cover image Shiva in Steel

Shiva in Steel

Fred Saberhagen. Tor Books, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86326-5

Super saber-rattler Saberhagen strikes again, with the eighth installment of his popular Berserker series (Berserker Fury, etc.). Solarian humanity is fighting galaxywide for survival against ultimate-weapon machines able to redesign themselves and bent on exterminating all forms of life. With Shiva, a newly developed artificially intelligenced Berserker, heading her way, Commander Claire Normandy musters her slim force of converted courier ships piloted by a motley assortment of pickup crews in order to defend her top-secret code-breaking installation on the planetoid Hyperborea. While Normandy fights off the invading swarm of Berserkers, space-weary combat pilot-turned-smuggler Harry Silver and his lost-found-lost-again love Becky Sharp lead Saberhagen's crisply drawn characters through complicated maneuvers involving an autodog Sniffer, military monomaniac Major Marut, self-anointed Galactic Emperor Julius and an escaped homicidal lunatic. Saberhagen's taut tough-guy dialogue counterpoints the satisfying punch of man-vs.-machine combat, and his settings--especially aboard ship and in the lofty tech areas of Hyperborea--are convincing. When the moondust and starship debris settle, Commander Normandy's good guys have won some breathing room, but odds are Shiva's out there lurking for episode #9--and so is the durable Harry Silver. (Sept.)