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The Chantry Guild    by Gordon R. Dickson order for
Chantry Guild
by Gordon R. Dickson
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2000 (1988)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Chantry Guild was originally published in 1988 as part of Dickson's Childe Cycle, a fascinating future universe with the detail and complexity of Asimov's Foundation series but, in my opinion, much more appealing. This story builds on earlier ones and I would recommend reading some of them first, at least Dorsai and The Final Encyclopedia.

In Dickson's universe, mankind has splintered in its colonization of other worlds, to emphasize different attributes. The Dorsai have become universal mercenaries, focussed on war and honour, rather like ancient Spartans. Faith is all important on the Friendly Worlds of Harmony and Association. The Exotic worlds of Mara and Kultis emphasize psychology and development of the human spirit.

Hal Mayne has lived several different lives, beginning with that of the Dorsai Donal Grahame. I first encountered Donal in a 1960 publication of The Genetic General, in which he came of age and into his powers, and discovered that his destiny was to find a way to stop the ongoing struggle between worlds. As Hal, he is still trying to complete that objective, using the Final Encyclopedia, and racing against time to do it.

When The Chantry Guild begins, Hal has been researching for years a way into the Creative Universe, which he believes to be the next evolutionary step for mankind. His enemy Bleys, one of the powerful Others, disagrees and has united the Younger Worlds in besieging Earth and the Final Encyclopedia, and in villifying Hal. Mara and Kultis are suffering from brutal occupation forces, whose goal is to gradually destroy them. Hal's beloved Amanda Morgan works with resistance forces on Kultis.

Hal has begun to despair of success when Amanda returns and encourages him to visit Kultis, where she introduces him to the Chantry Guild, followers of the Law: 'The transient and the eternal are the same ...'. He learns from them, from the Old Man and from a wild little girl called Cee, and discovers how to build the bridge that he has been looking for. In the process he remembers his roots and training as a Dorsai.

Dickson is a prolific writer of speculative fiction. I enjoy anything that he writes but find his Childe Cycle to be his most impressive body of work. Start with its earlier books, which are also the best, in particular Dorsai and Soldier, Ask Not. The Chantry Guild is a good read for those who know the background, but it's light on action compared to the two mentioned, and more a story for those who are already fans of the series.

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