Tag: colonialism

Tactics of Mistake

Tactics of Mistake front and back cover.


Tactics of Mistake was an enjoyable read. It’s worth noting that I generally like Gordon R. Dickson’s work, and have read a scattering of his Dorsai novels. The main weakness in this story is how well Cletus Grahame predicts events and people’s actions. There are a handful of cases where things go awry, but these setbacks are small scale and grounded in chance, not in a failure of Cletus’ strategic and tactical acumen. For the one main character to be consistently entirely correct is entertaining, but feels quite artificial, and crushed my suspension of disbelief. However, turns out I didn’t need it anyways. Cletus’ insights are always grounded in considering the environment or his opponent’s goals and psyche. In that regard, it is less a matter of Cletus being prescient and more a matter of it being unbelievable that all his opponents are incapable of making similar insights.

While there are many definitions of science fiction, one of the more prevalent is that science fiction asks “what if this set of changes happened? How would that change the world?” In that vein, Tactics of Mistake explores how the use of mercenary forces in colonial battles might affect the structure of combat organizations and the skills and outlook required for soldiers and officers. The introduction of the mental power of concentration and how useful that is for soldiers is fascinating, especially given the current trend promoting mindfulness and meditation for efficiency improvements in the workplace. Cletus is the vector for pretty much all of this considerations, and that gives the book a strong “one self-made man changes the universe” vibe.

There is also a romantic subplot that has to my eyes not aged particularly well.

Cover Art Review: Sublime! I really really like the shading on the jacket and the color palette used, especially the contrast of the stark white book title, the fiery glow of the background, and the blue military uniform in the foreground.



Terra Insegura


I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this book, which boil down into an impression of missed potential. This was a book that I had trouble reading due to the ugliness of spirit of some of the antagonist characters. However, they weren’t interesting, just mostly bland, brutal, nasty sons of guns. I think a lot of my issues stem from that this is a sequel, and so the protagonists were not developed that well. Had I had read the first novel, and had all that character development and plot development behind me, I probably would have received Terra Insegura more positively.

On that note, I constantly felt like the book and myself were not on the same level of understanding. In particular, the details behind the Selkies, their creator, and the Keronomi made little sense to me until the very end. This was frustrating, because the idea is very intriguing and has great potential, and I really liked what I saw of the Selkie populace, but I never really got the feel of what was going on. Additionally, the plot felt arbitrary at points, where obstacles seemed dropped in that had little to do with the main conflict but were not particularly interesting or effective on their own either.

One thing the book really nailed for me was the eerie feeling of a plague-devastated world. There was a lot of uneasiness and mistrust boiling over, with survivors fighting over the cure for the plague.

Cover Art Review: I like it! Aesthetically, it feels too ethereal and floaty to me, probably due to the light burst in the top, and would benefit from either having the bottom of the scene darker to solidly ground you in the scene, or just decreasing how much the bright light washes everything out. On the other hand, this does lend it a confused, eerie feeling, which is appropriate for the novel.