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I'm reasonably sure this was a book series that I read in the 80s.

It's set on Earth post alien invasion, the planet is being mined heavily and humans now live a very basic existence.

Scenes I remember;

  • an alien installation is destroyed with a missile printed with USAF
  • a human captured by the alien is captured and stuffed and mounted
  • the aliens have drones that are part machine/part animal
  • one of the higher up aliens meets the protagonist for 1v1 combat
  • the aliens keep referring to humans as "rats"; their translator has no word for human
  • after the protagonist wins his fight the aliens decide they're done with Earth
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    The related links section suggested this question which also has the humans called rats because they have no word for human - is it the same book, Douglas Hill's Alien Citadel? If so, good work on the algorithm, SE devs. Jul 13 at 8:42
  • I was very disappointed when I read the question. Based on the title, I thought the aliens were the ones being exploited after they invaded Earth. Now that would have been a fun read! :D
    – MrGumble
    Jul 14 at 10:08

3 Answers 3

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This is definitely the Huntsman series by Douglas Hill. I only have books one and three of the series, but I've been able to find matches for several of your points.

In the first book we are told the Slavers have come to Earth to mine it:

One things he failed to learn was the origin of the Slavers – what other world they came from. But to Finn, who knew nothing of space travel or other planets, it was a meaningless question. He was far more interested in something Baer had found out – what it was that had brought the Slavers to Earth.
“They’re dead set on metals,” Baer told him. It seemed that most of the smaller Slaver bases were built on or near some source of special metals, left from the Forgotten Time. Not natural ores, but metal that had been worked, or created, by the ancient humans who had built that glittering and unnatural civilization, and then had destroyed it.
“There’s lots of that stuff around,” Baer went on, “only the wilds’ve covered it, an’ you gotta dig some to get at it. That’s what the Slavers do, a lotta the time – dig. Usin’ their machines, or their slaves, or both.”

Destroying the base with a USAF missile happens at the end of the first book:

Silently he moved round the vault, peering at the cases, squeezing behind them to examine the metal walls, by touch more than sight. The cases themselves were mysteries, even when a stray moonbeam slanted in from the tunnel mouth and spotlighted a printed word, faintly visible on the outside of one case – USAF.
It was not a word that held meaning for Finn. Nor did the contents of one of the cases, whose lid he found loosened by corrosion. Long, heavy, cylindrical objects of dark metal, with other odd words printed on them. What, he wondered idly, had ‘Thermal Grenade Launcher’ meant to the men of the distant past?
...
Finn was never to know precisely what had been stored in the vault, in those cases marked USAF. But there was no doubt his wish – that they held some kind of weapon – was answered.
The half-melted case erupted in a volcanic blast of light and fire. The shock of the explosion hurled Finn backwards, deeper into the tunnel, and flung the Bloodkin and Slavers in tangled heaps across the floor of the vault. And then they vanished, into crushing blackness.
The force of the explosion finished the job that time had begun on the weakened metal of the vault. In a thunderous, bellowing cascade, the entire vault collapsed inward, burying Bloodkin and Slavers alike under tons of earth and ruptured metal.

The reference to the slavers calling humans rats is in the third book:

So, Finn realized, no matter what he said or did, Cacinnix would always see him and other humans as little rats. Little verminous creatures, to be captured, put to work, tormented, experimented on and casually killed, without a second thought.
The alien was turning away, still talking in that idle manner, as if to himself. But now the words were like ice-cold steel, stabbing into Finn. “That will do for now,” the alien was saying. “There are other duties to attend to before the night’s rest. Tomorrow, I will spend the day with little Finn, make him speak some more, learn all that I can about him. And then perhaps I will cut him open, and see if he is formed differently from other rats.”

In the penultimate chapter of the last book the main protagonist Finn fights the slaver Cacinnix. Finn loses and is about to be killed when Cacinnix suffocates because the air is too dry:

The great head swung, and the purple-black eyes fixed on to the gaping hole where the grating on the ventilation tunnel had been.
“No!” Cacinnix croaked again, fear and fury in his gobbling voice. Twitching, staggering, the alien raised one vast foot, to bring it crushingly down on Finn, where he lay dazed and gasping.
But that final, vengeful attack was not completed. The monster tried to cry out, but the sound was only a grating, wheezing rasp. And then Cacinnix swayed, and stumbled – and toppled backwards like a felled tree.
For a moment more, the huge hands scrabbled feebly at the wrinkled throat. But then they fell away, limp and lifeless. And the deep purple-black of the eyes faded, until finally they were as blank and colourless as glass.
Baer moved painfully and warily forward, finding his machete, then peering down at the giant corpse. “Choked to death,” he said wonderingly. “Sure musta needed that cold wet air.

And after Cacinnix is killed the aliens leave Earth for good.

I cannot find a mention of the part machine/part animal drones, or of a human being stuffed, but those plot elements might be in the second book, which I don't have.

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  • Thank you for remembering when googling failed me!
    – Randomish
    Jul 14 at 8:01
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It might be The Tripods by John Christopher. A trilogy of books, plus a prequel that was written years later.

The setting is an Earth that has reverted to pre-industrial levels under the rule of The Tripods. The Tripods are giant machines that walk on three legs that stalk the land.

Two teenagers named Will and Henry are recruited into a resistance organisation. They travel from England to the resistance base in Switzerland. In France they meet another teenager named Jean-Paul (aka Beanpole) who joins them.

They arrive at a village where a tournament is about to take place. Winners are taken by the Tripods to serve the masters. Will falls in love with a girl named Eloise, but she is selected as the Queen of the tournament, and taken away.

They move on to the resistance base.

A year later, the resistance has a plan, Will should participate in a tournament and be taken by the Masters,so that he can gain intelligence on them. He wins his event and is taken to the Masters city. He discovers that the Tripods are controlled by aliens.

He is assigned as a slave to a particular Master. He learns about them and their plans. He discovers that they have taken and stuffed specimens of various Earth species. He finds Eloise dead and stuffed.

He eventually fights and kills his Master, before escaping from the city.

The resistance eventually destroy the Masters' cities, in part because of intelligence that Will supplied. The aliens abandon their plans, and don't come back again.

So, there are several things that match your memory. The stuffed human. The drones are machines piloted by aliens. The aliens deciding to abandon their plans.

Some things that don't match. The aliens called humans 'boy' not 'rat'. And I don't recall the part with the USAF missile. Maybe that happened in the prequel book, which I haven't read.

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  • Was there also something about humans wearing some kind of yamaka like hat that provided some form of control? I think I read this series way back in middle school and have had it come to mind several times lately
    – Nick
    Jul 13 at 14:02
  • No "higher up alien" (i.e. one of the Masters) meets the protagonist for one-to-one combat in The Tripods, and therefore the aliens did not pack it in after that combat concluded. Moreover, the one example of an individual Master being killed is not the reason the Masters leave. Finally, the masters do not call humans 'rats'. The Masters also did not use part animal/part machine drones.
    – Lexible
    Jul 13 at 14:16
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Could this be Battlefield Earth? I have not read the books, but I have seen (the Rifftrax comedy version of) the movie. It's set long after the alien 'Psyclos' have conquered Earth and are mining it. Humanity is reduced to a primitive state and used as slaves. But some manage to rebel and use US Air Force equipment (Harrier jets) to fight back. The main protagonist (played by John Travolta) continually refers to humans as 'rat brains'. The aliens abandon Earth after their base (or homeworld?) is destroyed by an old nuclear weapon.

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    The use of USAF equipment and the "rat brains" parts are movie changes that aren't in the book. IIRC in the book they use horses.
    – DavidW
    Jul 13 at 13:13
  • @DavidW Rat Brain IS an insult Terl uses at Johnny more than a few times in the book Also while they did not use any Harriers (That was strictly a movie change) They did use quite a bit of Air Force equipment, Uniforms, weapons, bombs, nukes, flight suits, etc.
    – NJohnny
    Jul 14 at 2:47
  • @NJohnny It's entirely possible I've expunged more of that execrable book from my mind than I'd thought. :) Though I was pretty sure that the bombs they used against the Psychlos were made from the nuclear mines they dug up in the valley. But it's been a long time, and there's no way I'm going to re-read the book. :)
    – DavidW
    Jul 14 at 3:07
  • @DavidW I have enjoyed reading the book a few times, (But I detest just about everything else Hubbard has written) Yes the story is pretty sophomoric, but I treat it as Space Opera, and enjoy it that way. Yes I think they did dig up the nuke mines, but IIRC they also found nukes in the bunkers.
    – NJohnny
    Jul 14 at 3:19

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