Dominant Species (novel)

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Dominant Species
First edition cover art by Greg deSantis
AuthorMichael E. Marks
Cover artistGreg deSantis
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction novel
Publication date
October 2009
Media typeKindle (Kindle)
Pages326 pp

Dominant Species is a bestselling military science fiction novel by Michael E. Marks. It builds on depictions of powered armor as a military technology established first in Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers and subsequently in John Steakley's Armor, but concentrates more than earlier titles on the portrayal of both armor and weapon systems as extrapolations of actual military programs currently in development.

It was first published on the Kindle eBook platform in October 2009.

Plot summary[edit]

Dominant Species is the story of six Marines who are part of a special operations unit that employs powered armor technology. The initial focus revolves around an exigent conflict with human separatists on a distant colony planet. The story diverts abruptly when events trap the Marines in a series of caverns where they encounter a long-buried starship. While attempting to maintain a focus on escape, the lack of alternate resources draws the Marines into the ship and its mysterious past. They encounter a wholly inhuman species that triggers a race against not only a lethal opponent but also mounting injuries and diminishing resources.


The protagonist is Major Dan Ridgeway, the leader of a USMC Rapid Assault Team, or RAT squad. Ridgeway carries a heavy personal burden from a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" decision that won him official acclaim early in his military career. Ridgeway's squad is deployed to a distant planet where workers at a lucrative and strategically critical mining operation have seceded and aligned with an opposing government. The key to reclaiming the facility intact lies in a surgical strike against a deep-underground reactor that powers the ground-based defense systems. Employing an unorthodox means of infiltrating the outer defenses, the RAT squad's powered armor allows them to carve a straight line to the reactor and affix explosives to its hull. Their egress is impeded by stiff resistance and as time runs out, Ridgeway opts for a last-ditch means of survival in the face of the reactor's imminent detonation.

The avenue of escape leaves the Marines stranded in an even deeper series of frozen caverns below the reactor level. Searching for a means of escape and a safe environment to deal with injuries, they discover two things: that one member of the opposing military force, a lowly truck driver, has inadvertently fallen along with the Marines, and of far greater impact that an immense starship pitched on her side kilometers below the planet's surface. Despite the immediately obvious mystery, Ridgeway maintains a firm "not our job to solve mysteries" focus and views the ship only as a means to address his team's survival. Viewing the driver as a potential source of information, they bring him along and enter the ship to grapple with extracting the means to repair, refit and escape.

After considerable effort and several life-threatening encounters created entirely by the hazardous environment, the Marines restore limited power within the ship and in so doing begin to unravel pieces of her history and a remarkable technology that saves the life of the driver, Jenner, and Darcy, a member of Ridgeway's team. But it quickly becomes obvious that more than just the power has re-awakened on the ship. While pursuing a means of reaching the surface, the Marines are with increasing frequency and intensity engaged in ways that stress them to the breaking point.

Discovering evidence of what appears to be a horrific atrocity against the ship's original crew, the weight of Ridgeway's longstanding internal burden and the need to save his team come into alignment on a path that cuts directly through the alien species. What remains is a series of blistering firefights, personal sacrifices and displays of both loyalty and frailty that lead to the book's ultimate conclusion.

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