The RCN Series (also known as the Lt. Leary series) is a sequence of stand-alone science fiction novels by David Drake. They center around Daniel Leary, an officer in the Republic of Cinnabar Navy (RCN), and Adele Mundy, a librarian and spy. Drake has described it as "an SF version of the Aubrey/Maturin series" by Patrick O'Brian. In contrast to the hardcore military science fiction bent of Drake's Hammer's Slammers series, these novels are more character driven and feature political intrigue as well as battles.
The plots of the novels are based on historical incidents, often from Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome. The prologue of each book includes details of its historical basis.
After discovering the Aubrey/Maturin novels, Drake gave some thought to space opera with two equal but very different characters as protagonists. When David Weber asked Drake for a novella to appear in the first Honorverse anthology, More Than Honor, Drake wrote a story named "A Grand Tour" about a young nobleman and his older, female tutor. Drake, Baen and Weber all liked the story, but Drake, feeling the concept needed a full-length novel to work properly, wrote With the Lightnings, which uses different characters in a similar pairing.
The RCN Series focuses on the intertwined lives of two primary characters. Daniel Leary is a Lieutenant (promoted to Captain in the later novels) in the Republic of Cinnabar Navy, a brilliant strategist, charismatic leader, charmer of women, and also the estranged son of Speaker Corder Leary, a feared, revered and respected member of the planet of Cinnabar's government. Adele Mundy is a librarian with a deep-rooted passion for information and knowledge, which has fueled her unparalleled talents in the areas of information retrieval by any means necessary, including systems infiltration and circumventing information security. Raised in the Cinnabaran aristocracy, Mundy is also an expert pistol shot, a skill useful for surviving and avoiding aristocratic duels.
During an attempt by the totalitarian Alliance of Free Stars to stage a takeover-by-proxy of a Cinnabar ally, Mundy and Leary are pressed together by circumstance in order to serve the interests of their homeworld. Complicating matters is the fact that Mundy is living in exile from Cinnabar, after her family was executed for their part in a nearly successful treason plot against Cinnabar—a string of executions ordered by Daniel's father, Speaker Leary. Nonetheless, Daniel and Adele reach an understanding and eventually a friendship, and along with an extensive cast of characters continue their travels together in service of the RCN, defending against threats from the Alliance and others.
Technology of the RCN universe
Interstellar travel is accomplished through the use of advanced sails on the hull of starships, which take advantage of a fictional radiation to move the crafts outside of the sidereal universe, allowing faster-than-light travel. Sublight-speed travel is driven by a matter-antimatter annihilating "High Drive". Use of the High Drive in an atmosphere results in catastrophic reactions with unspent antimatter from the drive, so for intra-atmospheric operations, ships use plasma motors that vent reaction mass (water) from the fusion engines into rocket nozzles.
Hand and vehicle weapons are generally based on electromagnetic acceleration of projectiles, while space weaponry consists of kinetic energy missiles accelerated to a high fraction of c (thereby rendering any warhead superfluous) and point defense plasma systems. In addition to point defense, the ship-mounted plasma systems are used for close range or atmospheric ship-to-ship combat. In atmosphere, the kinetic missiles are unusable, due to their utilization of the matter-antimatter High Drive.
As of 2019, the series consists of thirteen novels. The first book is available as an ebook via the Baen Free Library, and the first six can be read by downloading a ZIP archive of the free CD image included in hardcover copies of the sixth book.
|Publication order||Chronology order||Title||Year||ISBN||Summary||Notes|
|1||1||With the Lightnings||1998||ISBN 0-671-57886-3||While on Kostroma as a very junior lieutenant in Cinnabar's navy, Leary escapes a coup that was engineered by Alliance spies, and meets Adele Mundy.|
|2||2||Lt. Leary, Commanding||2000||ISBN 0-671-57875-8||Leary is given command of the ship he captured at Kostroma. Falsified orders cause him to take on board a young man being held hostage by Cinnabar's government.|
|3||3||The Far Side of the Stars||2003||ISBN 0-7434-7158-X||Peace has broken out. Leary and Mundy allow the ship to be leased by backwater nobles who are searching for a historical treasure.|
|4||4||The Way to Glory||2005||ISBN 0-7434-9882-8||Leary's estranged father tries to get his son to take vengeance on a commander who executed an officer believed to be Leary's illegitimate half-brother.|
|5||5||Some Golden Harbor||2006||ISBN 978-1-4165-2080-1||Leary's patron in the service retires, and the new chief of the Navy sends him to a backwater to stop an Alliance invasion of a barbaric planet.|
|6||6||When the Tide Rises||2008||ISBN 978-1-4165-5527-8||Leary is sent to a backwater system to stabilize its government. Having done so, he stops the Alliance from overwhelming a Cinnabar task force holding an important waypoint planet.|
|7||7||In the Stormy Red Sky||2009||ISBN 978-1-4165-9159-7||Leary transports a Cinnabar Senator as an ambassador to an allied star nation only to find the new leader is favoring the Alliance ambassador's offer of alliance instead.|
|8||8||What Distant Deeps||2010||ISBN 978-1-4391-3366-8||Brilliant and brave starship captain Daniel Leary and ace spy Adele Mundy confront a pirate plot and once again save the Republic of Cinnabar despite itself.|
|9||9||The Road of Danger||2012||ISBN 978-1-4516-3815-8||Captain Daniel Leary with his friend—and spy—Officer Adele Mundy are sent to a quiet sector to carry out an easy task: helping the local admiral put down a coup before it takes place. But then the jealous admiral gets rid of them by sending them off on a wild goose chase to a sector where commerce is king and business is carried out by extortion and gunfights.|
|10||10||The Sea Without a Shore||2014||ISBN 978-1-4767-3639-6||Leary transports a treasure hunter to a planet at war, while Adele must deal with the leader there who is blackmailing the Leary Family.|
|11||11||Death's Bright Day||2016||ISBN 978-1-4767-8147-1||"Captain Daniel Leary thinks that his marriage will allow him to slip into the quiet role of a naval officer in peacetime. His friend, the spy and cybrarian Adele Mundy, is content to be collating data in her library. But high officials of both superpowers are involved! Those who want Daniel and Adele to become involved in the Tarbell Stars claim that only they can prevent a war between the Republic of Cinnabar and its great rival, the Alliance of Free Stars. The conflict is political, but at the sharp end it means blazing warfare and cold-blooded murder. Daniel and Adele will be at the sharp end."||Contemporaneous timeline with Though Hell Should Bar The Way|
|12||12||Though Hell Should Bar The Way||2018||ISBN 978-1-4814-8313-1||Roy Olfetrie planned to be an officer in the Republic of Cinnabar Navy, but when his father was unmasked as a white-collar criminal he had to take whatever he was offered. What is offered turns out to be a chance to accompany Captain Daniel Leary and Lady Adele Mundy as they go off to start a war that will put Roy at the sharp end.||Contemporaneous timeline with Death's Bright Day|
|13||13||To Clear Away the Shadows||2019||ISBN 978-1-4814-8402-2||The truce between Cinnabar and the Alliance is holding, and the Republic of Cinnabar Navy is able to explore regions of the galaxy without the explorers being swept up in great power conflict. The exploration ship The Far Traveller and its crew is sent to map new areas and it turns out have new adventures.
- Baen.com, "The Roads to the RCN Series" Archived March 24, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, David Drake, 2012 (accessed March 22, 2012)
- "What's the connection between the novella A Grand Tour and the RCN series?", David Drake, May 2010
- Prologue to With the Lightnings, David Drake, July 1998
- "Copy of CD from When the Tide Rises". Baen. Retrieved January 28, 2013.
- "Lt. Leary Series" at Baen Ebooks; includes a link to a free copy of the first book.
- Direct link to first novel at the Baen Free Library