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Of Berserkers, Swords and Vampires: A Saberhagen Retrospective by Fred Saberhagen
Cover Artist: David Mattingly
Review by Drew Bittner
Baen Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781439132692
Date: 09 June 2009 List Price $23.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

A master storyteller--whose works inspired Star Trek's "Doomsday Machine," as well as writers of mythological fantasy and first person vampire chronicles--Fred Saberhagen is perhaps the most influential writer who is not a household name.

Saberhagen authored fifty novels and sixty stories in his career; the new retrospective collection, assembled posthumously, celebrates the man's breadth of vision and creativity by exploring some of his earliest tales, as well as his three best known settings: the universe of the Berserkers, the world of the godly Swords, and the realm of Dracula, "an old friend of the family."

The early works reflect Saberhagen's fascination with diverse subjects, including space, the collision of cultures and power (and its abuse). "The Long Way Home," which may be his earliest published story, demonstrates the spare, precise writing that was a Saberhagen hallmark, as space voyagers encounter an unexpected complication--and a remarkable group of homeward-bound pilgrims taking a very slow path from the stars.

In "Volume PAA-PYX," an authority figure uncovers truths for which he is unprepared--and which society cannot afford to be known. "Blind Man's Blade" (a Swords stand-alone short story) shows the opening gambit of the god's Game of Swords, and how misunderstanding the weapons backfires spectacularly on two cruel players. "Stone Place", a tale of the Berserkers, shows how cultural differences and miscommunications (some deliberate) can frustrate alliance against a threat to survival--and how courage and spirit can overcome even the most dire circumstances, as Johann Karlsen prepares to engage the berserker fleet.

There are many, many more stories in this volume, which is a must-have for Saberhagen fans. More than that, however, this book is a treasure for those who love far-sighted and wonder-provoking science fiction and fantasy. Saberhagen was a man who knew how to create worlds that challenged bold heroes. He dreamed great tales and shared them with all of us. This final book of his encapsulates what was most special about this singular writer; no fan of terrific writing should want to pass it by.

Strongly recommended.

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