Review: The Brave and the Bold by Hans Schantz
Book Three in The Hidden Truth series takes the fight straight to the Civic Circle
Pete Burdell and company continue their infiltration and disruption of the Civic Circle’s plans. Along the way, they stumble on an opportunity to cut the head off the snake.
As always, Schantz does a good job building a convincing narrative, with Pete working his way around and through various obstacles to get to a major meeting on Jekyll Island. His investigations also expand the lore, discovering more about the Circle’s machinations over the centuries, manipulating events and suppressing many technologies that would improve the lives many and make them harder to control. The author does an excellent job describing how Peter weaves his way through various interrogations and alliances on the island, securing the aid of the Albertians (Order of St. Albert) and the Red Flower Tong, both organizations that were introduced in Rambling Wreck.
The World Building
Schantz’s world building is, I think the make or break aspect of the book, and really the whole series, for most people. He goes into great detail describing the secret history behind the development of many technologies we take for granted today, as well as recapping some of the physics that the Circle is trying to keep secret. The intent is both to help the reader understand on a base level what the Circle is up to and how they go about accomplishing their goals of containing technological development and disrupting Western Civilization. Some readers might find the level of detail excessive. On the other hand, I find it draws me in even further, making the book difficult to put down to say the least. Part of that is because the author does such a good job describing things in an accessible way and the other is that most of the details are actually true. It makes you realize that the free market has never really been free.
Schantz also peppers the book with entertaining Easter eggs that serve to establish that these stories take place in an alternate timeline from our own. Examples include a reference to Declan Finn’s books and the infamous incident at the Nakatomi Plaza. If you don’t recognize that last one, you really need to go get yourself some culture.
Pete continues to develop nicely, getting some of the tension between himself and his Uncle Rob resolved. They frequently are at cross purposes due to Rob’s cautious approach, while Pete aggressively takes advantage of every opportunity. Not that Pete is a Gary Sue. The author gives him plenty of opportunities to learn from mistakes, some of those mistakes even having significant consequences.
Pete’s sidekick, Amit Patel however seems a bit stuck. While he’s an immensely talented software engineer, a gifted speaker, and a good friend to Pete, he also spends a lot of time chasing girls as an eager participant in the hook up culture. One wonders how he finds the energy for his exploits while also trying to save the world from the Civic Circle. I have hope for him in the next novel though as he was exposed to some things off page that might have shaken him up. His lifestyle also gets a pretty thorough, if indirect, dressing down during a conversation between Pete and Brother Francis, head of a cell of Albertian operatives.
The Hidden Truth series is one that strongly values individual initiative and action, as exemplified in Pete Burdell. While the Circle has been opposed by organizations like the Order of St. Albert and the Red Flower Tong for centuries, there are also a number of important unspoken rules that govern the conflict. Pete doesn’t know or care about those rules, which enables him to do more damage to the Circle in a year than the older and more experienced organizations have done in decades.
That doesn’t make this an anarchist novel. Pete needs plenty of help from friends and allies who trust each other, emphasizing the importance of belonging to a community even for the cleverest of individuals. In the end, the overall politics are libertarian friendly, with both government and business shown as often corrupting institutions.
The Civic Circle is up to some disturbing things. They are discussed but never in terribly graphic detail.
Who is it for?
Anyone who likes stories of intrigue, hidden history and the like. If you like movies like the Manchurian Candidate, or books like Dean Koontz’s Jane Hawk novels, with a dose of Crichton-like sci-fi, this is what you need.
Why read it?
Because while The Hidden Truth series is a work of fiction, it has enough reality sprinkled in to make it seem like it could be in tomorrow’s headlines.
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