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Childe Cycle #2


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aka No Room for Man
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 has made them the most valuable mercenaries in the known universe.

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1962

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About the author

Gordon R. Dickson

423 books332 followers
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.

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5 stars
340 (20%)
4 stars
622 (36%)
3 stars
524 (30%)
2 stars
167 (9%)
1 star
41 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 78 reviews
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,517 reviews10.8k followers
October 31, 2010
3.5 stars. Chronologically, this is the first book in Dickson's Childe Cycle though it was written after the Hugo Award winning Dorsai!. I was really torn between 3 and 4 stars on this one as it had some really amazing ideas and was very well written. Unfortunately, I thought the plot was a little slow and the period between great ideas/revelations dragged a bit.

That said, I would still recommend reading this as it is a fairly short book and provides some very worthwhile insight into the universe of the Childe Cycle. It really lays out the inherent conflict between technology/science on one side and human evolution and unleashing human potential on the other. When exploring these issues, the book is terrific.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,602 reviews414 followers
August 26, 2014
-¿Shai Dorsai? Diría que no...-

Género. Ciencia-Ficción.

Lo que nos cuenta. Paul Formain es un ingeniero de minas huérfano desde muy niño y que hace cinco años estuvo a punto de morir a bordo de un velero. En la actualidad trabaja en la Mina Malabar, en las Montañas Rocosas de la Columbia Británica, y un accidente le hará acercarse a la Hermandad del Chartre, una sociedad que ya le había llamado la atención. Aunque escrito varios años antes del segundo, se considera el tercer volumen del Ciclo Dorsai (aunque hay discusión sobre el particular e incluso se puede considerar el primero de toda la serie si nos basamos estrictamente en la línea temporal de la misma, y no me consta que el propio Dickson interviniese para arrojar luz sobre el asunto, pero en español se editó de esa forma).

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Profile Image for Michael.
84 reviews
October 23, 2016
Not how I expected the intial Childe Cycle book to go... it could have been a great book, but it's weighed down by Dickson's use of parapsychological / philosophical goobledegook that chases its own tail into incoherence.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 6 books2,015 followers
October 23, 2014
There isn't much action in this book compared to the rest of the series & the philosophy is a bit weird, but the observations about society are fantastic. In some very interesting examples, he points out the craziness that happens when a society has everything it needs & no longer has to focus on survival. Sound familiar? It is. Amazingly so. There's also a brief look at what happens when a computer runs a society. Very interesting & worthwhile reading, even if you don't read any other book in the series.
Profile Image for Jacob.
699 reviews30 followers
January 7, 2016
Truly enjoyed reading this book for Vintage SciFi Month! Felt the action was well paced and the story engaging and enjoyable.
Profile Image for Jacob.
223 reviews6 followers
February 20, 2021
A great sci-fi book with a lot of metaphysical elements and philosophical discussions, but the character development is all over the place. Mainly due to the fact the book is so short, but no-one was characterized particularly well. Still, the ideas and setting were good enough to carry it and make it thoroughly readable.
Profile Image for Rogue.
532 reviews5 followers
April 19, 2014
I am not really sure what I just finished.

I didn't enjoy this really, in any sense. I have this feeling that Dickson was trying to do something big and grand with this, but it just mostly passed right over my head. It made just under 200 pages feel more like 600, and took me longer to finish than a 600 page novel too!

With the plot, not much really seemed to happen, and when it did, it was a bit disjointed. Mostly things get metaphysical and philosophical very quickly, which put me off a bit- especially as I've not read many scifi books, and don't really find them gripping when I do manage to get through them. This, I found myself wanting to put it down a good few times, but refused to do so, mostly on the facts that A) it was a borrowed copy, and B) it was under 200 pages, and therefore should have been a quick read.
It wasn't a quick read. I did half expect something like this though, considering it's 1960s scifi.

I never felt that connected to the characters, especially Paul (the main character). Nobody seemed to really stand out to me, with side-characters being names that passed by without any real personality. 'Arrogance' was assigned to Paul, but this never really came across to me that well; as for the others, they barely were more than names on a page, which registered as 'important', but never got much further than that. Things definitely focused on the philosophical points, rather than any sort of plot or character development.

I have a few other Dorsai books lying around, so will give those a go, but I'm hoping they won't be as slow as this one. If you like something weird and meta, give this a read.
696 reviews13 followers
July 3, 2010
This is a difficult book because it's mainly a philosophical novel in which most of the action takes place (appropriate to its subject matter) "off stage." It's a novel of ideas not action. This disappointed me when I first read it 25 years ago, but I can appreciate it better now (and after having read it in its proper relation to _Dorsai!_: AFTER that novel, not before it). It's important to the overall arc of Dickson's Childe Cycle, but not a necessary novel to the understanding of the Cycle as a whole: _The Final Encyclopedia_ would do just as well.
Profile Image for Mitchell.
4,439 reviews170 followers
October 24, 2018
Wow. That was weirder than I remembered. This was a really early book for Dickson to have written in the Childe Cycle. It would have worked better if he had written it in order hence writing it later. As such it kind of overreached in terms of what the Chantry Guild could do at this point. Well at least from what I remembered. This book was also unevenly paced. And our main pov character Paul in some way doesn't do much. And still with the occasional token female character. And lots of philosophizing in an almost brilliant way. And self-driving cars.
Profile Image for Bill.
300 reviews7 followers
April 24, 2019
Baffling, but a necessary step along the path

After beginning with a fairly straightforward description of a mining accident set in the future, Book 2 of Gordon Dickson’s Childe Cycle then shifts from one incomprehensible scene to another. The whole book is like a mad hallucination, but I don’t think it was intended to make sense on its own. Rather, it serves as a way of setting up the plot for the rest of the Cycle yet to come.
Profile Image for prcardi.
538 reviews72 followers
May 5, 2017
Storyline: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Writing Style: 4/5
World: 5/5

Some writers simply function on a different plane of existence. There, the mechanics of worldbuilding, the requirements of anticipation and climax, and the function of characters all work differently in a novel. Gordon R. Dickson compiled this book on whatever plane he operated on and then brought it over to the reader. The work survived the shift, and we get a delightfully bizarre work.

This reminds me a lot of . It has that same pseudo science hand-waving where the author convinces the reader of the plausibility of the technology by talking nonsense in circles. It worked out especially well here because of the paranormal tone to the book. Dickson's Necromancer can't be neatly fitted with Golden Age pulp or the speculative-themed 1960s labels, however. It achieves its suspense not by pushing the protagonist into dangerous situations with narrow escapes but by being entirely unpredictable. At no point does the author give the reader a solid preview into the bigger world or characters that inhabit it, thus we get revelation after revelation of unanticipated worldbuilding. The point of the novel - the idea at which it is working at - too is quirkily obscured. Somewhere nested in all that circumlocution and technobabble there are some neat ideas about humanity and progress, but you just have to wonder if Dickson himself was aware of that or instead if your own mind was providing order to the author's chaos.

I recommend this to fans of 1940s-1960s era science fiction classics. Though it is the second in the Childe Cycle, I saw no obvious connection between the two books (other than in tone and ideas). The current book summary available on this site: is not correct.
Profile Image for Stuart McMillan.
135 reviews20 followers
July 25, 2019
Reread, some 35 years later as part of a look at the Childe cycle.

This was the first one I read when I was about 15, setting the scene for an attraction to the world of the Dorsai that stayed with me long enough that I felt I had to reread it a whole generation later.

Like the earlier 'Genetic General' there's an awful lot of empty space in this novel that we're invited to fill-in with our imagination. This is what makes it all a bit weird as, with the following books the gaps are all filled in.

Anyway to this book. Paul Formain is a mining engineer who discovers he has some kind of precognition - but only after he has an accident that loses one of his arms. He gets involved with a group of people who promise him that he will be able to regrow his arm if he subscribes to their (eastern mystic) kinda philosophy.

...and then it all goes bonkers. In (literally) minutes, we're transported from a chess match on earth to an underground habitat on Mercury. Then to interstellar space. Then to the depth of the ocean.

The pivotal moments are the creation of the world governments and their philosophies - none of which really make any sense at this point (though you'll start to see things if you've read the earlier book). It's not really until book 3 ('Soldier Ask Not') that all this become clear. Which is pretty remarkable given that the publication dates are 7 years apart.

Worth reading for the background on the Chantry guild.
856 reviews12 followers
November 17, 2019
This is a difficult book to review because it isn't your standard sci fi. So difficult, in fact, that I took a look at another review to see what others were saying about it.

The one other review I looked at proclaimed this a prequel to Dorsai! instead of being book 2 in the series as it is listed on Goodreads. That is an understandable mistake because the proof that this isn't a prequel only comes at the end and only in subtle reference to Dorsai! which I probably would have missed had I not read Dorsai! immediately before this book.

This book is set many years before Dorsai!, hence the ability to mistake it for a prequel. It tells the story of humanity immediately before its spread to other solar systems. The story is told from the perspective of a man who ends up joining an organization seeking to prevent the domestication of humanity by its own technology.

I was put off somewhat by such a huge deviation from the story line of Dorsai! but I didn't think it fair to punish this book for my inaccurate expectations. This was a well written and intelligent book with an excellent twist ending that is made doubly excellent if you catch how it ties back into Dorsai! In fact this book was so good I expect to make time to reread it and Dorsai! at some time in the future.
March 31, 2021
I picked this up because it had a gorgeous cover. I absolutely love the book cover art of novels from the sixties. And this is very true of sixties sci-fi books.

Unfortunately the excitement of the cover dissipated very quickly upon reading the book.

The book really isn't very good. It's a tedious read. The story is bland, the characters not interesting and the plot is plodding. There is coherence in the story but it's strung together so badly that whenever you get to a great revelation in the book, it ends up being a let down.

The thing that annoys me the most about it is that characters just seem to do random arbitrary stuff all the time. There is a reason for it, but when you get to the the reveal it's a totally anticlimax because the plot and writing were constructed so poorly.

A big positive of the book is that it's has some interesting philosophy that I actually tend to agree with. Almost always sci-fi has some great nuggets of insight into the human condition, and this book does have some of that. It's not articulate, it's not well presented, but it is there. I think that's the saving grace of this book. But all in all, it's only for die hard sci-fi fans.
Profile Image for astaliegurec.
984 reviews
May 12, 2017
Gordon R. Dickson's 1962 novel "Necromancer (Childe Cycle Book 2)" straddles the line between science fiction and fantasy. There's a lot of parapsychology or perhaps the occult in the book (which isn't really surprising given what Dickson's setting up here). As with the first book of the series, "Dorsai! (Childe Cycle Book 1)," I'd read it multiple times before this, with the last reading being around 30 years ago, and enjoyed it. But, since it was written back in the 1960s, it carries a lot of baggage from that era. Still, it's a well-written, nicely-paced story. I'm rating it at a Very Good 4 stars out of 5.

BTW: this book was very obviously scanned in and published without proof-reading. The number and "quality" of the OCR errors (particularly the wrong words) is pretty bad for a 55 year old $9 book.
Profile Image for Sirbooksage.
59 reviews12 followers
December 16, 2017
3.5 stars. This is an odd book, far more a metaphysical, philosophical, look at human society and the impact of a life of comfort, through all-encompassing technology, and the splintering impact it can have upon society. While the 2nd book in the Childe Cycle books of the Dorsai, the events in this predate the rest of the Dorsai books in that this deals with Humanity on Earth before they went out among the stars and splintered into vastly different groups. Dickson tackles a lot of ideas here, sometimes in a very clunky, uneven way, and other times, exceptionally well.
Profile Image for Wilson.
12 reviews2 followers
July 27, 2020
I enjoyed the twists & turns I did not see. Not at all like the preceding book, ie set near present day with science fiction elements but was set far in the past relative to the first book. The action progresses similarly to the first book meaning it advanced quickly and without preamble. I went into this blind and I enjoyed it but it might have been better had I prepared myself. The ending was spooky and hailed back to the first book. Ready for more.
43 reviews
May 10, 2017
Expected a warrior

Too much Deus ex machina, both real and mythical. Incomplete plot, but interesting premise. Not based on tactics, but on enlightenment of the obscure kind we cannot reach.
Profile Image for Scott.
67 reviews4 followers
November 18, 2018
I'd just finished Dorsai! and was eager to read more about the protagonist, so imagine my disappointment when I realized that Necromancer took me back several centuries to a more mundane Earth.

Normally, stories spread across immense timelines work to establish some common thread, however tenuous it may be. For example, the main character of one work may be the great, great, great uncle of a side character in another work. These connections, I think, are important in helping the reader re-orient over tremendous changes in setting.

Dickson didn't seem to consider this an issue.

The main character here is really "humanity," not any one character. There are pivotal characters who appear over the course of humanity's growth, and while they may recur, they aren't really the main characters of the story -- just helpers.

It took a while for me to adjust to this throughout the course of the book, but just as I managed to, Dickson threw a curve that took me by surprise. At first I was disgruntled by how it seemed to tear away the foundations of the entire book, but then I realized it was internally logically consistent with the world Dickson had built, no matter how much I might dislike it.

Ultimately, I feel like Necromancer is less a story than it is a guidepost, a helper to show us the way from where we are now to the world of Dorsai!. How could we possibly have gotten from our modern, earthbound society to a space-faring culture split by specialties?

Dickson's explanation is clever and rings true, even today. In some ways, it may ring truer today than it did over 65 years ago, when it was first published.
Profile Image for Al "Tank".
339 reviews54 followers
August 31, 2021
Paul is constantly escaping death while growing in knowledge.

Okay, it's an apocalyptic novel (without the mass death of humanity). Several major "movements" of people vie for the control of Earth's huge population. Many wallow in comfort without working and follow the wishes of the technology group. Machines do most of the work and manage to eke out a minimum amount of food to keep people alive and complacent. Then there's a group of "necromancers" who believe in "Alternate Laws", a mysterious way of doing the impossible. Their motto is "destruct". Caught between them, Paul must adapt to survive. Add to that, some other groups and you have a recipe for chaos and perhaps the end of civilization.

I was caught up in Paul's struggle, although a bit perplexed about what was going on. Some of the explanations are a bit overdone (and confusing), but I ignored the baffle-gab and struggled through to the end and the final face-off (and explanation of what was happening).
Profile Image for Stuart Dean.
540 reviews3 followers
January 30, 2023
A book from early in the Dorsai! universe. Paul is a mining engineer in a future where the government is run by a computer. He is in an accident which ends his career and goes to Chicago and joins an Aleister Crowley type cult that promises to teach him how to clap. They want to destroy the current system through inaction and free mankind from their computer overlords. They send him on missions that nearly get him killed and he learns that he has superpowers.

There is a lot of psychology babble mixed in with action and intrigue, and the underlying theme of man controlling his own destiny is buried within. In the end it really goes off the rails. And Paul learns how to clap. It's an interesting 1960s scientifiction story but all the psychological stuff makes for a problematic read.
Profile Image for Amanda.
370 reviews
October 22, 2022
I came across a hardcover version from 1962 and thought the cover art was fantastic. Unfortunately, the very stylized cover of a man at the bottom of a mineshaft was pretty far removed from the actual book which skewed much more metaphysical. Although the version I got is very cool, the more recent ones do a much better job of representing the overall vibe of the book. It was a very short book, but I never formed a strong bond with the characters and the plot just wasn't that interesting so it was kind of a slog to get through. The book's only female character was also so peripheral that I honestly wish she wasn't in it at all. We never even find out what power she may have had.
Profile Image for C.
82 reviews
December 12, 2022
4.5/5. The first part didn’t quite grab me, but after that I found the book riveting. There are so many big ideas here that I found fascinating, and that might have inspired elements of popular science fiction films, such as the Matrix and Terminator. I also enjoyed seeing some parallels with one of my favorite series, Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, including the struggle between chaos and order, Paul’s identity, and the nature of the Alternate Laws. It’s also worth noting that there is a very memorable scene involving some squirrels. Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I definitely plan to continue reading the Childe Cycle.
Profile Image for Don Kyo.
109 reviews1 follower
July 8, 2022
DNF page 100

So Goodreads says this is book 2, but the cover says book 1? I got no idea, all I know is that this book is bland.

Prose is bland, characters are bland, and honestly the plot is too. Science has failed our main character by the name of Paul (also, really? Paul?) in the endeavor to get a new arm, so he turns to a cult instead. The book starts out strong with Paul trying to figure out if he's suicidal or not, but quickly devolves in chosen one nonsense.

Premise is cool and I love asymmetrical characters, but it was kinda a dud.
Profile Image for Quad.
106 reviews2 followers
September 8, 2019
Paul Formain, dopo un incidente marittimo e un secondo incidente in una miniera, scopre di avere poteri speciali dovuti forse alla recente perdita di un braccio.
Dotato di ritmo, facile nel coinvolgere, il romanzo pecca solo negli ultimi capitoli un po' confusionari. Dopo il finale è comunque tutto chiaro grazie anche a "Soldato non chiedere" e a "Generale Genetico", indispensabili per la comprensione.
Profile Image for Steve Curry.
Author 10 books20 followers
August 6, 2021
Almost too deep.

Like all the Dickson I've read, Necromancer is full of complex characters and even more complex societal and philosophical elements. The backdrop of futuristic science fiction are colorful entertainment, but the true depth of the book comes in deeply, emotionally, probing insights.
58 reviews
February 22, 2019
Makes sense of the series

Next book in series having re read in eBook for first time in many years. More of a novella in sequence in the form of prequel.
Lots of deep human questions and little action but needed explanations of later events.
107 reviews
January 6, 2020
Read only if you are a completionist and a fan of Dickson’s Childe Cycle. With little character or plot development, this book doesn’t stand on its own. It also isn’t truly necessary for the Childe Cycle, although it does elaborate on some of the series’ themes.
28 reviews2 followers
January 21, 2020
Interesting plot development and interpretation of magic in a modern setting. It is a very good book, but I was not aware that is was the second in a series at the time of reading it. So I have to go back to read the previous book.
Profile Image for Tony Perry.
42 reviews1 follower
June 9, 2020
I had read the Dorsai series (Childe Cycle) many years ago, but I think at the time of that first reading I had missed the significance of Necromacer. It is in fact a very important piece in describing the germination of the Dorsai universe.
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