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by Sterling E. Lanier
Published by Chilton Books, 1973
Amazon.com: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.ca: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.co.uk: hardcover, paperback
Suggested by: Ross Pavlac
Post-holocaust Earth in the far future.
This book has been on my "to be read list" for years, since Ross Pavlac included it in his recommended reading list. However, there really isn't all that much Christian content to it. Yes, the title character is a priest in a religion which is the result of a sort of corporate merger of all Christian denominations, with Roman Catholicism predominant, and yes, he does pray, but the God he worships doesn't seem to answer his prayers, nor make any moral demands. If Lanier resists the tendency of all too many authors to lump all religions together in one batch and make religious people out to be dangerous lunatics, his depiction of Hiero's religion as a harmless eccentricity doesn't seem like much of an improvement.
Like many "post-holocaust" stories, Hiero's Journey depicts mankind struggling to relearn knowledge which had been lost in a worldwide nuclear conflagration. In this case, the story opens some 5,000 years after a worldwide war using nuclear and biological weapons. In North America, the most advanced civilisation is the Metz Republic, distant descendants of today's Canadian Metis, who lived far enough from urban centres to have survived the conflagration which destroyed the major cities of the U.S.A. The Metz Republic faces multiple threats, including wildlife mutated by radiation from the fallout. (Yes, Lanier did think of a way to make bunnies lethal before the Monty Python gang did.) However, the greatest threat comes from the Unclean, a shadowy group who seem to have enormous occult powers, and the ability to force the mutated animals to do their bidding. Therefore, Hiero is dispatched to find knowledge from the dim and distant past before "The Death" to help save civilisation as he knows it.
There are a number of things in the story which I find wildly improbable, but still, Lanier deserves credit for a rich imagination. In many ways, this work reads more like fantasy than science fiction, with strange creatures and evil magicians. (In that sense, it is similar to Anne McCaffrey's The Dragonriders of Pern: a story with a science fiction backstory, but enough fantasy elements to appeal to fantasy fans as well.) Greg Slade (July, 2004)
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