Thirteenth in the Berserker series, though the credits page lists only nine and skips entirely Shiva in Steel (1998), an awesome disappointment for most Berserker fans.
In a far-off galaxy long ago, the Builders, a race of ancient aliens fighting a second race of aliens, built the deadly machines called Berserkers, which, programmed to kill the enemy alien, were self-aware and more intelligent than man, whom they can mimic with androids. Both races died, but the independent Berserkers now roam the universe in vast battlecraft and kill life wherever they find it. The first battle with peace-loving, planet-hopping Earthfolk found mankind trounced severely, though we’ve returned to fight another day. In a way, Berserkers, as their name implies, parallel the psychotic element in man, and Faustian archetypes arise from an alien race’s collective unconscious. Galactic life has now entered into a centuries-long defensive war against the death-machines. With a nearby sun exploding, the million humans on Hong’s World are being evacuated by Space Force when young Lily Gunnlod approaches Harry Silver to carry her to the planet Maracanda to help recover her husband, Alan, kidnapped—she says—by religious fanatics. Also asking for transport to Maracanda on Harry’s Witch of Endor are Mr. Redpath and Mr. Dietrich. When Dietrich and Redpath try to take over the ship, Harry leaves them behind on a small space station. But now Lily may be a nasty problem. Then a small death ship appears (no life aboard), ready to process them into dust, and Saberhagen slips into high space-opera. Helping Lily find her lost husband, Alan, on Maracanda proves an illuminating experience for Harry. Alan, it happens, has discovered the incredible mineral wealth of Maracanda, which, because it lies between a neutron star and a shifting black hole, is not quite a planet and is not in normal dimensional space.
Then the Berserkers appear in force.