by Gordon R. Dickson
Some months before Starship Troopers was serialized in F&SF, Dorsai! ran in the May, June and July issues of Astounding, and thus being perhaps the first book length example of Military SF, even though ST was released in book format first.
It's the year 2403 and mankind has spread to the nearest stars and colonized planets, mostly by terraforming (thus Dickson avoids the problem of "Earth like" planets with life around young stars like Sirius).
Each planet is specialized and trades more in trained personnel than physical goods. Dorsai, a planet in the Fomalhaut system, provides the finest mercenaries in the known universe. Donal Graeme is the latest addition, having just turned 18 years old.
Donal is also "odd", and thanks to the genes from his Maran (produces psychologists) mother he has amazing powers of intuition. He has the power to foresee or to look into the past, he's the ruler of the stars...no wait, that was a different, later boy wonder.
Thanks to his superior intuition in addition to being a Dorsai, his career is meteoric and he eventually must face Prince William, another superman of superior abilities, but less martial and more like the scheming politician Palpatine.
Another important character is the girl Anea Marlivana, the Select of Kultis, who is a product of a selective breeding program and is to become Prince William's wife. The leaders of Kultis have great hopes for their offspring and his/her descendants. Sound familiar?
But then comes the unplanned mutation Donal and disrupts their plans...
So an interesting premise.
Unfortunately the writing is pretty bad and very pulpy, everything being very sketchy. The images the text conjure in my mind is like a movie using the cheapest possible sets. The characters are somewhat more distinct, though. There's no flashbacks, only one POV, and hardly any inner monologues, so all in all rather crude and very far from being "literate" SF. The story starts with an info dump in the form of Donal and his closest family discussing the current situation. Better than a regular info dump, but still rather clumsy, and it's even repeated in the third part of the serial.
So objectively hardly two stars, but despite all its faults I rather enjoyed the story, and in the end that's what really matters. And it's an easy and quite short read anyway.
What inhuman kind of armor are you wearing, young man, that leads you to trust yourself in my presence, again?”
“Possibly the armor of public opinion,” replied Donal.
[Cough] Plot armor. [Cough]
I wonder how much of this is autobiographical?
why drink this way?”
“Because I am a coward,” said ArDell. “I feel it out there, all the time, this enormousness that is the universe. Drinking helps me shut it out — that Godawful
knowledge of what it can do to us. That’s why I drink. To take the courage I need out of a bottle, to do the little things like passing through phase shift without medication.”