Review of 'Tactics of Mistake'

Tactics of Mistake by Gordon R. Dickson

tactics_of_mistake.jpg Dickson's fourth written work in the Childe Cycle sees a talented Alliance tactician Cletus Grahame travel to Kultis where the Alliance is supporting Bakhalla, an exotic colony, in a war against their neighbour Neuland which is backed by the Coalition. During the trip Cletus deliberately antagonises Coalition senior staff member Dow deCastries and in doing so sparks events to unfold throughout the story. The heart of his strategy is the “tactics of mistake” where you lead your opponent into a false sense of superiority while leading them into a trap from which they cannot escape, with as little loss of life as possible. Cletus demonstrates the power of this strategy against Neuland then joins the local Dorsai, forming them into a mercenary group based on his tactics and his psychological methods of controlling the body. They demonstrate their success time and time again but deCastries, with overwhelming numbers of troops at his disposal is waiting for his chance…

An interesting novel that brings to mind the Ender sequence by Orson Scott Card - A military novel focused on the brilliance of an amazing commander who does not play by the rules. In this case, Cletus seems to have everything under control at all times, coming across as a bit cocky with his rise to power slightly hard to believe but done in such a way that we go along with it. If you do not have familiarity with the “Childe Cycle” of books I don't think that will be a problem in understanding and appreciating “Tactics of Mistake” (an odd and grammatically jarring title, I have to say) - I don't yet found it easy enough to follow. Quite easy to read with the action moving on at quite a clip, regularly maintaining interest. It is impossible from page to page to see what will happen next.

Cletus has very little in the way of feelings, more of a cold-hearted military strategist which makes his marriage and subsequent relationship very hard to believe (particularly the way the book ends). He is appealing only in our wishing him to succeed against the odds, his way rather than the way he is expected to behave. Indeed, he often steps well over the line to the point where I can't believe those involved would not have locked him up for insubordination though perhaps that is the point - They are so unsure of themselves they do not act as they should, satisfied in defeat or lack of ambition.

An interesting first exposure of myself to the world of “Dorsai” but, I feel, this will not be my last.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2023-08-06

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Sphere

Publication Date: 1971

ISBN: 0722130015