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The Final Encyclopedia by Gordon R. Dickson
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Apr 24, 14

Read in January, 2012

Asimov's Foundation is probably the best known sf future history series. For a long time this has seemed odd to me, because it really doesn't hold a candle to Dickson's Childe Cycle. Dickson had a vast vision of telling the story of future human evolution. Not evolution to be a bit taller and smarter or having gills or the ever popular beings of pure energy, but evolution to a new level of Creativity. One of the main threads of the series is how space colonization lead mankind to fracture into multiple cultures (the main three emphasizing Courage, Faith, and Philosophy) and whether these groups will stagnate and implode or recombine into a improved blended whole.

Unfortunately Dickson didn't have the skill or endurance to bring off such a vast project. (Frankly I'm not sure who would.) Of course as a product of "Golden Age" SF no one should be surprised at the paper thin female characterization, especially in the earlier books. The "Courage" sections have trouble reaching above quite decent but standard military SF. The "Philosophy" sections tend to get too talky. The "Faith" sections seldom achieve that needed deep emotional oomph. Mind you, none of it is bad, it's just that Dickson is trying the literary equivalent of simultaneous climbing multiple Mount Everests.

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Even a grumpy old pedant like me can say that sometimes you should look beyond the limitations of the author to the vision and wonder they are trying to share with you.

Dickson died before finishing the final book in the cycle. (Never mind the six prequels he wanted to write.) If you are interested in the series probably the best way to read them is in order of publication, so Dorsai! first.
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message 1: by Joe (new)

Joe Great review!!

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