unit that had ever existed. And their current grumbling was simply aimless grousing about the food, the cramped quarters, and anything else that struck them as modestly annoying. It was, in summary, both a harmless and timeless bonding ritual.
    • Chapter 14 (pp. 197-198)
  • “If there’s a chance to talk our way out of a fight, this is the moment. Once blood is spilled, it becomes an Honor issue. Finding a way back to a parley would be difficult and highly unlikely.”
    “Yeah, I heard about that crap,” Karam muttered. “Scuttlebutt is that once Honor is involved, they become bushido bear-aardvarks beating their horse chests and making much ado about nothing.”
    • Chapter 23 (p. 305)
  • Well, no plan survives contact with reality and today is no exception.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 314)
  • If the motivation was simple greed, then that was a promising target for development as an agent inside the enemy’s camp. Greed was not only a predictable impulse, but was an indicator of the dependability of the individual being suborned. It was overwhelmingly associated with profoundly self-centered egos and values.
    • Chapter 30 (p. 420)
  • “We need no technological assistance. Hkh’Rkh capabilities and engineering is unsurpassed.”
    Yaargraukh managed to keep his tongue from writing out in a spasm of grim hilarity. “I have heard others say the same thing.”
    “And your response to them?”
    “That their empty rhetoric is delusional lunacy spoken as truth.”
    • Chapter 31 (pp. 436-437)
  • Riordan stared. “Your…media…really advertised things like, uh, canned vegetables named after mythical monsters?”
    Paulsen shook his head. “You wouldn’t believe what our media did, on occasion.”
    • Chapter 32 (p. 451)
  • All enlightenment begins in ignorance and humility. This place has been a constant instruction in both.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 473)
  • “So,” sighed Rulaine, “we’re pretty much screwed.”
    Yaargraukh’s black eyes stared. “I do not understand your expression—‘screwed?’ This is a carpentry metaphor?”
    Bannor almost smiled. “Not exactly.”
    • Chapter 38 (p. 536)
  • Idrem sensed Brenlor swinging toward the rash reactivity that the Srin often mistook for decisive action when confronted with a crisis.
    • Chapter 40 (p. 555)
  • “You think she’ll make it?”
    “She should. Unless something else goes wrong.”
    Tsaami’s tone was sour. “Caine: this is a battlefield. Something else always goes wrong.”
    To which Riordan had no ready response. After all, Karam was right.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 581)
  • “On the surface, it’s crazy, right?”
    “It’s crazy down beyond the surface, too,” Dora affirmed.
    • Chapter 47 (p. 643)
  • “How would you answer their demand for justice and vengeance?”
    “I would begin by insisting that justice and vengeance are different. Vengeance is often blind to reason: all it can see is the object it hates. Conversely, justice is blind to our preferences and prejudices; all it may see are the deeds and the conditions under which they were carried out.”
    • Chapter 55 (p. 753)
  • “I do not disagree with you, Bannor Rulaine. But in my culture, when tradition is challenged by law, the law is often twisted, construed, and reconstrued until it can be made to conform with tradition. I believe your word for this is teleology: where a result is decided before the process debate or discovery is initiated.”
    O’Garran snorted. “Fancy word for saying, ‘they’re going to have it their way, no matter what.’”
    • Chapter 57 (p. 789)
  • “Would anyone, even low-breeds, be so ingenuous to believe such a tale?”
    “Remarkably, yes. Their power to believe what they wish, if not given incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, is rather astonishing.”
    • Chapter 64 (p. 902)
  • That’s one thing I’ve noticed about war, Richard: there’s always more than enough irony to go around.
    • Chapter 67 (p. 930)
  • “You would have been quite pleased if Hitler had won World War II. That would have made your job easier for you.” Sukhinin, whose family was said to have suffered horribly in his nations Great Patriotic War against the Nazis, wore a smile that was more reminiscent of bared teeth.
    Shethkador’s reply was almost casual. “Of course we would have preferred that outcome. You would have been preacculturated to our ways.”
    Downing raised an eyebrow. “So Adolf Hitler is your idea of an ubermensch?”
    “Hitler? A superior being? Fate, no. Do not mistake our approval of the ethos of a regime for admiration of its leader. Hitler was a weak, superstitious amateur whose profound insecurities and absolute in ability to perceive himself accurately ultimately caused the downfall of his project.”
    “How so?”
    “Is it not obvious? Firstly, he surrounded himself with those like himself; fanatics who were also cranks, individuals whose personal derangements or need for rationalizing their own inferiority led them to a psychopathic projection of their own feelings onto others. The true object of their exterminations was what they most feared and loathed in themselves; weakness, insufficiency, flaccidity, cowardice. They could not admit this, of course, so they protected the roots of their self-hatred by ensuring that these traits were not the overt criteria upon which their social extirpations were based. Rather, they demonized specific groups and then attributed these treats to them, thereby amplifying the political appeal of their movement by invoking traditional prejudices and stereotypes through suitably crafted propaganda.”
    • Chapter 69 (pp. 954-955)
  • “Virodok!” exclaimed Sukhinin, who sounded short of breath. “Do you monsters hold nothing dear beyond yourselves?”
    “No, we do not, and that is the source of our power: to reject the delusion that any human, anywhere, at any time, actually does anything or feels anything that they believe is not, at some level, in their own interest.”
    • Chapter 69 (pp. 959-960)
  • “Your rabble’s one unifying cry will be that there must be retribution. Most will call this ‘justice.’ A few of the most intemperate will also be the most honest; they will call it ‘revenge.’”
    • Chapter 69 (p. 961)
  • After all, an agent on the inside of a rival organization was always worth more, operationally speaking, than a loyal servitor in one’s own.
    • Chapter 70 (p. 978)
  • He is young—well, younger—and idealistic. Which is to say, foolish.
    • Chapter 71 (p. 985)
  • “It seems to me that you counted on the idiom of speech to mislead the Ambassador, to invite him to presume that they were not interested in hearing your discourse.”
    Riordan shrugged. “Guilty as charged. But there is a big difference between lying and using language that will trick the incautious. More importantly though, if the Ktor are going to wholly ignore the rules of fair and honest communication, then I’d say we’re on pretty firm ethical ground if we simply decide to play by the letter, not the spirit, of those rules.”
    • Chapter 71 (p. 992)
  • Battles are lost because a combatant stops fighting too soon; wars are lost because a combatant does not stop fighting soon enough.
    • Chapter 71 (pp. 996-97)
  • “Caine, neither of us has a choice in this matter. The orders must be obeyed. The full truth of what you found, of what your troops know and can testify to, is too destabilizing. It’s a delicate time, Caine. You, more than anyone else, should understand that.”
    “I do understand. I understand that the time has come to stop managing information and concealing the truth.”
    • Chapter 72 (p. 1011)
  • And here are the wages you must pay in order to climb the political ladder, you foolish sod. You’ve got to do the dirty work that others have ordered. I’ve done it out of dubious patriotism. Let’s see if you’ll do it out of blind ambition.
    • Chapter 73 (p. 1020)

Marque of Caine (2019)[edit]

All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Baen ISBN 978-1-9821-2467-0 (June 2020), 1st printing
Nominated for the 2020 Nebula Award for Best Novel
All italics as in the book
  • No matter which images of battle and carnage came to haunt him, no matter which specific terror rose up through them, the lessons they rehearsed were always the same:
    There’s no such thing as certainty.
    Control is an illusion.
    Death and destruction descend the moment you forget to watch for them.

    That was what two years of intermittent war had taught him. And once you learned those lessons, you didn’t just remember them: you lived them, moment to moment.
    • Chapter 1 (pp. 6-7)
  • And over the many months that followed, as Caine crept through both terrestrial and alien undergrowth on missions to reclaim some of the autonomy humanity had lost, he learned and relearned the prime lesson in common to all the shocks:
    That all assumptions, like all plans, or never more than a second away from a catastrophic collision with reality.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 7)
  • The reality, both now and historically, was that whatever the future held, change was always uneven in distribution and irregular in timing.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 20)
  • “Damn it, Dad. You make me crazy.”
    “That’s part of my job as a parent. If I read the manual correctly.”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 47)
  • Your conjecture is reasonable but inaccurate.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 135)
  • You are impetuous. But then again, you are human.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 197)
  • “You mean, control my instincts?”
    “No, most of your species can learn to do that. The true challenge is whether you can control your predisposition to assume moral equivalencies where none exist.”
    • Chapter 21 (p. 201)
  • These matters should incite more urgent investigation than the technology you arrogated from your attackers. But like most primitive cultures, your reflex is one of stimulus and response: to focus entirely on the issues and actions of the moment.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 207)
  • “Is Glamqoozht just a place name or does it mean something?”
    “It translates imperfectly as Council Hub.”
    Riordan was guardedly hopeful. “Sounds like it’s a place to get questions answered and decisions made.” Unless, of course, it was like human capitals.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 244)
  • Riordan surveyed the scene again. Knowing that it could not be other than perfect made it seem less remarkable, much in the way a constructed vista in a theme park could never quite compare with a less perfect one discovered in nature. This was merely a technological achievement, and the price of its perpetual perfection was its inability to inspire a sense of grandeur.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 247)
  • I guess that, living in a sanitized world, you’ve forgotten this basic lesson: if you want to stay free or stay alive, never play by your opponent’s rules. Particularly when your opponent is more powerful than you are. Do the unexpected. Turn on your pursuer. Attack the attacker.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 275)
  • “I could offer considerable inducements. I can arrange for a new mate who is, in all meaningful measures, superior to the one you are currently pursuing. You look unimpressed. Ah, multiple mates, then? Within reason, I am quite certain I can procure—”
    Riordan was careful to keep his interruption calm. “I am not interested in other mates.”
    “Ah. Well. I am also able to provide you with material riches. I believe your species persists in its obsession with gold? To use your idiom, I would pay you handsomely for any successful breeding activity. Even if you do not wish to stay afterward.”
    Riordan forced his molars to unclench.
    Uinzleej moved on to his next offer. “What else—ah! Many of your species enjoy hunting. This world is full of creatures you may kill for your gratification.”
    • Chapter 37 (p. 347)
  • Stupid creatures tend to be stubborn creatures.
    • Chapter 40 (p. 378)
  • Whose tutelage led you into those fishless waters?
    • Chapter 41 (p. 385)
  • “Aren’t you even going to wish me luck?”
    “We do not believe in luck, Caine Riordan. However, I wish enlightenment unto you. In every passing second.”
    • Chapter 41 (p. 386)
  • It was the oldest, most primal fear of humankind, inculcated by eons of brutal lessons which, titrated down into their purest form, became age’s invariable advice to youth: beware the things and places you do not know.Because out there, beyond the flickering ring of the tribal fire, on the unlit streets of concrete cities, in the unending depths of space—there lay an unquantifiable, unbounded potential for death.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 397)
  • Riordan almost smiled. “You sound like another historian I know.”
    “Historian?” She stiffened. “I am an observer. I do not claim to convey a unified story, just the pieces for which I have data.”
    • Chapter 43 (p. 405)
  • “Whatever destiny we assign to ourselves also defines our doom. It is there, lurking, waiting, from the instantiation of sentience. It is the antipodal defect of the virtue we call ‘foresight.’”
    • Chapter 44 (p. 411)
  • “It is in the nature of social creatures to crave approval and approbation, to build a temple out of what they have told themselves they are and must be.”
    Oduosslun stared at Riordan. “Reject that reflex. Reject the simplistic narrative. Reject the opiating allure of presuming you know your own destiny. Rather, embrace the ineluctable truth that you are not preordained saviors in the midst of a mythic cycle, any more than we were the guardians and guarantors of civilization. Like us, you are simply another species living out the consequences of what came before.”
    • Chapter 44 (p. 413)
  • Human, do you derive some strange pleasure by using different words to reiterate the same misperceptions?
    • Chapter 47 (p. 441)
  • When such leaders act in opposition to their sworn duties, they compound injustice with disgrace.
    • Chapter 52 (p. 504)
  • Worse yet, he still had to remind himself that sensations—such as tonight’s skin-cooling sea breeze—were just a blizzard of electric impulses, tricking his brain, his nerves.
    Which, he had begun to fear, might not just be the endgame for Dornaani civilization. It could be in humanity’s future as well. Conceivably, those seeds were latent in electricity itself. Given how it ultimately expanded each individual’s sphere of contact and control, its utility was inseparable from the allure of its power. We summon heat and light without having to create it ourselves. We communicate across continents and oceans. We operate machines that labor in our stead. We keep opponents at a safe distance with remote sensors and drones. Is that how the long, subtle slide into speciate senescence began, that the more a species distanced itself from direct action, the more unfamiliar the natural environment became?
    • Chapter 53 (p. 512)
  • Weiner-Kutkh waved airily. “I seem to have been born lucky.”
    “Said every cheater who’s ever lived,” Caine retorted.
    • Chapter 55 (p. 535)
  • In the face of crisis, I will choose unauthorized action over disastrous inaction.
    • Chapter 63 (p. 605)

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