The Heretic (Raj Whitehall)
by Tony Daniel and David Drake
Cover Artist: Kurt Miller
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Baen Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781451638813
Date: 02 April 2013 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
On the planet Duisberg Raj Whitehall and Center want to prepare another planet to join their growing Multi-world Federation. But the computer Zentrum wants to maintain a stable society. Zentrum maintains stability by banning technology advances and using periodic nomad invasions to stunt growth.
The Land, as the people of Duisberg know it, is a river based society similar to that of ancient Egypt. Abel Dashian is a curious boy. He likes to look into things and figure out how they work. His curiosity leads him to find a cache of items made from forbidden materials. In the cache he makes contact with Raj and Center. Going forward he is able to take advantage of the advice and gifts granted by both. He will need everything he can get, because the next invasion is coming soon.
As he grows, he joins the scouts and begins to fight the Redlanders. He will spearhead the fight and use new tactics and technology to even the odds. But he must be careful to not come to the attention of Zentrum.
The Heretic is the start of a new set of adventures in the General Series, but with a new coauthor taking the reins. It is similar to the Belisarius series in that the hero receives aid from an outside source but only in his mind. I do enjoy the different personalities of Raj and Center as they help Abel throughout his life. Raj tends to remember human motivations, whereas Center is focused on the goal.
This novel is a little less intense than some of the earlier books set in this universe. That doesn't mean that is slow moving or without action. I just never felt the same sense of urgency as I did reading the original stories. A part of me wishes that I could see more of the growing confederation and how planets that are advancing are doing and the challenges they face as they reconnect with the greater universe.
For the most part, someone new to the series could pick this novel up without having read the other series. The backstory is filled in so that a new reader catches up on the basics. Overall, I am glad I read the other series first, and especially glad I chose to reread the first two Raj Whitehall tales in Hope Reborn. I look forward to the continuing adventures of Abel Dashian as he goes to beard the lion in its den.