Book: The Reformer by S. M. Stirling and David Drake

Entertaining seventh book in a  military science-fiction series

August 2, 2011

S. M. Stirling and David Drake

The Reformer

Baen, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-57804-9

294 pages

Out of print; inexpensive used copies seem readily available as of this writing

The Reformer is the seventh book in the military science-fiction series “The General” by S. M. Stirling and David Drake. (A review of the series through its first five books is here and a review of the sixth book is here.)

In the universe of the series, humans’ space-faring empire had fallen to barbarism and the planet Bellevue had regained about nineteenth-century technology. In the first five books, Raj Whitehall, with the assistance of a still-functioning artificially-intelligent computer, reunites Bellevue and sets its civilization on a path back to the stars. Much of that story parallels the history of the great Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) general Belisarius.

In the sixth book, The Chosen, computerized copies of Raj and Center (the computer) have reached the planet Visager and the historical analog for the action is the second world war.

In this book, copies of Raj and Center reach the planet Hafardine and here the historical analog is the era in which Athens (and modern-day Greece) was ruled by Rome. Adrian Gellert is a Emerald (that is, Greek) scholar and philosopher. He and his family stop to worship at the temple of Athena at the Parthenon and Raj and Center choose to make themselves known to him there. As the book’s title suggests, Center and Raj judge that this planet can best be helped to rejoin galactic civilization by a wise man rather than a conquering general.

Adrian and his brother Esmond (a military man, conquering generals have their uses) leave Sulinga (Athens) and go to richer but somewhat less civilized Vanbert (Rome) to seek their fortunes. A bit of bad timing sends them rushing to an island kingdom where King Casull thinks that the technology that Center shows to Adrian may be useful. And it’s from there that they begin to harry the Confederation of Vanbert.

Fans of the series will enjoy the book. It’s a fairly short book (294 pages of pretty big type) and it’s not completely clear to me why it wasn’t combined with the next (and thus far last) book in the series, The Tyrant, which continues the story on Hafardine.