Series: Berserker 7
Reviewed date: 2006 Jan 31
Berserker Throne is a fine installment in Fred Saberhagen's Berserker series. Humanity is pitted against the most merciless foe: machine intelligences called berserkers, whose only goal is to wipe the universe clean of all organic life. The Berserker books are not dependent on each other and can be read in any order.
In Berserker Throne humanity has beaten back the berserkers for a time, and the novel's plot focuses more on human political struggles than on the war with the berserkers. Prince Harivarman has been exiled to the Fortress, a massive space station. Back on the planet Salutai, the Empress is assassinated. Harivarman wishes to return to power, but he is of course a prime suspect in the assassination plot. Commander Blenheim, in charge of Harivarman's exile, will surely hand him over to his accusers.
But Harivarman discovers a secret that gives him an edge: a deactivated cache of berserker machines and--most importantly--the control code to the berserkers. Using the control code, the berserkers can be ordered to serve humanity instead of their programmed goal of exterminating life. Instead of turning the control code over to the leaders of humanity, Harivarman keeps it for himself, determined to use the berserkers to secure himself as the new Emperor before deigning to use the control code to eliminate the berserker threat once and for all.
Berserker Throne is a good book. Not excellent, but it's a nice story whose only fault is being a bit predictable. It does not fall into the trap of Berserker Man and degenerate into silly existentialism; Berserker Throne is space opera.