FICTION / FANTASY /GODS
BERSERKER is a registered trademark of Fred Saberhagen and can not be used without permission.
The Empress of the Eight Worlds has been assassinated during the
Holiday of Life festivities on the planet Salutai. Prince Harivarman,
exiled and a virtual prisoner on the Templar Radiant, a vast
spherical fortress constructed around an ancient, benign, star-like
source of inverse gravity, suspects that he will be the next victim.
Help is scarce: Garielle, the Prince's stunning redheaded lover,
fears for her own safety. Anne Blenheim, the fortress's clear-eyed,
fair Commander is favorably disposed toward the Prince, but her first
responsibility is to the Templar High Command. Beatrix, the Prince's
dark, iron-nerved yet seemingly demure wife, has already left him
once. And Chen Shizuoka, the Templar recruit who has stayed a
demonstration on Harivarman's behalf during the disastrous
celebration on Salutai is being stalked by planetary security
When Prince Harivarman discovers an operable Berserker--one of the
asteroid-sized, spacefaring war machines that had destroyed their
makers and all other life they found in their path--his first
instinct is to turn it in. But then he finds an ancient code that
will either allow him to control the dreaded machine or lead him--and
everyone else on the Templar Radiant--to certain death.
. . . stunning plot twists and rich descriptions of the
sophisticated and somehow desolate Templar landscape. The harrowing
climax, set in the fortress's outer reaches where walls have been
inscribed with a mysterious forgotten art form, will surpass the
expectations of veteran Saberhagen fans and delight all those lucky
enough to be savoring this author's otherworldly talent for
page-turning suspense for the very first time. This fascinating
journey is intergalactic travel at its most exciting.
In this novel, the assassination of the Empress of the Eight
Worlds suddenly puts exiled Prince Harivarman into jeopardy. His
desprate need to escape his murderous enemies undermines his judgment
when he finds a disabled berserker and thinks he has cracked the
control code of this self-replicating mechanical race that obeys a
single directive: to kill all living things.
Taken from CHAPTER ONE
Around the green and lovely world called Salutai, the sky was
clear of terror, as it had been now for many years. Today the
planet's dayside sky was almost clear of clouds as well, and at
midday the face of the land beneath it blazed with the thousand
colors of midsummer flowers.
It was the Holliday of Life today on Salutai, the planet's
greatest yearly festival, and at the meridian of noon the central
procession of the festival was passing through small town streets
strewn with fresh-cut blooms.
Through this particular small town ran many canals. They were
clean, open waterways, and almost as numberous as the streets. And
today in the canals as in the streets of Salutai the masses of summer
blooms were prodigally distributed, those on the water floating and
drifiting in the controlled current. The streets and canal banks adn
buildings of the town under the noonday sun echoed with celebration,
with ten kinds of music all being played and sung at the same time.
The buildings, streets, canals, as well as the people in them and on
them and the living plants that made archways above, were all mad
At the center of the slow-moving ceremonial procession crept the
broad, low, bubble-domed groundcar in which the Empress of the Eight
Worlds was riding. The parade extending ahead of her car and behind
it was not really very long,but it took its time, so that everyone in
the twon who wanted to see the procession and the Empress at close
range had a good chance to do so. And there were many, in this town
and across the planet, who did want to see. The crowds, here on
Salutai composed exclusively of Earth-descended humans, cried the
name of their Empress in several languages, and some of the people in
the crowd waved petitions and raised banners and placards, promoting
one cause or another, as her clear-topped groundcar crept past.
Though the procession was not moving with much speed, neither was
the town large. The sun of Salutai was still very nearly directly
overhead when the central groundcar and its escort of marchers and
other vehicles emerged from the confinement of the old town's narrow
streets, and entered abruptlyinto a countryside that was
approximately half in well-managed cultivation, half still in what
looked like virgin wilderness.
As the short parade left the last of the hard-paved streets
behind, the crowds surrounding it grew no less, but rather greater.
Here, amid a vast, parklike expanse that provided more room in which
to assemble, a larger throng was waiting. This crowd was made up
partly of government workers and dependents drafted into action and
tubed out from the nearby capital city; still, most of the people had
come here freely, to cheer a monarch popular enough to draw
spontaneous affection from many of her people.
Here a substantial minority of the crowd had in mind other things
besides the offer of uncritical affection. Live news coverage of the
procession wasnotably absent, but still there were occasional
protests. Whenever these protestors and placard-bearers grew too
numerous or noisy, security people in uniform and out appeared in
sudden concentration, moving to break up the gatherings as gently and
as quietly as possible. There were noinjuries. The people of Salutai
knew a long tradition of courtesy, and they were almost universally
unused to the organization of violence, at least against their fellow
humans and fellow citizens.