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'Classic' Space Opera > Gordon Dickson - Childe Cycle

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message 1: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 22 comments Gordon R. Dickson was one of the authors that got me into Space Opera at an early age. His work is certainly 'classic' but often overlooked and compared to people like Heinlein, his work has been pretty much neglected over the intervening years.

Anyone else here a fan?

If you have not come across his work and would like to see what it is like, then Dorsai! is a great place to start, IMO.


message 2: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 76 comments The first book in the series I read was Tactics of Mistake and I really liked it. Of course I read all the rest as well. The way military SF should be written.


message 3: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 22 comments V.W. wrote: "The first book in the series I read was Tactics of Mistake and I really liked it."

Strange coincidence - it was the one I encountered first as well. My favourite though was the novella Amanda Morgan, which kind of covered some of the same story from another perspective and is found in Spirit of Dorsai

V.W. wrote: "The way military SF should be written."

IMO it has more focus on the human side and less on the guns and gore that can sometimes take over in military SF. I enjoyed the fact it looks a lot more at relationships and the idea of generational development.


message 4: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 76 comments Sometimes the gore and guns distract readers from the very human stories inside the books. For instance, all of the Hammer's Slammer's stories by David Drake are based on historical military incidents and focus on decisions made by the soldiers involved and the toll it took on the very human beings that were the soldiers when they had to live with the consequences.


message 5: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 76 comments Others are not just gore and guns, but focus on military tactics and strategy, as well as how politics can affect battles and wars. Again taking David Drake as an example you have The General series.

The Forge


message 6: by Conal (new)

Conal (conalo) | 143 comments I am also a big fan of Gordon Dickson, especially his Childe Cycle books (except for the last one finished after his death which was not good). I have always been partial to Soldier, Ask Not in this series but all of them are good. he only bad thing about this series is that it was never finished...


message 7: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 22 comments V.W. wrote: "Others are not just gore and guns, but focus on military tactics and strategy, as well as how politics can affect battles and wars. Again taking David Drake as an example you have The General serie..."

I do like David Drake too - I recall reading his Hammers Slammer many, many moons ago. I like that the Dorsai books moved from the immediate battlefield to the much broader impact of conflict and explored that on many levels, whilst still telling a thundering good story.

Conal wrote: "I have always been partial to Soldier, Ask Not in this series but all of them are good. he only bad thing about this series is that it was never finished... "

Yes, I think it is really sad the series had to be left unfinished, but sadly fate is not always considerate to authors or readers....


message 8: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 880 comments Mod
I think I read most of the Childe Cycle and enjoyed them, but it was many years ago and I don't remember very much about any individual book.


message 9: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (new)

Teresa Carrigan | 2320 comments Mod
I read almost all of the cycle, mostly when they were newish. I reread Tactics of Mistake periodically, and that is my favorite of the series.


message 10: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 22 comments Teresa wrote: "I read almost all of the cycle, mostly when they were newish. I reread Tactics of Mistake periodically, and that is my favorite of the series."

Just curious, why Tactics more than the others - if you don't mind sharing?


message 11: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (new)

Teresa Carrigan | 2320 comments Mod
There's less of the weird Fate is manipulating the time stream business some of the others have. I love the crazy tactics. I vaguely recall reading this as a serialization in Analog, and I know I read a parody of it later there called Didactics of Mystique.


message 12: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 22 comments Teresa wrote: "I know I read a parody of it later there called Didactics of Mystique"

That sounds interesting, I'll have to see if I can track it down anywhere.... Thanks for the info.


message 13: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (last edited Jun 13, 2016 09:11AM) (new)


message 14: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 22 comments Teresa wrote: "https://www.amazon.com/ANALOG-Volume1..."

Thank you for that :)


message 15: by Charles (new)

Charles | 11 comments Gordon Dickson is one of the reasons I love SF. I have read most of the Childe Cycle--still have some Dickson on the shelves urging me to read them.


message 16: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 22 comments Charles wrote: "still have some Dickson on the shelves urging me to read them."

Give into temptation! ;)


message 17: by Trike (new)

Trike | 572 comments Back when I read many (not all) of these books, I thought that Dickson was riffing on the Ancient Greek city-states. The Dorsai were the Spartans, the Exorics were the Athenians, and so on. When I read The Final Encyclopedia I discovered I was wrong, but because I didn't have a grounding in whatever Dickson was actually using as a springboard I kind of lost interest. He was clearly hinting at something but I didn't know what. I just didn't get it.

Which is a shame, because Dickson basically hit the ground running as one of the best SF writers of his generation. Asimov always struck me as kind of clumsy and Heinlein was didactic, but Dickson was like smooth jazz.

What I do find interesting is that Dickson exemplified the tropes started by E. E. Doc Smith and popularized by George Lucas, but his version always felt deeper, as if he were working on an entirely different level than other space opera universes. His creation was basically Dune meets Lord of the Rings.


message 18: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 22 comments Trike wrote: "His creation was basically Dune meets Lord of the Rings. "

Yes, yes! Which is why I am always amazed at how neglected his work seems to be today. Or maybe it is not and I simply don't move in the right circles - always hard to be sure on that one.


message 19: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments The Dorsai series was originally supposed to be three books and was to be part of a set of three trilogies dealing with the same themes. one set in the past, one in the present and one in the future. One of the first two never really got off the ground and of course the Dorsai took on a life of their own. One interesting note on Dickson himself, he was the only major SF writer of the time who refused to sign either of those letters that appeared as ads in Galaxy back in '67 or '68.


message 20: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments Just remembered, out of curiosity do the Dorsai Irregulars still exist?


message 21: by Trike (new)

Trike | 572 comments John wrote: "One interesting note on Dickson himself, he was the only major SF writer of the time who refused to sign either of those letters that appeared as ads in Galaxy back in '67 or '68."

What John is referring to:

http://www.natsmusic.net/articles_gal...


message 22: by C. John (last edited Jun 15, 2016 11:00PM) (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments Thanks Trike. I tend to forget not everyone is as old as I am and knows what the hell I am talking about. Tilander mentions being surprised at Brackett being on the pro-war list. However she was of the same generation as Heinlein et al. She was also married to Edmond Hamilton who was on the pro-war list as well and probably shared some of his ideals.


message 23: by Gary (new)

Gary Sundell | 20 comments I have acquired a number of the Dorsai books in E-book format, the question always is where to start? I know I have an old SF Book Club edition of some of the novels as well, but it never got out of the TBR.

I'm also a big fan of Dickson's Dragon and the George. Light fantasy done well.


message 24: by E.M. (new)

E.M. Swift-Hook | 22 comments Gary wrote: "I have acquired a number of the Dorsai books in E-book format, the question always is where to start?"

I think that depends on the kind of reader you are - if you like a kind of chronological read then Dorsai! is a good place to start as it is the beginning of the story timeline. But if you are happy to dive in with the more classic then it has to be eitherTactics of Mistake or Soldier, Ask Not, IMO.

Others may differ on this advice though.


message 25: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments I know the publisher of the edition of Tactics of Mistake I had listed it as the frist volume. If memory serves me it was the UK paperback edition that I had. Pretty sure my copy of Soldier, Ask Not was from the US (DAW Books comes to mind).


message 26: by Gary (last edited Jun 24, 2016 07:36PM) (new)

Gary Sundell | 20 comments The Ebook versions are available through Start Science Fiction.
I know I don't have any of the paperbacks, US, in my collection, just an SF Book Club edition or two.


message 27: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments I don't have my copies anymore unfortunately. The product of a move from Ontario to British Columbia.


message 28: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (new)

Teresa Carrigan | 2320 comments Mod
Tactics of Mistake and Dorsai! Are each very good entry points.


message 29: by Gary (new)

Gary Sundell | 20 comments Teresa wrote: "Tactics of Mistake and Dorsai! Are each very good entry points."

I located my SF Book club anthology Three to Dorsai! (Necromancer, Tactics of Mistake, Dorsai!) by Gordon R. Dickson Three to Dorsai!


message 30: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments The SF Book Club was a great way to build a decent library. I believe that it is no longer in existence though. Pity.


message 31: by Gary (last edited Jun 25, 2016 09:32AM) (new)

Gary Sundell | 20 comments I located my SF Book Club 3 book collection which includes Necromancer, Tactics of Mistake, and Dorsai! Three to Dorsai! (Necromancer, Tactics of Mistake, Dorsai!) by Gordon R. Dickson Three to Dorsai!


message 32: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (new)

Teresa Carrigan | 2320 comments Mod
SFBC is still around. I get my books as ebooks now though. http://www.sfbc.com/welcome/


message 33: by C. John (new)

C. John Kerry (cjkerry) | 494 comments Ah. I had read somewhere that they had closed down. I suspect that the ebooks wouldn't do me any good (and not because I don't have an ereader yet).


message 34: by Charles (new)

Charles | 11 comments E.M. wrote: "Charles wrote: "still have some Dickson on the shelves urging me to read them."

Give into temptation! ;)"


I did just that. And, like Gary, found my 1975 SF Book Club edition. But now I have a question. Dorsai was published in 1959, in Astounding Science Fiction, and Necromancer in 1962. I've read Dorsai, and Tactics of Mistake. (Both a long time ago). But not Necromancer. And the SF Book Club version seems to indicate that Necromancer is the prequel to both the other two, Any Dickson-aficionados out there who can clarify this for me?


message 35: by Teresa, Plan B is in Effect (new)

Teresa Carrigan | 2320 comments Mod
IMO it is best to read Necromancer later. Technically it takes place earlier, but Donal's timeline does not match the world's timeline. I personally do not like Necromancer, so I rarely reread it. It certainly isn't needed before reading any of the others.


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