Soldier, Ask Not – Gordon R. Dickson

0812504003Soldier, Ask Not

This story begins with a somewhat self-conscious “Sing, muses….” as Tam Olyn explains himself and his particular wrath. Tam Olyn is angry: at his psychologically abusive guardian, at the society that actually doesn’t but could potentially oppress him, at his lack of options and his tenuous grasp on freedom–but Tam Olyn is a rare and isolated kind of special human being–he can do something about it. Tam discovers that he is actually one of the few people who can stand apart from the herd and direct its actions. He can make people do as he wants. He can change the course of history. He is one of the elite brotherhood of Men whose power can be exerted to uplift mankind itself, to bring it to new heights of knowledge and understanding, unity, peace, prosperity!

He…promptly uses this newfound knowledge to manipulate his sister into not marrying the man she loves, and works up to starting a war, and attempts to commit genocide. (So, y’know, par for the course for a journalist.) Tam has been too twisted by his nihilistic uncle’s mental abuse–too turned towards destruction–to have a shred of empathy for his fellow human beings. On top of this, there is a matter of jealousy–and competition.
As humanity spread to the fourteen worlds, each world became specialized–and their populations diverged, first by selection, and then by genetics. Thus the Exotics have developed, as a race, parapsychic powers and strange scientific methods of seeing the future. Thus, the Newtonians and Venusians breed the best scientists and physicists. Thus, the Friendlies are Religious in a way that makes the Puritans look like poseurs. And thus the Dorsai are the ultimate Warriors, bred to it as well as born. Earth and Earth-men, however, does not have the benefit of these genetic developments. Earth is the seedstock; the colonists are the improvements.

–And Tam, in his rebellion against the cosmos, takes issue with the idea that any man might be better than him…

And at this point, I am done writing. I apologize. I’ve been pulling ten-hour shifts for the last week, all of it outdoor labor, and barely have the energy to read books, let alone review them. Please just know that this is a very good book, especially if you are or have ever been an angry teenager who wanted to Stand Apart from all Those Fools and be the wielder of the lightnings, rather than one of the little people who runs before the storm.

Rated: Have faith–and soldier on.

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