by Sterling E. Lanier
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Sterling Lanier’s novel Hiero’s Journey depicts the remnants of North America five millennia after a legendary event known as The Death, which is obviously a nuclear exchange, left the continent semi-habitable and rife with mutations. The novel opens with Per Hiero Desteen, a priest, and his mutant moose, Klootz, being sent on a mission to discover what has happened to several colonies his abbey has tried to establish.
Over the course of his travels, Hiero and Klootz (who can communicate telepathically) come are joined by Gorm, a young black bear (again, with telecommunicative powers) and Luchare, a kidnapped princess from the distant kingdom of D’alwah, to which Hiero is journeying. Hiero also must fight his way through a variety of mutated humans and beasts and the Unclean, the pervasive forces of evil across the continent.
Although this may make Hiero’s Journey sound like a fast paced swords-and-sorcery novel, it is actually rather slow-paced. Rather than fill the pages with Hiero’s battles against mutants, Lanier allows the novel to gradually build as Hiero’s abilities and situation grow. Hiero and his companions develop distinct personalities to go with their backgrounds and relationships
Hiero’s Journey is clearly a relic of the cold war mentality which at times seems dated more than a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Set against this background, Hiero’s identity as part of a Christian order is reminiscent of Walter Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. The story Lanier relates manages to stand up to post-Cold War sensibilities because Hiero and his compatriots are fully realized people, even if they are dealing with situations which no longer appear as realistic as they may have at one time and they react as those real people would react.