Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Protector's War - S.M. Stirling



The Protector’s War
S. M. Stirling
Roc

Fantasy/Alternative History

Note: This novel is the sequel to DIES THE FIRE.

The Change of 1998 has drastically altered human civilization. For instance, anything electronic or battery-powered is now non-functional. Also, explosives and gunpowder are useless. Because of these changes, humanity has been decimated by starvation, violence, and disease. Mike Havel, an ex-military pilot, and Juniper Mackenzie, a practicing Wiccan, lead one group in the Portland area. They’ve formed a new society based on old clan structure and farming. This group is heavily influenced by the writings of Tolkien, thanks to the near-obsession with his books shown by some members.

The Protectorate, on the other hand, is headed by former professor Norman Arminger. His new society is based on medieval feudal models, complete with serfs, oppression, and violence. As the Protectorate and its army grows, it’s clear that they need more land to farm. The most fertile land in the vicinity is occupied by the Bearkiller clan, who, despite their speedy master of farming and smithing, are ill equipped to defend themselves from attack. Adding to the confusion is the arrival of British survivors of a ship stuck at sea when The Change hit.

As with many second installments of trilogies, THE PROTECTOR’S WAR essentially provides the linking exposition between the shock of The Change in the first book, and the inevitable conflict to come in the third. While many books might suffer greatly for this, here, the author uses the time to broaden and deepen many of the characters, particularly The Protector. The contrast between the two societies is fairly clearly drawn and realistic; it’s the difference between re-starting society based on peaceful farming, or based on iron-fisted dictatorship. It’s interesting, and accurate, to note that, faced with a total breakdown of society, many people would turn to literally any leader, no matter how despotic, as long as he promised safety and food. Not quite up to the level of the first book, this is still a solid entry in the alternative history genre.

Rating: 7
September 2006
ISBN# 0-451-46077-4 (paperback)

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