Science-Fantasy Literature

I’ve been reading a lot lately (mostly for enjoyment). There is a series of books, what I’ve read so far are actually short stories compiled in books, by Fred Saberhagen called Berserker that have been brought to my attention. They focus on a war between life and unlife, with unlife taking the form of gigantic robotic death machines called Berserkers. And it’s fucking great.

before i get in depth on what makes Berserker great, let me tell you about why I’m a bad book reader.

The problem i have with reading occurs where boredom sets in and I never pick up the book again. I have high standards for books, and if it doesn’t tickle me just right, then it’s done. Just before I started with Berserker, I was reading a book called Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good… but it’s very dry. It takes an almost clinical approach to fantasy space exploration. It offers great insights into not only the human mind but also the possibilities of the universe that our society’s general anthrocentric attitude often misrepresent. Too often I hear people stating that life needs water to exist. There is no oxygen on that planet so there can’t be life. It goes on an on, and people think that our universe is inhospitable, but in reality the general media just has a limited view of the possibilities. Star Maker takes a stab at some of those preconceived notions (despite having been written (published) in 1937). Despite this… after my pumping up of it’s ideas, I just can’t make it through the book. It’s too clean, too sterile, almost in direct opposition of the subject matter of life. It’s interesting, sometimes engaging and even intellectual… but I’m bored by it. I hyperbolized a bit earlier in this paragraph, that I never pick a book up again after I toss it aside, not true, I’ll keep limping through Star Maker, one page at a time. But I have A Game of Thrones coming in the mail, and if that’s nearly as good as my buddies would have me believe, I’m sure Star Maker will fall by the wayside.

Image taken from

You can find this online for free… just don’t tell anyone that I told you that.

But before that package arrives, I suspect I’ll have another 2 Berserker books under my belt. They are extraordinarily diverse in their subject matter (for being centered around killer robots). Saberhagen manages to often leave the robots at the side of the conflict and focus on the people. Which is something games are incapable of. The video game Mass Effect is the perfect example because many readers of the Berserker series believe the giant killer robots from deep space idea used in Mass Effect to be directly cribbed from Berserker. And after only 1 book, I agree. The similarities in their design and function and behaviors are too similar to be co-incidence. But. The thing Mass Effect didn’t take from Berserker is the characterization. Mass Effect is good at characterizing, but everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, going on in that game is about the Reapers (their version of Berserkers). Saberhagen took a less direct route in his stories, once in a while the short stories don’t even have a Berserker in them (many, many of them do. But it’s nice when we get a look at the regular people of the universe rather than the giant death machines or the super heroes (figurative super heroes, of course)). I can appreciate a small part of the whole, which is something that is missing from much of sci-fantasty.

taken from

I love this cover. Penguin had the best cover artists.

I suppose that wide focus is also a boon of the format. I haven’t gotten into the novel length stories from Saberhagen… partly because the short stories have been so great I don’t have any desire to part with them but also because of my boredom factor, if they begin to lag, I’m probably just going to be out the door. But that’s a mystery for me to solve on my own. Anyway -point of the post- read Saberhagen, it’ll get you pumped and thinking at the same time.

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