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Tactics of Mistake: A Dorsai Novel by Gordon…

Tactics of Mistake: A Dorsai Novel (original 1971; edition 1980)

by Gordon R. Dickson (Author)

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912914,686 (3.67)15
Title:Tactics of Mistake: A Dorsai Novel
Authors:Gordon R. Dickson (Author)
Info:DAW (1980)
Collections:Your library

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Tactics of Mistake by Gordon R. Dickson (1971)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
There's a lot more action in this book compared to the last one. We've also gone back in time, a century before the first book, to learn about the origins & the real strength of the Dorsai. A good, quick read with a neat ending.

The series is still going strong. On to the next book, [b:The Spirit of Dorsai|263119|The Spirit of Dorsai (Dorsai/Childe Cycle)|Gordon R. Dickson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1173239011s/263119.jpg|2178639]. ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Jun 19, 2013 |
  rustyoldboat | May 28, 2011 |
Tactics of Mistake by Gordon R. Dickson is the Dorsai novel where it all began, so a prequel in many ways. This was a book I mooched along with Soothsayer in order to receive The Wind Crystal from a BookMoocher in Australia. All three are also registered with BookCrossing (my first experience with this). I think I will happily return Tactics of Mistake to the flow.

This book was moderately interesting, but not a keeper for me. I've read only one other Dorsai novel, which I liked well enough, though, once again, not enough to keep. These are books in the militaristic SF tradition about the ultimate warrior society. Which is to say, they are short on characterizations and dialogue, concentrating on action orchestrated by the idealized hero who can do no wrong.

This book features Cletus Grahame as the protagonist (straight white guy, of course) who revolutionizes warfare. What starts as a bloody contest between the Western Alliance and the Eastern Coalition (both Earth-based powers), or rather between their frontier planet catspaws, becomes the beginning of an independence movement. Not surprisingly, the Earth powers unite in an attempt to quash the outplanets. The whole thing is framed as a personal contest between Cletus and Dow deCastries (the straight white antagonist). Throw in a half-baked not particularly believable romance and some secondary characters who are turned around by our hero, and you have standard old-style science fiction. I think it also reflects the Cold War struggle as well, which adds to the sense of being dated.

There are some minorities included in the story. Melissa Khan (the love interest) and her father Colonel Eachen Khan are Afghani. They are the crux of the story, and provide Cletus Grahame entree to the Dorsai planet and its mercenary operations. The only obviously black person is Major Swahili, and his portrayal is perhaps the most negative. When Grahame starts leading the Dorsai to bloodless coups, he decamps because he loves the violence, killing, and personal risk and courage involved in warfare (in other words, he's the savage--pretty standard stereotype). Many of the names peppered through the book give it a multicultural feel: Lu May, Ad Reyes, Tosca Aras, and so on. With respect to the single female character, I will lift this quote directly from a review of Dorsai! because it applies equally well here: "Dickson also maintains his inability to write convincing female characters, is a step forward and a step backward, she's a strong, opinionated character, it's just that all her opinions are wrong and she spends most of the book making snide judgements about that clearly make her look stupid" (names changed to reflect current novel.

Perhaps the most interesting science fiction element for me is the concept of the Exotics, or the Association for the Investigation and Development of the Exotic Sciences. This group is all for revolutionizing human society by fostering "the seeds of further evolution." Our hero rejects their invitation with the observation, "You Exotics are essentially ruthless toward all men, because you're philosophers, and by and large, philosophers are ruthless people." It's a strong statement, and I'm not sure I agree with him, but I think I understand where he's coming from. This was the basic thesis in Seeing Like a State, which explores how ideas about social engineering when married to totalitarian political power lead to some truly devastating events.

So, moderately interesting, not particularly unique or original. Worth a quick read, definitely not written for female audiences (but then, how much from 1971 was?). Feels dated in many ways. Pretty classic Dickson. ( )
1 vote justchris | Feb 28, 2010 |
I tend to agree with TimothyBurke's assessment. This story is a Geek's dream fulfillment. Cletus is the misunderstood genius that can see and understand what no one else around him can.

While I haven't read all of the Dorsai books, this is definitely the best. I first read it as it was being published in serial form in Analog magazine. Have reread it a number of times since then.

Can I say that this is my favorite SciFi story without too much incrimination?! :-) ( )
  ittai | Dec 2, 2009 |
Although this book has some interesting ideas, like the tactical use of underwater bulldozers, some of the tactical situations boil down to 'Grahame is a genius, therefore whatever he guesses about the enemy's tactics will be correct'.

Real life really isn't that simple. ( )
  JudithProctor | Sep 5, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gordon R. Dicksonprimary authorall editionscalculated
DiFate, VincentCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Feidel, GottfriedTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freas, KellyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AnthonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Royo, LuisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage amongst his books. For to you Kingdoms and their armies are things mighty and enduring, but to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned by the flicking of a finger...
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The young lieutenant-colonel was drunk, apparently, and determined to rush upon disaster.
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Prelude to the "Childe" series, this book chronicles the start of the "Dorsai", a society of Mercenaries, and gives a taste of the "Exotics", a society of philosophers and the "Frendlies", a society of Crusaders-for-Hire.
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It's obvious that Cletus Graeme--limping, mild-mannered scholarly--doesn't belong on a battling field, but instead at a desk working on his fourth book on battle strategy and tactics. But Bakhalla has more battlefields than libraries, and Graeme sees his small force of Dorsai--soldiers of fortune--as the perfect opportunity to test his theories. But if his theories or his belief in the Dorsai lead him astray, he's a dead man.… (more)

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