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By Fred Saberhagen

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By Fred Saberhagen
Thorndike Press - Large Print, (2003)
ISBN: 0-7862-5485-8
Genre: Science Fiction

Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - September 12, 2003

Berserker is the first book in Fred Saberhagen's popular Berserker series. This series focuses on man's endeavors to defeat a massive armada of doomsday ships released upon the universe by a long dead race. The Berserkers are huge, intelligent ships that have the capacity to obliterate a planet. Their mission is to destroy all life that they encounter, and they fulfill their mission with an unwavering dedication that is only obtainable from a machine. For eons the Berserkers have annihilated one civilization after another, and now they have come upon the worlds inhabited by humans.

Many of these earth colonies have been destroyed by the Berserker, and many have died trying to defend them. No matter how disheartening these setbacks have been, the humans have never stopped fighting. Their main problem is that every time they devise an effective method of attacking a berserker, the intelligent, self-aware death machines adapt, learning from and even toying with their human prey. The Berserkers have long since learned the language of man, and they have even taken human captives who have been forced to serve their mechanical masters.

In his novel Berserker, Saberhagen lays the foundation for the series, and the world he has created in which man is forced to fight for the very survival of humanity against the nearly indestructible doomsday machines they call Berserkers. If they lose, all mankind is doomed. Yet what chance of success does mankind have when so many before them have failed to stop the Berserkers?

In this chaotic story, Saberhagen presents a series of sketches showing the efforts of mankind to fend of this demonic enemy. The reason that I say that this story is chaotic is that Berserker is not really a novel. Rather, it is a series of short stories. While the stories are interconnected, they do not form a cohesive plot. Nonetheless, they do provide a compelling glimpse into this futuristic world, and humankind's endeavors to defeat this horrific foe.

Through these capsular vignettes, we witness the valiant efforts of individual men who are willing risk there lives to stop the onslaught, and the military and political efforts to stop the marauders. We also witness the plight of those thrown into the fry unwillingly, but who once engaged perform as valiantly as they are able. Saberhagen also introduces us to the Goodlifes, men and women who serve the Berserkers. Many of these Goodlifes are traitors to the human race, hoping to save their own lives at the costs of others. Some of these Goodlifes, however, have been bred by the ships themselves, never knowing what it truly means to be human. These stories are an unfolding space opera, offering a smorgasbord of unselfish heros, sniveling cowards, hapless victims, and a host of individuals that discover that when put to the test, they are capable of more than they could ever have imagined.

Berserker is the most important book in this series, and should be read first - the rest can be read in any order desired. This book is important because it provides all the necessary background information needed to enjoy the rest of the books in the series. Berserker was originally released in 1967, and it has been out of print for far too long. This new large print edition from Thorndike Press will be welcomed by Saberhagen fans who have long been searching for this pivotal first volume in the series, and by those just discovering the series. Saberhagen is still working on this series, and his most recent Berserker book, Berserker Star was released this year (2003).

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