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Dorsai! (Childe Cycle #1)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  8,386 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
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
Paperback, 305 pages
Published February 1st 1980 by Ace Books (first published 1960)
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It's interesting that I'd book end the reading list for my SciFi and Fantasy book discussion group with two novels, published in the same year, both up for the Hugo that year and credited with the rise of military sci-fi. The two novels are Gordon R. Dickson's "Dorsai!" and Robert A. Heinlein's "Starship Troopers." Both are heralded as influential and classics of their particular little cul-de-sac of science-fiction literature.

But go into any bookstore today and you'd easily find multiple copies
Dirk Grobbelaar
Whether Dorsai is to your particular taste or not, you’ll find echoes of it in almost every other modern Military Science Fiction novel. Released around the same time as Starship Troopers, these two novels pretty much kickstarted the genre. Some folks prefer the more visceral, “man on the ground” approach of Troopers, while others gravitate toward the strategic , or long view, approach of Dorsai!. Either way, it didn’t take authors long to realise the benefits of combining both these two aspects ...more
5.0 stars. Absolutely superb, classic SF by one of the masters. Dorsai is a great example of the science fiction "superman" and Gordon Dickson's plot incorporates him very well.

Nominee: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1960)
Dec 19, 2007 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first of the Childe Cycle, a series of 11 books that was written across almost 50 years. I've read most of the series, some books twice, but I've never managed to read them in order or even within the same decade. By some odd chance, I wound up getting the entire series, except for the last book, so I think I'll read them all again in published order, since I haven't seen any list that suggests a better one. If anyone has an opinion, I'd be interested in hearing it shortly. I'm start ...more
Sep 16, 2009 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Well-told space opera of a bygone era. Whatever you might think about Dickson's story (or the "history" which grew from it), his story telling is first rate. This is what early SF was all about. (I'm reminded of Asimov's foundation series.)

And, despite writing in the late 1950, Dickson avoids some of the egregious science and prediction errors which plague the amateurish efforts of more recent SF writers. It's as if Dickson, fully aware that things would change even though he no clue how, made a
Dec 01, 2008 Jason rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
By Gordon R. Dickson
Finished: November 13th, 2008

I am a fan of military science fiction, or at least the concept behind it. I have read “Starship Troopers” by Heinlein, “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman, “Ender’s Game” and “Ender’s Shadow” by Orson Scott Card, “Trading in Danger” and “Marque and Reprisal” by Elizabeth Moon (although that isn’t 100% military SF in my opinion), and some of the “Lensman” material by E.E. Doc Smith. So it seemed inevitable that I would eventually make my
Mike Finn
“Dorsai!” by Gordon R Dickson: thirty five years ago I loved this. Now it seems very thin

In 1957, two years before the first version of “Dorsai!” was serialized in in “Astounding Science Fiction”, Peter Graham coined the phrase: “The Golden Age of Science Fiction is twelve.”

I started reading science fiction in the sixties when I was ten but I didn’t get to “Dorsai!” until my early twenties. I was still a twelve-year-old at heart and most science fiction excited me. I loved the puzzle-solving, th
Feb 06, 2015 Karin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwe2015
I'm still in recovery from the eyerolling that happened for the last chapter of this book. I'm gonna go ahead and spoil this one out in the open. Donal Graeme, of the planet Dorsai(!), is an intuitive superman. I wish those weren't the exact words used, but they are. He's so awesome that everyone else's ideas are dumb and he just intuitively knows the right course of action. Must be why he was such a dunderhead with the one (ok...there was one and a half) female character in the book. He was int ...more
Feb 09, 2016 Kathi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This book is touted as the foundation of many modern military science fiction novels--really, the beginnings of a new genre within sci fi.

As for the story itself, it is well-paced, with characters who are interesting but not fully formed. We get glimpses of the various settled worlds and their unique societies, but we don't get an in-depth understanding of any of them. The main character, Donal Graeme, is a mystery to himself and others. His meteoric rise in interstellar military ranks drives th
Mr. Literature
Jun 05, 2016 Mr. Literature rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you can forgive the oddly excited title this one is a hidden gem.
Storyline: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing Style: 3/5
World: 4/5

What an interesting read. This was one of those puzzle-piece books for me that linked predecessors and ancestors in just the right way to give a new picture of the science fiction genre.

This had an excellent opening chapter. It was well-written, with vivid descriptions and thoughtful turns of phrase. It was well-paced, slow and subtle with world-building of a very different and intriguing future. It even had impressive character developme
Susan Townsend
This is the kind of good fun we used to expect from space opera, action/adventure without a lot of message. Dorsai is dated, of course—especially in the exclusion of women from positions of power, not to mention the lack of cell phones – but it holds up remarkably well. It is somewhat episodic, betraying its original serialized form, and action overshadows character, but who cares, we like Donal Graeme just fine. The plot is predictable, the fun is in seeing how Donal is going to pull off his in ...more
Per Gunnar
This book caught my interest because it was said that it, together with Starship Troopers, is considered as a classic that are responsible for the rise of military science fiction. Well, for Starship Troopers I can perhaps understand such a statement. For this one, not so much. Actually, to me, this was a rather mediocre book.

The book tells the story of Donald Graeme as he becomes a rising star as a military expert (genius) and mercenary from the planet Dorsai, renowned for “breeding” the best m
Mihail Kostov
Feb 06, 2014 Mihail Kostov rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
При избора си на книга за четене, най-вече се вслушвам в препоръките на познатите си и много рядко започвам да чета нещо, което никой не ми е казал, че харесва или мрази. Сега реших да оставя малко съдбата да понареди списъка ми за четене и с нейна помощ избрах тази книга от всички, които имам, но нямам намерение да чета. Казах си, че може да попадна на нещо интересно, за което не съм подозирал, че съществува.
Сгреших. Книгата не можа да ми предложи нищо, което да си заслужава да бъде препоръчано
Apr 20, 2016 Chip rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-200-scifi
A product of the 1950s (and earlier) science-fiction style where one man can do anything and everything. Is Donal a "superman" with incredible intuition or is he the luckiest man in the galaxy or are his enemies that ignorant/stupid? Very preachy when going into the question "Are men people or property?" Book has a very bad habit of jumping to the conclusion of a conflict before revealing any prior knowledge of what the main character knows. Shows that it is one of the grandfathers of military s ...more
This is my last "official" book for the WWE 50's challenge, but I still have 4 books left to finish the 20 book I chose for the challenge.

Although the book was only 176 pages, I was snagged in this novel. I do have to say that I am starting to get a bit tired by the Uber misogynistic of the stories in this decade, but I still really enjoyed most of the books I read. It seems the last couple pages made very little sense in comparison to the rest of the novel.

3 out of 5 stars
Not sure this one makes a lot of sense anymore. I can see why it was appealing in 1960, but doesn't even stand up to other novels written that year.
Jan 27, 2011 Taimo rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is not a novel. It is comics without pictures.
May 11, 2017 astaliegurec rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read Gordon R. Dickson's "Dorsai! (Childe Cycle Book 1)" several times, now (though the last time was probably 30 years ago) and I still find it to be a good book. Of course, its big draw is the fact that it's the first book in Dickson's 10 book "Childe Cycle." Be aware that since the book was written back in 1960, the female roles aren't exactly awe-inspiring. But, those were the times and I certainly don't hold it against the book. What does bother me is the lack of character development ...more
Douglas Debner
May 22, 2017 Douglas Debner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dorsai! dates to 1959 and predates Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land. It is fantastic, albeit slowly developing and nuanced. Given that this is the story of a hero the big picture outcome is predictable but not the basis for that outcome which, while demonstrated and considered throughout the book, only are discussed in the final scene. That final scene simultaneously resolves the story of the first book while creating astounding possibilities for the second book, a book I am starting as soon ...more
Mar 14, 2017 Dee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember reading this series in my youth in the 1960s. I don't remember much about it other than I enjoyed it. I was glad to be able hear it today read by Stefan Rednicki. Of course like any of this classic author's works it is deep with a twist in the end that generally goes over my head. I must have been a lot smarter when I was young to have understood it then. I barely understand now.
Jun 20, 2014 El-jorro rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Bookworm Speaks! Dorsai! by Gordon R. Dickson

The Story: Donal Graeme is the latest in a long line of superb mercenaries which make up the major export of his home planet of Dorsai, but Donal is different from his compatriots and is viewed with suspicion. Eventually, he leaves home, becomes a great military commander, who eventually rises to become the hegemon of mankind.

Not a particularly unique story, but Gordon R. Dickson puts his own unique take on it.

The Good:

As mentioned above, Gordon R.
Timothy Darling
Nov 01, 2011 Timothy Darling rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Without a doubt, Dorsai! deserves its reputation and awards. Especially in its day, when military SF was in its infancy it presented future battle in human terms, not in mechanistic terms. It escapes the formulae of space opera, and it creates truly memorable characters: Donal Graeme, El Man, Lee, Prince William, and Anea. These are truly well rounded individuals, a strength of Dickson's.

Dickson's weakness has always been the application of brilliance to his brilliant characters. Donal, as the p
Mike Ehlers
I finished off my Definitive 50's Sci Fi challenge at with this book, mainly because it is one I already had on by bookshelf and I'd already read Starship Troopers. This is supposed to be the other big influence over military science fiction. I'll admit I don't seek out a lot of military sci fi, but I generally enjoy what I read in the genre. However, I was disappointed with this book.

The protagonist's "intuition" always seemed to drain any dramatic tension from the plot. An
Jennifer Heise
Well.... I finally read this military mercenary space opera, and it's better written than one might fear; in fact, one can get caught up in the action. However, like much SF of its age, the characters are more than a bit wooden... and there's too many echoes of GBS's Man and Superman and of course dated gender/sex relations. Ok, more than dated: the lady is not merely a cardboard cutout, but a genetically manufactured cardboard cutout. While one can love the intuitive genius of Donal Graeme, and ...more
Gary Sedivy
May 18, 2014 Gary Sedivy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic SF story. I cannot give it five stars, even though it is a 'classic'. The characters are too flat. Even so, I was disappointed that the book was so thin - I would have read more. The hero is from a world (this is a space saga, after all) whose specialty is soldiers, particularly mercenaries. They seem to be the suppliers or soldiers for the defense of worlds, planets, systems. Other worlds provide other specialties, but these specialities are not developed well at this point.
One in
Jun 24, 2013 Kevin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This one took me forever to get through despite its relatively low page count. Donal Graeme, the main character, is a military and tactical genius who always has the solution for every problem in his career. His problem is that he never struggles and might be enjoyable if you like that invincible Superman sort of hero. His character has no arc unless you count his career path, which was not what I wanted to follow. Donal sees a problem and then just solves it, rather like the three main characte ...more
Oct 27, 2015 Sable rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No modern reader will seek this book out unless someone tells them they should. So I'm telling you, you should. I only knew about this book because I'm a genuine article geek and I have listened to filk music that was written about it. When I saw a dusty, archaic copy in an old bookstore that was closing, I snapped it up. No regrets.

A reader of sci-fi will start reading this book and recognize the essential plot of Frank Herbert's classic Dune. Which might make you shake your head at plagiarism;
Also published under the title The Genetic General, Dorsai! retains a fairly prominent place in the canon of early sf. The novel, along with Heinlein's Starship Troopers, is one of the most influential of in the sub-genre of military science fiction.

The story follows the exploits of a man named Donal Graeme from the planet Dorsai. Men from this planet are natural warriors. The way society is set up in this novel is that groups within the 16 terraformed worlds have different specializations. Peop
Dana Stabenow
I read this ages ago, and recently stumbled across a copy in a used book store. I've read more SF now so my perspective is I think a little more informed. Or maybe just too much colored by what was written by others afterward. This whole "superman" thing, with the hero who knows all, sees all and is understood by none but most especially misunderstood by the prettiest girl in any room feels a little...dated? As Donal keeps proving he's the smartest guy on planet or off, job after job, I kept thi ...more
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Gordon Rupert Dickson was an American science fiction author. He was born in Canada, then moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota as a teenager. He is probably most famous for his Childe Cycle and the Dragon Knight series. He won three Hugo awards and one Nebula award.

More about Gordon R. Dickson...

Other Books in the Series

Childe Cycle (1 - 10 of 13 books)
  • Necromancer (Childe Cycle, #2)
  • Soldier, Ask Not (Childe Cycle, #3)
  • Tactics of Mistake (Childe Cycle, #4)
  • Spirit of Dorsai (Childe Cycle, #5)
  • Lost Dorsai (Childe Cycle, #6)
  • The Final Encyclopedia (Childe Cycle, #7)
  • The Dorsai Companion (Childe Cycle, #8)
  • The Chantry Guild (Childe Cycle, #9)
  • Young Bleys (Childe Cycle, #10)
  • Other (Childe Cycle, #11)

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