Sunday, January 7, 2007

The Man From Earth by Gordon R. Dickson

Today I'll be reviewing The Man from Earth by the late Gordon R. Dickson, best known for the Childe Cycle (AKA the "Dorsai" series.) This is a collection of 10 short stories by Gordon R. Dickson, with publication dates ranging from 1952 to 1969, mostly dealing with interaction between humans and aliens, usually in situations of conflict. My favorite stories from the collection are:

"Call Him Lord"- On a distant future Earth that has been preserved in an ancient condition by a starfaring human empire, the son of humanity's emperor is put to an ancient test. I liked the way the story is set up- Dickson takes an Earth much like ours, and yet makes it strange and alien. He also does a good job of inspiring emotional sympathy for a character that only appears in the last page, which isn't always easy to do, especially when it's not a viewpoint character.

"Ancient, My Enemy"- A group of prospectors and a young anthropology student are exploring in lethally hot territory occupied by primitive aliens when the youngest of the prospectors finds himself the target of a bizarre alien rite of battle. But the savage aliens aren't the only brutes out in the desert, and violence from without isn't the only enemy the young prospector faces. This is my favorite story in the collection, with an interesting alien culture and an emotionally effective conclusion.

"Steel Brother"- A story of a man who guards humanity's frontier's against alien aggression, with an interesting wrinkle- he wears a mechanism in his helmet that contains the recorded thoughts and memories of each man who served and died in his place before him, which he can access by thought. Does he call on that accumulated experience in battle and risk having his own personality swamped, or go it alone without the experience that might be vital to victory? Thought-recording and downloaded personalities are common tropes now, but it was neat to see it in a story from 1952.

"Love Me True"- Nice and creepy, and it has the good kind of twist ending- the kind that surprises you, yet seems obvious when you read the story a second time.

All in all, The Man from Earth is an enjoyable collection. The stories deliver plenty of excitement and some emotional punch. If you like science fiction from this era, or if any of the stories outlined above sound interesting, then by all means seek out a copy.

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