Friday, December 27, 2013

Dorsai! - Gordon R. Dickson

Plot summary for Dorsai! from Wikipedia.
"The book is about Donal Graeme, warrior extraordinaire. In the Childe Cycle universe, the human race has split into a number of splinter cultures. Donal is a member of the Dorsai, a splinter culture based on the planet of the same name, which has specialized in producing the very best soldiers. Since each splinter culture specializes in a specific area of expertise, a system of trade labour contracts between the cultures allows each planet to hire the expertise they need. 

"The Dorsai, inhabiting a resource-poor world, hire themselves out as mercenaries to other planetary governments. Donal has great ambitions, and the book follows his rise in an episodic nature. The book begins as a straightforward tale of his career and then becomes something else, as it becomes clear there is something different about Donal Graeme himself."
The chronology goes: Tactics of MistakeSoldier, Ask Not, and then Dorsai!  but the novels were written in the reverse order with Dorsai! dating from 1959 while Tactics of Mistake was written twelve years later in 1971.

It shows. Dorsai!  is as much a page-turner as the others but it's undeniably cruder, with more 'tell-not-show' episodes and a degree of background-repetition. It also has the feel of 'young adult', or at least more so than the others. Readers will also note significant plot similarities between Dorsai! and Tactics of Mistake.

Nevertheless, the novel amply repays the reader's investment and its exploration of history and even eugenics shows an intellectual ambition largely lacking from contemporary SF.