Review: The Berserker Throne, by Fred Saberhagen

(Originally posted on Amazon 1/11/2005)

berserker throne

The problem I have with Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker series is that the stories are so uneven. Some of them, like Berserker Man and Brother Assassin, are very good; others, like Berserker Blue Death, are just dreadful. Berserker Throne stands as one of the better entries in the series, and is a great place for those who have not read a Berserker book before and are looking for someplace to start.

The time is the distant future, and humanity’s war with the Berserker machines still rages. When an assassination touches off a power struggle in the Empire of the Eight Worlds, Prince Harivarman, who has been unwillingly exiled to a space fortress known as the Templar Radiant, senses that his political enemies are moving against him and that his life is in imminent danger. He needs to escape his prison, but since he has no access to an interstellar spaceship and his Templar jailers seem unwilling to help him in his plight, things look desperate. Until, that is, he makes a surprising discovery: a Berserker war machine, damaged but still operable, hidden and forgotten in the Fortress’s outer reaches. Then, most startlingly, he finds a way to control it. And so, a plan for escape begins to form. But can a human truly control a machine bent on destroying humanity, once it has been unleashed?

The novel is sort of a cross between a political thriller and space opera. Prince Harivarman is actually a pretty likable main character, even though he knows he is taking a big risk and perhaps jeopardizing the lives of everyone around him. The writing here is very well done; Saberhagen keeps the story tight and flowing, with few distractions, and as a result the book is actually something of a quick read. The only real minus (and its a small one) is that Saberhagen does spend an awful long time setting things up, but once the action starts and Harivarman’s plan is set in motion, the book becomes a page turner that you will not want to put down. This one would make a great movie.

All in all, a very fun entry in the series.

5 Stars out of 5 Stars