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Dorsai Spirit
Gordon R. Dickson
Tor Books, 430 pages

Art: Royo
Dorsai Spirit
Gordon R. Dickson
Gordon R. Dickson was born in 1923 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His first SF publication was the story "TressPass!" which appeared in Fantastic Story Quarterly #1 (Spring 1950) with Poul Anderson and his first solo publication was "The Friendly Man" in Astounding Science Fiction, February 1951. Dickson has won Hugo Awards for two novellas, "Soldier, Ask Not" in 1965 and "Lost Dorsai" in 1981, and a novelette, "The Cloak and the Staff" in 1981. Also, he won a Nebula Award for a novelette, "Call Him Lord" in 1966.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Dragon in Lyonesse
Gordon R. Dickson Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Dorsai Spirit is an omnibus edition of the two first novels of the Dorsai series. Dorsai is a world where the whole culture is dedicated to the way of the warrior, the solider, where the men leave to become paid solders in other people's wars while the women stay home to defend the world. The first book, Dorsai, is about Donal Grahame, a young man who has always known that he was unusual. In fact, his family and friends are secretly afraid that he'll reject his commission, but that's the last thing on Donal's mind. He wants to become the best, and his talents and good fortune help him quickly rise through the ranks. When he encounters Anea Marlivana, and offers her his help, she gives him her employment contract, hoping he'll destroy it. Knowing that if he does so, he has as good as executed her, he returns it to the man for whom she is designated to be the companion.

Dorsai is mostly about two things: Donal's rise through the ranks, and how his odd ability affects him, the Dorsai in general, and his fight against Prince William of Ceta. It's good; not only for the adventure aspects, but because this sets up for the reader what the Dorsai series is really like. We learn the culture from the male/mercenary point of view. Donal is an excellent character; he's perfect as a soldier. Perfect logic, perfect stoicism. The fact that he's made unusual through his powers makes him more understandable to the reader, even as his flawless logic makes him admirable.

In The Spirit of Dorsai, a young woman named Amanda tells the story of the two other amazing women to have held her name. Here we discover the other side of this world, the woman's side. In many military SF novels, the women might be expected to look or act like mothers or mistresses. Something to be coddled. But no one would coddle the first Amanda, named "The Spirit of the Dorsai." While Cletus Grahame, the War Leader of Dorsai is off-planet, a group of invaders, The Alliance Collition Expeditionary Force attack, planning to arrest Cletus when he returns to defend his home. Mayer Amanda coordinates the resistance against them.

The second Amanda's story really concerns Kensie and Ian, a pair or mercenary twins with a strong bond. When Kensie is assassinated, Ian must not only find his brother's killer, but discover the traitor in his own ranks. The second Amanda isn't truly in the actual story. I thought perhaps she was used to tie the two stories together. The Spirit of Dorsai not only gives us insight into the home culture of the Dorsai, but introduces us to more of the history of the world, and gives the reader a good background for the series.

Dorsai was originally published in 1959, and is just as exciting and interesting as ever. Gordon R. Dickson was wise, in that he doesn't make a great deal of the technology, concentrating on the people, culture, and the action. The Spirit of Dorsai was published around 1979, but you wouldn't know it. Both novels work well together to build a complete picture of this classic series.

Copyright © 2002 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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