Childe Cycle, Gordon R. Dickson

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by luisaj, May 12, 2016.


What should I do?

  1. Easy does it: go for Necromancer.

    0 vote(s)
  2. Ain't nobody got time for that: Tactics of Mistake is worth it.

  1. luisaj

    luisaj Full Member

    Alright folks, I'll get right to the chase: I read Dorsai! as per @Boreas recommendation and now I'm at a crossroads. Should I continue with Necromancer (the second book of the series) or skip ahead to Tactics of Mistake (another suggestion)?
    Just to be clear I'm not worried about spoilers (as long as they're not major) and since I don't have much spare time I'd like to get the most bang for the buck.
  2. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    First of all, how did you find it?

    As for continuing the 'series', even publication order isn't linear. The next book published, Necromancer, takes place in our current century but towards the end of it. Next published was Soldier, Ask Not which sort of parallels the events in Dorsai!. The next major work is Tactics of Mistake and it takes place before Dorsai! but after Necromancer and charts the beginnings of what would eventually become the Dorsai culture.

    So, in my opinion, it doesn't really matter how you approach these books. Of course, reading them by order of publication would allow you to experience Dickson's themes as he developed them. But you can also pick up many of the novels randomly and make the connections yourself. Even if you read by publication order, you're going to HAVE to make certain connections yourself. Not everything is spelled out, but a lot is implied.

    Might as well read Tactics of Mistake next since that was my first suggestion to you. This one, Dorsai! and some of the later collected novellas and stories are the only explicitly military oriented books. The Childe Cycle is much more than simple military sf. What Dickson was going for was very ambitious - to identify and come to terms with the ineffable creative spark/impetus of the human mind itself. This is a little more properly outlined during the course of events in The Final Encyclopedia, which I think is my favourite volume in the 'series', even though I do love the more action-packed and succinct stories of Dorsai! and Tactics of Mistake.

    There's going to be a connection between Necromancer, Dorsai! and The Final Encyclopedia that I don't think is directly referred to (can't remember exactly) but is pretty fucking unbelievable. And most of the novels actually focus on psychological and sociological themes rather than military ones. That military undercurrent gets much more subdued later on.
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  3. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    Oh, and I should remind you that Dickson was never able to fully realise his vision. He published circa 10 books and then croaked. That was a sad day for me, when I realised he'd buggered off. There's some guy who apparently wrote a final novel based on some of Dickson's notes, but I don't think I want to read that.
  4. luisaj

    luisaj Full Member

    Oh, Dorsai! was great. As you probably imagined I was delighted in the way all of Donal's plans fell into place. I does feel a little constructed around the end, kinda like a Sherlock Holmes story. Not that there are any deus ex machina moments, just the feeling of it. Also the ├╝bermensch vibe reminded me of Stapledon's Odd John.
    I think I'll take the hint and maybe try to do my own research beforehand but apart from that thanks @Boreas and Tactics of Mistake it is!
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  5. Boreas

    Boreas n log(log n) Staff Member

    That's 'cause what Dickson describes, and especially in Dorsai!, mirrors the philosophical Left/Right divide that's currently ongoing in its dirtiest form in the west. In Dorsai!, though, it's quite a bit more civilised and high-minded...I mean the presentation of the conflict. The military sf aspect is concerned less with actual warfare (though it will be more so focused in Tactics of Mistake) and more with political and bureaucratic foresight and acumen. Sort of like amalgamating the best qualities of a political and military leader into one, who is also psychologically (perhaps in a Theosophic sense) very advanced.

    Edit: original post by R-Hat here.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2016
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