In Gordon R. Dickson's
"future history" of humanity's physical and spiritual
development, The Childe Cycle (“Cycle”) or as it is
more commonly referred to, the Dorsai books, we see the
development of the three Splinter Cultures, and the Others.
The Friendlies were men and woman of enduring faith; the
Exotics were philosophers and scientists who sought to know
all there is to know; and The Dorsai, they were incomparable
professional soldiers. The Others - Dahno and Bleys Ahrens
Why did the three Splinter
Cultures achieve what they did - because, each in their own
way understood there were “no free rides.” Yesterday’s
accomplishments ALWAYS need be followed with the new
accomplishments of today.
The name Childe Cycle is an
allusion to "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came", a poem
by Robert Browning, which provided considerable inspiration
for elements in Dickson's magnum opus.
While, on the face of it, the
Cycle is a science fiction series, it is also an allegory.
In addition to the eight science fiction novels of the
Cycle, Dickson had also planned three historical novels and
three novels taking place in the present day. It is known
that one of the three historical novels would have dealt
with John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost. Judging from
the frequent mentions of him in the published science
fiction portion of the Cycle, Sir John Hawkwood, a 14th
century mercenary, would probably have been the subject of
The Cycle stretches from the
14th century to the 24th century, and deals with the
conflict between progress and conservatism. It also deals
with which of humanity's traits are most important, namely,
Courage, Faith, and the ability to think philosophically.
Following the events of
Necromancer, humanity has colonized some 14 Younger Worlds.
The inhabitants of these worlds have evolved culturally, and
to some extent, genetically, into several specialized
Splinter Cultures. This was done by the racial collective
unconscious itself as an experiment to see what aspects of
humanity are the most important. The inhabitants of Earth
(now called Old Earth, since New Earth is one of the Younger
Worlds) remain "full spectrum humans" as a control.
The interstellar economy is
based on the exchange of specialists, which puts Old Earth,
the jack of all trades, at something of a disadvantage.
the Splinter Cultures, three are the most successful:
The Dorsai (Courage): The
Dorsai, inhabitants of a Younger World also called the
Dorsai, are honorable, elite mercenaries. The Cycle focuses
mainly on their exploits, to the extent that the Cycle is
also known as the “Dorsai series.”
The Exotics (Philosophy): The
Exotics are the inhabitants of Mara and Kultis. They are
pacifistic philosophers, the descendants of the 21st Century
Chantry Guild. Dickson based the Exotics on Eastern
Philosophy. The Exotics hire themselves out as
psychiatrists, among other things.
(Faith/Fanaticism): The somewhat ironically named Friendlies
inhabit the worlds of Harmony and Association. Friendlies
can be true faith-holders, or they can be fanatics. The
difference, according to the Cycle, is that true
faith-holders are guided by their faith, while fanatics use
their faith to justify their actions. The Friendly home
worlds experience continual sectarian civil war. Like the
Dorsai, the Friendlies earn interstellar credit as
mercenaries, fighting in other people's wars. Unlike the
Dorsai, Friendly mercenaries are drafted cannon-fodder, with
largely green troops and high casualty rates. However, they
are tenacious defenders. While the Friendlies are sometimes
presented as villains, their faith is co-equal in importance
to humanity with the Courage of the Dorsai and the
Philosophy of the Exotics. Dickson based the Friendlies on
Other Splinter Cultures
include the Hard Scientists of Newton and Venus, the Miners
of Coby, the Fishermen of Dunnin's World, the Technocrats of
Cassida, the Catholic farmers of St. Marie, and the
merchants of Ceta.
Books of the Cycle include:
addition, there are two books that take place in the same
fictional universe as the Childe Cycle, but are not part of
the greater allegory.
Both of these books each
contain two short works, and have a frame story. The frame
story is a conversation between Hal Mayne and the Third
Amanda Morgan, during the events of The Final Encyclopedia.
chronology of the Cycle, the novels fall in the following
Tactics of Mistake
Soldier, Ask Not
However, it has been
suggested the best way to read them is in this order:
- Tactics of Mistake
- Soldier, Ask Not
- Young Bleys
- The Final
- Chantry Guild
novels, together with their internal dates and central