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By Gordon R. Dickson

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By Gordon R. Dickson
Thorndike Press - Large Print, (2002)
ISBN: 0-7862-4661-8
Genre: Science Fiction

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - February 18, 2003

A long, long time ago, Earth was part of a great Empire. So large was the Empire that over time, the Earth was forgotten. That is, at least, until the Earthlings rediscovered the Empire. Having gained the ability to travel through the vastness of space, Earth made contact with a planet inhabited by people aligned with the Empire. Once this 'rediscovery' occurred, the Empire moved in swiftly to regain its lost colony. Earthlings, however, are not ones to willingly accept an 'aliens' word at face value.

To discover for themselves if Earth was really a forgotten colony of the Empire, a plan is devised that will enable Earth to send a 'spy' into the very sanctum of the Empire - the Throne World. The spy in question is the anthropologist Jim Keil, who inveigles an invitation to the Throne World via his skill as a matador.

The Empire is ruled by the High-born, an aristocracy that has been genetically manipulated to be stronger, faster, and smarter than any other human. To them, the Earthlings are mere barbarians, whom they derisively call Wolflings. Keil's bull fighting skills are a novelty, nothing more, and he is brought to the Throne World as a mere pet who is expected to perform his routine on cue.

Keil is not a pet, nor a barbarian. He is a highly trained, intelligent operative who brings the full force of his skills as an anthropologist and scientist to bear as he studies those who might be, in all actually, Earth's cousins. On his journey to the Throne World, Keil is befriended by Ro, a High-born throwback. Although born of full blooded High-born parents, her genetic makeup harkens back to an earlier time in the High-born's pedigree and she looks different from the other High-borns. Ro serves in the household of Princess Afuan, and it is Afuan who arranges for Keil to be brought to the Throne World.

As with many courts, the Throne World is rife with intrigue, and Keil finds that there are many factions there that would use him to their advantage. His adventures on the Throne World are numerous and dangerous. Things become even more dangerous for Keil after he is sponsored for adoption into the High-born aristocracy and given a job as a Starkien. The Starkein's are the members of the elite military unit that offers its allegiance to only one man - the Emperor.

Wolfling, by Gordon R. Dickson is an engaging and well-written story. The story moves at a brisk pace, and Keil is an intriguing character who has many layers to his personality. Dickson has also created a richly detailed civilization in the form of the Empire, and its aristocracy. Throughout, Dickson places Keil in peril, not only is he endangered by 'palace' intrigues on the Throne World, but also by the misgivings of his own government. In the end, it is only through his intelligence and tenacity that he survives and solves the twin mysteries surrounding the origins of the Empire and of the Earth.

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