Review: The Heretic

The Heretic by David Drake

Shortly after the death of his mother, six year-old Abel Dashian wanders into a locked storage shed. He has a fair idea what he’ll find in there: nishterlaub. Forbidden articles of old and broken technology packed away behind lock and key. Abel is a precocious young lad; he turns the key, ducks into the room and begins exploring. The priests know it’s there, right? They collected it and put it away. So long as he doesn’t actually try to use any of it (lock aside), he won’t be acting against Stasis. Six year-old logic, right? When a pair of voices begin to speak to him, Abel assumes it’s the nishterlaub, which it is, in a way. He’s actually being spoken to by a computer and the reconstructed intelligence of a famous general.The General, Raj Whitehall. They take Abel on a tour of the shed, explaining this item and that based on his reactions, decide he is the one they have been waiting for, the boy who will become the man who will change the course of history.

It’s a lot for a young boy to take in. Convinced he’s gone mad, Abel attempts to bash himself over the head with a stone. Center, the computer, repairs the damage and Abel leaves the shed with a terrible headache and two permanent guests.

A handful of years at a time, the story skips forward, showing us glimpses of Abel’s rise within the ranks of the Scouts, a militia unit attached to the military. It’s not the career his father, Joab Dashian, Military Commander of the district, wanted for him, but there is no doubt Abel has found his niche. Along with his own natural pluck, Center and Raj ensure Abel is an exemplary scout. He is brave and resourceful.

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