Berserker's Star by Fred Saberhagen
Tor HCVR: ISBN 0765304236 PubDate: 06/01/03
Review by Dave Goldfeder
368 pgs. List price $ 25
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I tend to put authors into categories. The first category is read everything you can as soon as you can. For me, that author was Robert Heinlein. The second category is avoid at all costs. I wonít list any here but I have several and Iím sure you do as well. A third category is the author with the series you love but you delay reading the non-series work. You then beat yourself over the head for waiting so long when you finally do read it. That was Lois Bujold. Then there is the author who you sometimes love and sometimes you couldnít care less. For me, thatís Fred Saberhagen. I love his Dracula books. I liked Empire of the East. I ignored the Swords books and while Iíve read a few of the Berserker books, I havenít thought of them in a long time.
With that out of the way, the latest installment in the Berserker series is Berserkerís Star. After reading it Iím not sure what I think. Series can be tricky. If you arenít there for the beginning, you can miss a lot of subtext. You can also get the info dump syndrome where the author takes ten pages to fill you in on the history of his universe. Fred Saberhagen avoids that problem. I had no problems catching up with his cosmology or technology. I even liked it when he went in to some detail on the nifty weapon he was about to use. That may just be me. I used to like it when Heinlein would take a couple of pages for a physics lesson in the middle of a chapter. Saberhagen isnít as blatant about it.
I had a hard time getting started with Berserkerís Star. The beginning was slow and I found most of the characters annoying. Then again, so did the protagonist (Harry Silver), so it was probably intentional. The beginning of the book is not especially Science Fictional; you have a shady hero, a mysterious woman, and possibly corrupt officials against a background of war and destruction. You could cast Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor for this script. After the slow start I kind of slogged through for a while and then something interesting happened. I found that I really wanted to know what was really going on, and what was going to happen to these annoying people. I still donít know how that happened.
Youíll have to read the book yourself to find out what happens but the Berserkers do make an appearance. Itís intriguing to think that these stories have been in print continuously for over 35 years. Fred Saberhagen has created a really neat bogey man. The threat of evil and total destruction shades everything in his universe. You get a reasonable amount of action but you go through a lot of tension and anticipation first. Itís pretty easy to figure out that heís done this before.