Berserkers - The berserkers: the physical embodiment of death. They are massive, intelligent robotic space fortresses, programmed to destroy all life. Left over from an ancient war between two living races, they have reproduced and improved themselves, sweeping across the Galaxy in search of life to destroy. Though the archetypal form of the Berserker is the giant space hulk, they have come in a variety of shapes and sizes, never ceasing their quest for new and better ways to destroy life, and to wipe out Solarian humanity in particular. The name Berserker is derived from the unpredictability of the machines. At their core is an element of randomness based on radioactive decay.

Humanity - this term refers to all sentient life in the Galaxy. So homo sapiens are referred to as "Earth-descended humans" or "Solarians." In the timeframe of the Berserker books, homo sapiens and the Carmpan seem to be the only two active and prominent instances of humanity in the Galaxy, though several less influential strains of humanity are encountered here and there, and there were certainly more in the past...

Goodlife - a term coined by the Berserkers, referring to a lifeform (perhaps only refers to Earth-descended humans) that serves the cause of the Berserkers. Originated in the story "Goodlife" in the original Berserker collection. Goodlife may be born or tortured into servitude, but there also exist cults of goodlife who choose to work for the Berserkers of their own free will, often worshipping them as well.

Badlife - refers to life that actively resists eradication.

Elder Races - almost nothing is known about these shadowy branches of humanity. It is not even clear from any of the books/stories whether or not Solarians have had any contact with them at all, though it is implied that any such contact would likely be mediated by the Carmpan. It is unknown whether any of them still exist outside of the center of the Galaxy. In Berserker Wars we learn that some of them may have sacrificed worlds and lives to slow the advance of the Berserkers in order to give Solarians more time for development. We also learn that some of them may be up to billions of years old and could possibly have survived a previous, independent Berserker peril.

Carmpan - Earth-descended humanity's only real ally in the struggle against the Berserkers. Little is known or understood about them, except that their way of thinking is almost completely alien. They are somehow incapable of the kind of active resistance that Earth-descended humans are, but they have the ability to see into the minds of other living beings and in some cases to look past time. They also seem to have contact with very elusive and mysterious older races of humanity, the Elder Races. Their bodies are described as squarish and even machine-like, and they often appear networked with machinery and other lifeforms. They apparently have two sexes, though there is no obvious difference in appearance between them. A few specific Carmpan occupations have become apparent, including: Historian, Adventurer, Prophet of Probability, and Diplomat (I'm not sure about that last one).

Builders - This ancient warlike race created the Berserkers apparently as an act of desperation in a war against the Red Race, their most powerful adversary. The Berserkers wiped out the Red Race and continued on to apparently eradicate their creators, leaving no trace of the Builders. It is believed that the Builders probably exterminated several other races of humanity before their war against the Red Race. Snippets of film footage of the Builders have been retrieved from both the Berserkers and the Carmpan. The Builders were humanoids with one large eye, had two sexes, and communicated via soundwaves, though their language has never been recorded. In Berserker Kill we discover that, incredibly, some Builders have survived. One living Builder crews a massive Berserker-looking ark ship filled with Builder embryos. This ship has remained hidden in the Mavronari nebula for ages, awaiting an opportunity to obtain the equipment needed for restoring the race. Having got that equipment from a ship with a similar payload of Solarian embryos, the Builder and its new Solarian companions set forth to found a new world within the nebula. The aid of such a skilled and once-powerful is sure to help the fight against the Berserkers once its population is restored.

The Red Race - The race on which the Builders unleashed the Berserkers. Very little is known of them, though they must have been very powerful adversaries to drive the Builders to create the Berserkers. From bits of footage even rarer than those of the Builders, the Red Race appeared to have been short and very stocky. And red. One trace of this race and its struggle against the Builders/Berserkers remains: Qwib-Qwib, the anti-Berserker Berserker. The last Qwib-Qwib was miraculously discovered and restored by a Solarian in Berserker Base and may well be reproducing itself.

Space Force - the official interstellar military organization of Solarian humanity. Plays more of a role in the later Berserker books (as it probably didn't exist earlier on).

Templars - a sort of brother/sisterhood devoted to fighting Berserkers. They are the other main military-like presence in Solarian space, beside the Space Force. There is something of a rivalry between the Templars and the Space Force, but they are both definitely on the same side. Templars tend to be quite zealous about their struggle against the Berserkers, especially loathing Goodlife. Many Templars are devoted to a religion of some sort.

Dardanians - A mysterious sect of Solarian humans who built the fortress at the Templar Radiant, long before Berserkers ever arrived in Solarian space.

Directors - Master Berserker computers which apparently direct operations of Berserkers across the Galaxy. Conjecture: they probably only concern themselves with grand-scale tactics or missions of extreme importance, because many Berserkers seem to be operating independently and randomly. The Directors are only ever mentioned or seen in Berserker Man as I recall. No one of them was any more important than the others, and they all had the same capabilities. They were stationed outside the Taj at the Core and had devised the creation of Michel Geulincx as a grand scheme. One of them attempted to reach the center of the Taj and was apparently destroyed.

Nebulons - (Berserker Blue Death) A sentient race of ethereal beings which lives among the Milkpail Nebula. They helped to defeat the Berserker Leviathan.

'Reen - (Berserker Base) A "stocky, carnivorous, mammalian sentient species" living on Almira with humans who mostly overlook them. They hunt using the Calling, a group ritual involving an effigy and chanting and culminating in the halting of the lifeforce of the prey via some sort of communal telekinesis. The 'Reen were pressed into service to help fight a Berserker against which they used the Calling.

Ilyans - (Berserker Base) A sentient race of beings on the world Ilya. Their technology is not very advanced and their society is mostly pastoral. They are described as short humanoids with a round head, large eyes, and grey plumage somewhere between feathers and fur.


Other Races of Humanity (living or dead)? - see the RUMINATIONS page.



Noteworthy Individuals, and those appearing in more than one book/story

Frank Marcus - (Berserker Man, Berserker Kill) Probably Solarian humanity's greatest pilot, ever. Also one of the most seasoned and successful veterans of Berserker encounters. Nothing seems to slow this guy down, including getting a majority of his physical body blasted away by Berserkers. He now chooses to exist in what have come to be called "Marcus boxes:" three compartments on wheels which house his brain and other remaining body parts (humanoid replacement bodies are available, but he's sticking with boxes). He also turned out to be the father of Michel Geulincx.

Johann Karlsen - ("Stone Place," "Masque of the Red Shift," and "Face of the Deep" in Berserker and a few other collections; also ≈Berserker's Planet, and ≈Berserker Man) Solarian humanity's most prominent and steadfast hero in the war against the Berserkers, also a religious man. He lead the battle which nearly wiped out the Berserkers at Stone Place, and is probably the single individual that's highest on the Berserkers' hit list. Despite the grim ending to the Prophecy of Probability for him, his personal story after "Face of the Deep" is never much elaborated, but there is evidence that he continued to lead successful battles against the Berserkers for a long time.

Felipe Nogara - Johann Karlsen's nefarious half-brother.

Hemphill - ("Goodlife," "Stone Place," "In the Temple of Mars") Johann Karlsen's cold-eyed righthand man and fellow Berserker war veteran. He actually discovered the first known instance of goodlife.

Mitchell Spain - ("Stone Place," "In the Temple of Mars") A poet-turned-warrior.

Harry Silver - (Shiva in Steel, Berserker's Star) A talented, wry, no-nonsense pilot (with a penchant for ancient poetry) whose most prized possession/companion is his ship, the Witch of Endor. Trouble seems to follow this guy wherever he goes, and that includes Berserkers. He helped win the battle against Shiva and its minions on Hyperborea, and helped thwart the destruction of hundreds of inhabited worlds in Berserker's Star. His one-time partner in smuggling, Becky Sharp, is also his serious love interest. After the events in Berserker's Star he seems likely to settle down on the world Esmerelda with Becky.

Becky Sharp - (Shiva in Steel, Berserker's Star) One-time smuggler with Harry Silver. After a stint on Good Intentions serving under Emperor Julius she rejoins Harry. She's not present for the action in Berserker's Star as she's off on Esmerelda, giving birth to their son, Ethan.

Michel Geulincx - (Berserker Man) This young man, an artistic prodigy on the world of Alpine, was selected to use Solarian humanity's most advanced weapon ever, Lancelot. His use of the weapon led to a transformation in which he seemed to merge with the non-life Lancelot. His odd birth was in fact engineered by the Berserkers, in an attempt to create a living weapon they could use, but more importantly to somehow determine whether or not the Taj was alive so they could know if it was to be destroyed. His odyssey eventually brought him to the Taj, where he was conceived and where he then became the avatar of Solarian humanity and learned the secrets of the Universe. This may well have been the greatest turning point in the Berserker war, as implied by the 3rd Historian's records (Berserker Wars).

3rd Historian - the most famous of all Carmpan. He essentially narrated Berserker and The Ultimate Enemy. Most of what Solarian humanity learned form the Carmpan was from long-distance transmissions sent by the 3rd Historian. In Berserker Wars we read the report of a Solarian archivist on an expedition to the private archive of the 3rd Historian. The report reveals the 3rd Historian's keen interest in the following questions: are there different Berserkers in other galaxies? If so, will the life in those galaxies be able to fight them (with something like Solarian humanity)? Finally, has there been a prior Berserker scourge in our own galaxy, independent of the current Berserkers? From indications in Berserker Man and Berserker Wars, the 3rd Historian probably now currently resides in the Taj, possibly as the representative of his race.

4th Adventurer - (Berserker Blue Death, Berserker Kill) The individual who held this occupation was a true anomaly among Carmpan. Whereas the entire Carmpan race is somehow unable to participate in direct combat, the 4th Adventurer personally accompanied Solarians in particularly important missions against Berserkers and actively participated. The 4th Adventurer was instrumental in making contact with the Nebulons in the Milkpail Nebula and in the destruction of the notorious Berserker, Leviathan (both in Berserker Blue Death). Unfortunately, he/she (?) was killed in Berserker Kill.

Greta Thamar - ("Some Event at the Templar Radiant" in The Ultimate Enemy and Berserker Wars, and Berserker Throne) An inquisitive young dancer who inadvertently got mixed up with a Berserker debacle at the Templar Radiant. Her mind got jumbled by the authorities, trying to extract information that wasn't there, but she lived for several hundred more years and was apparently still working in the same club when the Berserkers again attacked the Radiant with the naïve help of Prince Harivarman.

Qwibbian Qwibbian Kel - (Berserker Base) An anti-Berserker Berserker; its likes were created by the Red Race as a final act of desperation before they were wiped out by the Berserkers. Miraculously, the last one in existence was found intact and repaired by Dr. Juna Bayel, a Knowledge Systems Specialist

Hilary Gage - (Berserker Base) an Earth-descended human who volunteered to have his mind instantiated in a machine, then struggled through artistic creation to prove that he was still human. He became instrumental in the famous rescue of some Solarians and Carmpan from a Berserker base. He at one point met Frank Marcus, who maintains that gage doesn't qualify as human.

Christopher Havot - (Berserker Kill, Shiva in Steel) Not his real name. A smooth sociopath and a scrupulous killer. Fighting Berserkers proves to be entertaining for him when they get in his way, so at least he isn't Goodlife.

Shiva - (Shiva in Steel) A particulary intelligent Berserker. It is left unclear as to whether it is still functional at the end of the book, but even if it were, it has no way to move about on its own.

The Co-ordinator - (Berserker Man) A special Berserker sent on a mission to capture Michel Geulincx.

Leviathan - (Berserker Blue Death) A terribly menacing Berserker which ravaged worlds in the Milkpail Nebula. It is eventually destroyed by the obsessed Niles Domingo with an assist from his crew (which included the Carmpan 4th Adventurer) and the Nebulons.

Individuals appearing in only one book/story

Thomas the Grabber - (Berserker's Planet) A burly yet swift man with a unique weapon: a steel-armored spear. He is steady and intrepoid. He quickly becomes a frontrunner in the tournament of Thorun, and ultimately defeats his last competitor only to face the god, Thorun, himself in combat! But Thorun turns out to be nothing but a Berserker robot, which Thomas defeats with the help of the presumed-dead Giles the Treacherous. Thomas is thereafter revered as a god.

Lily Gunnlod - (Berserker's Star) An energetic and perseverant young woman who travels across a score of systems in search of her wayward husband, Alan. She charters passage from Harry Silver on the final leg of her journey to Maracanda, and ends up being instrumental in thwarting the Beserkers' plans to unleash unparalleled devastation on surrounding star systems.

Alan Gunnlod - (Berserker's Star) A hyper-idealist who changes his mind on a regular basis. Deserts Lily to join worshippers of Malakó on Maracanda, who deify the Galaxy itself, only to decide that investing in mineral rights is the one true path. Doesn't seem to give a rat's ass about Lily.

Mr. Redpath & Mr. Dietrich - (Berserker's Star) A couple of tight-lipped businessmen who turn out to be inept cons. After a short "vacation" on an abandoned station in the Thisworld system, they make it back to Maracanda to help out their boss, Bulaboldo. Redpath is still alive by the end of the book.

Kul Bulaboldo - (Berserker's Star) Falstaffian business "friend" of Harry Silver. Will do almost anything to make a buck, yet always maintains his joviality.

Brigadier General Robledo Pike - (Berserker's Star) An enthusiastic Templar leader stationed on Maracanda who would like nothing more than to stamp out the goodlife he suspects is plotting there, except that he doesn't have the resources.

Commandant Rovaki - (Berserker's Star) The head Space Force authority on Maracanda. Highly suspicious of Harry Silver.

Dr. Kloskurb- (Berserker's Star) An astrogeologist on Maracanda, interested in studying the non-planet's physics-defying innards. Looks like Harry Silver.

Dr. Emily Kochi- (Berserker's Star) Another astrogeologist, gone missing a while back.

Piers Herron- ("Patron of the Arts") Perhaps one of humanity's greatest artists, but can he regain his own humanity in the face of a Berserker attack? He attempts to paint an interpretive portrait of a Berserker unit, and to explain the value of art to his subject. He is allowed to live in order to use his art to spread appreciation of the cause of death.