Sunday, January 15, 2017

Review: Dorsai! by Gordon R. Dickson

Synopsis: Throughout the Fourteen Worlds of humanity, no race is as feared and respected as the Dorsai. The ultimate warriors, they are known for their deadly rages, unbreakable honor, and fierce independence. No man rules the Dorsai, but their mastery of the art of war has made them the most valuable mercenaries in the known universe. Donal Graeme is Dorsai, taller and harder than any ordinary man. But he is different as well, with talents that maze even his fellow Dorsai. And once he ventures out into the stars, the future will never be the same.... (from the online description)
Review: Dickson’s famous Childe Cycle began with Dorsai! I read this as part of Vintage Sci-Fi Month, sponsored by RedStarReviews. Held up as a prominent example of military science fiction, Dorsai! was nominated for the 1960 Hugo Award, but lost to Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein.
While the overarching plot is the Donal’s interactions with Prince William of Ceta, this is only the stage for the true story – Donal’s growth as a person and the discovering his extra human abilities. This is setting up the reader for the future books.
Flaws: As others have stated, most science fiction and fantasy pre-1980s is rampant with misogyny. This one is not overtly so, but sadly, of the few female characters, only one has any true part in the story, and she is stereotypical: emotional, illogical, and capricious. Her purpose in the story was as trophy to the strongest male or, for one character, a promised reward. This is disappointing.  You could have replaced her with a box of gold and the story would have been the same. Shame on Dickson for not creating female characters as rich and complex as his male characters.  
Good points: I greatly enjoyed Donal’s tactics, plans, and the way he executed his life. The way he outsmarted William of Ceta amused me greatly. He was clever and far-thinking. Dickson created a character who was smart and complex, and sat in a complex and well-built world. The FTL method, the concept of professional or talent being the commodity to trade between worlds, the specializations of human professions – this was brilliant! It captured my thinking, and seemed plausible and possible in our future.

Overall, I enjoyed this vintage sci-fi book, despite his disappointing female characters, and will probably read more by Dickson and more in these series. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: Nominated, Hugo Award, 1960

Year Published: 1960
Date Finished: 1-10-2017
Pages: 272

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