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The Reformer by S.M. Stirling and David Drake
Published by Baen Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
The Reformer by S.M. Stirling and David Drake is the latest installment in the saga of Raj Whitehall and Center, the ancient battle computer from the lost civilization that took humanity to the stars. Like the situation in The Chosen, Raj is now a sort of electronic "ghost" on a chip along with Center, working with a human native of the world on which the chip has arrived.
Hafardine has regressed so far that it has forgotten all industrial technology, and has stagnated in a state curiously resembling that of the late Roman Republic, right as it is becoming an Empire. There are some odd little differences -- for instance the Confederation (the Roman analog) uses Zulu-style oval shields and stabbing spears instead of the actual Roman shield and gladius. Yet overall the parallels matched up so well that it was just too much to have happened by chance. There appear to be relatively few Terran domestic animals, and the humans have domesticated a number of the local species, but these differences seem to be there mostly to add local color -- in fact the velipads used as mounts seem to be more akin to the "lofty silken kaillia" from John Norman's Gor books than anything.
Adrian Gellert is a bitter young scholar of the fallen Emerald Empire (which seems to correspond to the Greeks, although these people apparently managed to unite, something the Greek poleis never could), resentful that he must take employment with a Confed nobleman. When his plans to spark a revolution go awry, he flees to the pirate kingdoms of the offshore islands, where he fights some marginally successful battles and narrowly avoids execution by mounting a successful attack on an escaped Confed fleet. However, it looks like there's going to be at least one more volume in Adrian's story.
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Review posted July 20, 1999
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